Friday, August 17, 2018

Happy Hour Thread

And another week over.

Everything's An Airport

This is so dumb.

Los Angeles Metro will be the first U.S. transit agency to use a security system created by the federal Transportation Security Administration to scan riders as they enter the system, the agency announced this week. New York and San Francisco has also been testing the technology, which TSA says will thwart terrorism or mass shootings. The agency says it plans to install the system at transit stations around the country, the New York Times reports.

Remember When The New York Times Ran An Op-Ed By Erik Prince Asking If We Could Pay Him To Do All The Murders

Gonna get his wish.

WASHINGTON — President Donald Trump is increasingly venting frustration to his national security team about the U.S. strategy in Afghanistan and showing renewed interest in a proposal by Blackwater founder Erik Prince to privatize the war, current and former senior administration officials said.

Maybe The Boring Company Is Going To Build His Escape Route

To the hyperloop, Grimes!

They'll Be So Much Safer Than Human Drivers

Once we completely redo our driving infrastructure and ban pedestrians.

You’re crossing the street wrong.

That is essentially the argument some self-driving car boosters have fallen back on in the months after the first pedestrian death attributed to an autonomous vehicle and amid growing concerns that artificial intelligence capable of real-world driving is further away than many predicted just a few years ago.


But to others the very fact that Ng is suggesting such a thing is a sign that today’s technology simply can’t deliver self-driving cars as originally envisioned. “The AI we would really need hasn't yet arrived,” says Gary Marcus, a New York University professor of psychology who researches both human and artificial intelligence. He says Ng is “just redefining the goalposts to make the job easier,” and that if the only way we can achieve safe self-driving cars is to completely segregate them from human drivers and pedestrians, we already had such technology: trains.

It isn't really about trains - as in things on rails - if you're willing to have completely segregated rights of way it can be buses or self-driving scooters or whatever. But cities are made of people. People gotta go somewhere, and then they get out of their vehicles and...

Ban pedestrians? Fuck you. Ban cars.

Friday Morning

Thursday, August 16, 2018

Thursday Night

I'm not a baseball superfan but I gather it isn't good when the score is 24-4 and the losing team sends in their second baseman to pitch.

Happy Hour Thread

Get happy.

How Long

The self-driving cars were Uber's hail mary pass. If they get rid of that... then? Their path to profitability always required establishing monopoly - and then jacking up rates - somehow, but their path to monopoly was never clear. I don't even think self-driving cars were the path. Just another shiny object to flash to investors. Now the (some) investors are done.

Some investors have told Uber officials that it may be wise to divest the self-driving car unit, said a person familiar with the issue. Uber has invested least $2 billion in the unit over the past three years. Yet the company hasn’t yet come up with a clear path to commercializing the technology it has developed.

Will be interesting if the two major taxi app companies (Uber, Lyft) fold.

Low Hanging Fruit

The dirty little secret of LA is that transit there is actually pretty good. They have trains and subways and buses. A lot of buses! The buses are good. But LA is big and sprawly and in too many places (not all places!) even when the transit is good the walking is not. Mass transit rarely brings you door to door, but the "last mile problem" or certainly the "last half mile problem" isn't actually a problem if that last half mile or so is a pleasant and relatively efficient stroll.

It's standard (and correct) to say that mass transit decisions are too often made by people who would never ride any of it. It's also largely true that it's made by people who never walk anywhere, and walking is always a critical complement to a decent transit system. Improve your sidewalks. Add more crosswalks. Lengthen pedestrian signal times. Stop giving ridiculous tickets for "jaywalking." Do give tickets for crosswalk blocking and bus lane parking cars. It isn't hard.

Has To Be A Little Bit Stupid

My rule of pseudo-scandals that get saturation coverage is that they have to be a little bit stupid. "This is bad" is boring. "This is sorta bad but mostly it's dumb and I can't believe we can't stop talking about it but the fact that we are talking about it is so stupid and I can't stop talking about that" is really what drives an endless pseudoscandal coverage. Also, too, sex, particularly sex involving Democrats.

Musk's cunning plans are like that to me. They're so obviously stupid and yet they get lots of media coverage and I can't stop talking about them because they're obviously so stupid but everybody is talking about them and it's so stupid that everybody is talking about them so I can't stop talking about that.

Musk isn't going to build this tunnel to Dodger stadium. He certainly isn't going to build it in earthquake country without a long and massive review process. If he does manage to build it then it will be mostly useless and will close up unless someone pumps massive amounts of subsidies into it as the optimistic projected revenue barely covers 5 full time staffers. No one wants to stand in line for an hour or more because this dumbass rich guy is obsessed with the idea that the problem with trains is that they have too many gross people on them, or something.

But I can't stop talking about it because it's so dumb.

Oh Dear Elon Has Found Another Con

Just need to keep getting gullible local officials to throw money at you for a "study." No good way to get to Dodger stadium about low capacity cars on sleds! They're good for everything!

The Boring Company is proposing to build Dugout Loop, a zero-emissions, high-speed, underground public transportation system from the Los Feliz, East Hollywood, or Rampart Village neighborhoods ("western terminus") to Dodger Stadium in the City of Los Angeles.

Let's take a look. The route is 3.6 miles.

Loop is a zero-emissions, high-speed underground public transportation system in which passengers are transported on autonomous electric skates traveling at 125-150 miles per hour. Electric skates will carry between 8 and 16 passengers.

I highly doubt they'll travel this fast, but the real point is that it doesn't matter. Boarding is the real bottleneck for things like this. Picture the taxi line at the airport, or the line for the rollercoaster. That's what you get when you can only board a dozen people at a time. The line's gonna be long, Brant.

Oh, sorry, line? No there will be an app for that which will totally solve this problem (hahahaahahaha).
Initially, riders will be able to reserve times and purchase Dugout Loop tickets in advance similar to booking seats at a movie theater via a mobile app, over the phone, or in person (e.g. 5:45pm PT Dugout Loop ticket).

Remember this is primarily a baseball game transportation device. What time would you like to go to the baseball game? And sure, arrivals can be staggered a bit, but everybody wants to leave at the same time...enjoy the line!

Initially, Dugout Loop will be limited to approximately 1,400 people (approximately 2.5% of Stadium capacity) per event.

I love how it doesn't even say "per hour" but "per event" which probably includes at least a 2 hour window (guessing!). One real subway train can easily carry 1000, board them all quickly, and you can run one ever 2 minutes. One attraction to these "sleds" is the weird idea that if you have lower capacity you can run them more often, but headways aren't really a technical constraint of subway systems. Any modern subway system can run 24 trains per hour easy, and plenty do 32. At that point it's the boarding time that makes running them more often be impractical. Even our pretty antiquated trolley system in Philly runs through the tunnel with <3 minute headways at peak, and they carry about 70 people per train.

Electric skates are zero-emission vehicles, and thus do not output hazardous gases like internal combustion cars do.

Wow electric powered underground vehicles. What will Elon think of next?

The fares are not finalized but will cost around $1.

Their own projections put it at 250,000 riders per year. Let's say each does roundtrip, so 500,000 total. Time for some math. All that grad school must have been good for something. Let's see if I remember how to do this.

Oh yes. 500,000×$1= $500,000. Sure most transit systems are subsidized, but, uh...

Morning Thread

Wednesday, August 15, 2018

Amazing People

The journalist didn't accept it after the fact, but it's confirmation that "a source close to X who happens to be X" is a standard game in DC.

Me: You told me you found [George’s tweets] disrespectful.

Kellyanne: It is disrespectful, it’s a violation of basic decency, certainly, if not marital vows . . . as “a person familiar with their relationship.”

Me: No, we’re on the record here. You can’t say after the fact “as someone familiar.”

Kellyanne: I told you everything about his tweets was off the record.

Me: No, that’s not true. That never happened.

Kellyanne: Well, people do see it this way. People do see it that way, I don’t say I do, but people see it that way.

Me: But I’m saying we never discussed everything about his tweets being off the record. There are certain things you said that I put off the record.

Kellyanne: Fine. I’ve never actually said what I think about it and I won’t say what I think about it, which tells you what I think about it.

Muscadine Season!

It only lasts about a month, so get them while you can.

Your Boy's In Trouble, Grimes

Better come for him.

The SEC has served Tesla with a subpoena after CEO Elon Musk tweeted that he was considering taking the company private and that he had the necessary funding lined up, according to a report by the New York Times published Wednesday.

Earlier reports said the agency had intensified earlier scrutiny of the automaker after the controversial tweet. A subpoena would be one of the first steps in a formal inquiry.

Afternoon Thread


Oh Boy

Always thinking ahead.

Jaywalking could become a critical issue. Pedestrians and pranksters, knowing that the cars are programmed to yield to any in their path, could bring traffic to a halt. Outfitting the cars with facial recognition technology could help identify violators, but that raises its own tricky issues.

Drivers lose their shit over speed cameras but, hey, sure blanket cities with facial recognition devices to bust jaywalkers (and much of what people consider "jay walking" is, at the moment, perfectly legal generally if not everywhere).

At least I've noticed more urbanist types who thought self-driving cars would be great for urbanism are starting to lose the faith a bit.

But For Years People Have Told Me They Would Be Safer Than Humans

Safety has never been my issue, and it isn't the issue here. If they work they'll be safe enough. It's almost tautological. I just don't think they'll work. This stuff isn't about making them safe, it's about trying (and still failing) to make them work with massive amounts of taxpayer money. The headline of that article is "To Make Self-Driving Cars Safe, We Also Need Better Roads and Infrastructure" but the article isn't really about safety, unless we define safety as "not having a license to play Death Race 2000" (I forgot Stallone was in that movie!). It's about making them function. It's a big country. Good luck with that.

This means that we need to think not just about the onboard technology but also about the environment in which it is deployed. We’ll likely start to see a more standardized and active environment as more smart infrastructure is constructed. Think of radio transmitters replacing traffic lights, higher-capacity mobile and wireless data networks handling both vehicle-to-vehicle and vehicle-to-infrastructure communication, and roadside units providing real-time data on weather, traffic, and other conditions. Common protocols and communications standards will have to be devised and negotiated, as they were with internet communication protocols or the Global System for Mobile Communications (GSM) for mobile phones. This transition will take decades, and autonomous vehicles will have to share the roads with human drivers.

If rapid, radical change to the driving environment is impractical, what is the alternative? The most likely near-term scenario we’ll see are various forms of spatial segregation: Self-driving cars will operate in some areas and not others. We’re already seeing this, as early trials of the technology are taking place in designated test areas or in relatively simple, fair-weather environments. But we may also see dedicated lanes or zones for self-driving vehicles, both to give them a more structured environment while the technology is refined and to protect other road users from their limitations.

All The Way Down

This post is data free because I am lazy blogger, but... Obviously it's always been the case that parental wealth and stature have had a lot to do with the fortunes (in all ways) of their progeny, but during the great middle class post-war boom years such things mattered less (of course I'm basically talking about white people here, the experiences of non-white people during this time are a bit more, uh, complicated). When it wasn't all that hard to get a ticket to the middle class - decent union/public sector job requiring little credentialing was enough - the bank of mom and dad was more of a bonus, not a necessity. Sure the rich were still the rich, but for everyone else...

But that bank has gone from paying the annual Christmas bonus to financing lives, education, and home purchases. Also, people lower on the economic spectrum don't just lack parental support, they have to provide support for their ageing parents. There are big parts of the country which are increasingly closed off to people without that kind of support. I mean, sure, we can all live in flophouses with several roommates in our 20s, but in areas where you need $150,000 for a downpayment for a house... few can afford to plan a long term life.

My rambling point is that the ticket to the middle class has become a golden ticket, one you might find with your birth certificate.

Never Tweet

The best advice.

Members of Tesla’s board are scrambling to control a chief executive who some directors think is out of control.

Elon Musk, the electric-car maker’s co-founder and chief executive, stirred up a public storm by announcing on Twitter last week that he wanted to turn Tesla into a private company. In recent days, according to people familiar with the matter, some of his fellow board members delivered a stern message: Stop tweeting.

Morning Thread

Still catching up on yesterday's news.