Telsa Might Be Gearing Up to Take On Uber

"

Tesla Motors CEO Elon Musk has been posting publicly to Twitter lately about the companies urgent plans to get their self-driving car software to achieve full autonomy.

These Tweets and others alluding to the importance of the program and the push to improve it have many speculating that the company is preparing to join the race to launch a self-driving car service able to rival the one being built by the world’s reigning car service: Uber.

Tesla just launched its Autopilot feature last month, and currently it enables limited self-driving functions such as allowing the cars to steer themselves on highways.

However, the technology has had it’s shortcomings, and response from the public has caused some controversy. Drivers immediately began a trend of posting reckless videos to YouTube that demonstrated things such as the cars’ inability to detect worn lane markers which can cause near-collisions.

It should be noted that Musk and Tesla have always stipulated that drivers should remain attentive and ready to grip the wheel at any time.

Tesla and Uber aren’t the only companies looking to achieve a vehicle with full driving autonomy.

The race has been on in the auto and tech industries for some time. Currently, Google is prototyping vehicles in Mountain View, CA. The University of Michigan has a testing facility open to a number of traditional automakers and tech firms for testing their software. In a previous blog, I discussed when Mercedes-Benz joined the race. Last month, General Motors also announced plans of its own for self-driving vehicles.

The competition is stiff, but Tesla’s main competitor in the self-driving space might be Uber. Earlier this year, the transportation company did a gigantic hiring round directly out of the robotics department at Carnegie Mellon University, recruiting most members, including the director, right into its self-driving program.

The reason for this race is simple: companies are worried that if self-driving technology proliferates the market, fewer people will own cars because they will be able to rely almost entirely on fleets of self-driving vehicles that come on demand, like Uber or Lyft drivers do now for cities.

It’s unclear who will be at the first company through the driverless door, but all auto companies know that some form of self-driving capabilities will be necessary if they want to remain competitive.

Maybe Tesla is on a hiring push in order to break ahead of the pack. Maybe they just want to perfect their currently flawed product. Either way, it will be great to see who get’s to that final truly driverless product first.

A New Car Service in France is Making a Huge Difference to Wheelchair Users

Charlotte de Vilmorin

For most people, using a car service like Uber or Lyft is simple—request a car using your smartphone app, wait a couple minutes for the driver to arrive, get in, and arrive at your destination.

All that changes the second you either are or are with someone who has a physical handicap that confines them to a wheelchair. Unfortunately, most vehicles used by car services aren’t modified for wheelchair accessibility.

One disabled Paris resident got fed up with the lack of accesable transportation and decided it was time for a change.

That’s when Charlotte de Vilmorin founded Wheeliz, a new car-sharing service in France that gives people who use wheelchairs easy-access to modified cars at an affordable price.

I believe the world of startups and innovation is still disconnected from the needs of disabled people. To me, it is essential to create and build a sustainable sharing community dedicated to the mobility problem,” says de Vilmorin.

And Wheeliz doesn’t only benefit those with disabilities, it also benefits the owners of these specialized vehicles. On average, adapted car owners can earn almost $400 a week listing their vehicle on the site.

Currently, big players in the car service industry such as Uber and Lyft are facing several lawsuits in the United States for providing inadequate access for handicapped people. Back in July, Uber attempted to address these concerns by creating UberAssist for seniors and people with disabilities who need trained drivers to help them get in and out of the vehicle. The problem is, because Uber drivers are technically independent contractors, the company cannot require them to own a wheelchair-accessible vehicle. This becomes a huge problem as soon as a driver pulls up to a passenger who uses an electric wheelchair.

There are other car services that offer wheelchair-accessible rentals to disabled drivers, but they can be outrageously expensive. According to de Vilmorin, she’s found services costing up to $1,000 for a 10-day rental. With Wheeliz, handicapped drivers can pay a daily fee of just $55 to $65 depending on the list price of the vehicle.

In the U.S. there is an electric car designed especially for people in wheelchairs, and it has been helping millions of disabled people get to where they need to go. The Kenguru was designed with a pop-up back door and handlebars for steering.

I really believe there is an opportunity there for the collaborative economy and sharing economy to make mobility more accessible for wheelchair users,” said de Vilmorin.

Right now the start-up service is only available in Paris, Nancy, Nantes, and Bordeaux in France, but de Vilmorin wants to expand the business internationally. Her dream is to make it so disabled people around the world can have access to the adapted cars they need to travel with the same ease as anyone else.

Mercedes-Benz Announces Possibility of Driverless Uber Service

Mercedes-Benz is considering expanding its audience beyond drivers who are looking to buy cars– in fact, their newest venture may not include drivers at all.

Dieter Zetsche, owner of Mercedes-Benz’ parent company Daimler, told Reuters about possible plans for an on-demand limo service similar to Uber, except for one huge differentiator: the cars would be driverless. Mercedes-Benz already runs a car-sharing service app called “car2go,” in which people use their smartphones to find and rent nearby Daimler-owned cars, but this is much more exciting. It’s sounds futuristic, but it’s all part of the current race for the first autonomous vehicle to hit the market. The race is probably most popularly championed by Google, which promises to have a self-driving car by 2020. That’s not the greatest news for Mercedes-Benz because their prototype of a driverless car won’t be released in showrooms until 2025 due to liability issues, according to Reuters.

In the meantime, though, Daimler is already making moves. The company joined Audi and BMW earlier this summer in buying HERE, a high-definition digital mapping service created by Nokia. And Zetsche says that driverless cars are a “concrete development goal.”

Other big-name contenders like Audi, Tesla, and Ford are attempting to master the art of self-driving cars as well. But Mercedes-Benz is one of only a few companies that are attempting to combine the concept with a taxi service. Some of their biggest competition? None other than Uber itself.

Uber and its many drivers have a love-hate relationship, thanks to ongoing conflict about drivers’ pay and their statuses as employees in general. (Independent contractors or employees entitled to benefits like gas money and tips? The battle wages on.) For more ease and to save money in the long run, the company has been trying to move toward driverless cars and is currently testing autonomous driving systems. They even created a tech center staffed with a whopping 40-member team of scientists and researchers from Carnegie Mellon University.

Adding to the competition, other short-notice taxi services are popping up in cities, like the Via app that offers $5 prepaid rides from 32nd Street to 110th Street in New York City. Clearly the first driverless service would have a leg up over competing on-demand limo companies. And as Zetsche told Reuters, it would be “even more convenient if the car came to you autonomously.”

But one thing is for sure: Uber drivers provide a uniquely interesting and human experience that driverless cars won’t. One of the biggest appeals of a job with Uber is the amount of interaction you get with new people. It’s a convenient way to learn social skills and hear new perspectives from various customers– but that would take a backseat to this latest venture, where convenience, practicality, and time-saving would rule over all.

Uber is Facing Major Difficulty In Asia

Uber is undoubtably the most popular private car service in the United States, with service is every major city, and many small towns across the country. Uber has been expanding international due to the demand and opportunities. The success which began in the States appeared to have similar results across Europe. The United Kingdom and many other countries adapted quite well and are using Uber regularly. The next step for Uber was to expand in Asian countries, unfortunately, this seems to be a bigger challenge then expected. The problem with expanding in India is the taxi service industry is already established and competition is stiff.

Uber is going up against Asian startups such as GrabTaxi and EasyTaxi have been around for years and have dominated the app market for taxi service. GrabTaxi had initially received $250 million US dollars in venture capital funding to help grow the company with “An ambitious research and development center and a driver recruitment program.” It is important that safety is a top priority in this region due to the number of crimes with taxi drivers, making sure drivers are safe and pass standards is of utmost importance for these services.

Another issue Uber is that countries as strict as South Korea are cracking down on private taxi services due to the security reasons. The increasing reports of driver misconduct due to unreliable background checks is leading to bans in certain countries. South Korea is going as far to detain employees of Uber South Korea for just being involved with the organization.

In China, all Uber offices and headquarters have been raided by Chinese police for operating in illegal business, and while they claim to be doing nothing wrong, the Chinese government is still continuing on cracking down on Uber. These crackdowns are leading to riots against Uber drivers by local taxi services. They are looking for the government to change the law to completely ban private taxi service. They are taking away their passengers while not providing a safe atmosphere.

Uber in India has been a bit dodgy since the rape allegation of the repeat sex offender in New Delhi. Although, Uber is able to operate in India again, all drivers must go through regulations which any normal taxi driver will have to go through to obtain a license. With so many obstacles to overcome, Uber is facing an uphill battle in their fight to become a major player in the Asian taxi service industry.

New, Affordable Car Service in NYC

Yet another taxi service is to be set to launch in New York City in the upcoming weeks. The new app Via will offer $5 prepaid taxi rides from 32nd Street up to 110th Street. Although a great deal, this service will only be offered from 6:45AM – 9:00PM on weekdays. Also this ride may be subjected to be shared with other Via customers going in the same direction as you.

Even though this trip is stirring up a buzz in New York City, many potential customers are questioning the service due to the idea that it is very similar to a shuttle bus service. The mindset Via is attempting to place is the idea of a reduced fare of a shared trip compared to a solo trip. The idea makes sense to many, but many are still skeptical of idea riding with strangers. Citylab‘s writer explained Via’s ultimate goal, “The company seems to recognize its potential role in the larger transit system. Ramot says that in addition to expanding its basic service to other areas, the company is also looking to partner with transit agencies in smaller cities, where a dynamic-route vanpool option might prove both complementary and cost-effective.”

Ultimately, Via explained the idea of this service was to provide a more personalized experience which is more convenient, safe, and comfortable than taking the bus or train. Also, they are available at the push of a button. This is great service between a taxi and public transportation since it provides the service of a taxi, but will cost you as much as it takes to take public transportation.

When It Comes to Your Car Service: How Far Can You Go?

For many, time is of the essence, and with time comes the need for convenience. Getting from point A to point B in the past for some used to be a task in its own, but thanks to new car services like Uber these problems are in the past. Uber allows you to jump on your smartphone and request a ride and a driver will pick you up shortly and take you to your destination, seems simple enough, until now.

In the recent months, companies such as Uber and their competition Lyft have been questioning on how far is too far from point A to point B. From the get go Lyft implemented a 100 mile limit to how far their drivers are able to drive, but Uber has yet to put their foot down leaving it up to their drivers discretion to chose how far they are willing to drive. After an interview with Forbes, many Uber drivers claimed they actually do prefer longer trips, rather than shorter ones. One driver out of Park City, Utah explained, “Since most of my rides are 35 miles+ to the airport, I have close to 45 minutes to chat with my passengers. I greatly enjoy the time to learn about their career, family, visit, which restaurants they dined at, etc. And as someone that also owns a sales focused business, I feel this is great time to further practice the art of selling.” Many Uber drivers drive on their spare time to earn some extra cash or to kill some time. Like this driver mentioned, it is a great way to keep up with social skills and hear a different story.

Also, according to drivers Uber tends to take more of a percentage on shorter drives. Instead of the usual 20% they have been known to take 40% which Uber drivers do not prefer. Over time Uber is expected to release more specific guidelines on the limits to a drivers distance, but until then a driver can and will take any trip they deem fit.