Posts by BenWilson

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  • Speaker: Confessions of an Uber Driver…, in reply to Moz,

    But once the human-driver part of the problem is replaced by a few kilos of electronics, I suspect we will fairly quickly see “robot only” lanes, if not entire roads.

    We already have those. They're called trains and they're way, way more efficient for moving massive numbers of people than any number of tiny personal vehicles could be. You have the smallest personal vehicle possible, called your legs, and it gets you into a piece of infrastructure that is mechanically efficient, extremely safe, and extremely fast. Within this device you can literally stand up and move around, go to the toilet, sit around a table, buy food and drinks.

    But yes, there's a funny robotic future where people would cram themselves into a tiny box and scoot along in little lanes, improving on the experience of simply driving a vehicle, or being driven in one, by some amount. I don't know what that amount is, it's hard for me to see any real advantage in it. The door-to-doorness? Or just the pure futurism, the feeling of being advanced whilst actually going backwards, the phony modernism of it. I think that's currently the appeal of Uber. People like to feel that it's hyper advanced, and will brutally ignore that exploiting labour for a pittance to provide a good service is actually very much a retrograde social step.

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 10005 posts Report Reply

  • Speaker: Confessions of an Uber Driver…, in reply to Moz,

    I can more easily imagine the opposite.

    I can see both, really. Smart cars haven't really taken off here, nor have any number of small personal transportation devices. I think people are righteously concerned about safety in tiny vehicles. But yes, better planning would help. Hell, mere bike lanes would do that for the most obvious form of small personal transportation, the "safety bike" that has been popular all around the world for over a hundred years. But that involves overcoming infrastructural inertia. The technological solution to cars being a PITA during rush hour is compelling to people who don't believe in the government doing a damned thing. I suggest that this mindset is strongly aligned with that of getting a BFC (big fuck-off car), and bugger the cost. Indeed the greater cost is part of the enjoyment, particularly if it is highly conspicuous.

    Gut feeling is that the two streams will continue side by side. There is a mindset driving driverless cars that is not rooted in practicality at all, and the incredible cost of engineering them will be spent many times over just because of the sci-fi angle. It's a lot like the Moon mission and now the Mars mission. There's very little real use in sending someone on a round trip to Mars from any other angle than just to say that we could do it. It's not even controversial that we could do it, all that is controversial is whether it is truly worth the enormous price tag. I've never doubted that a robotic future is real, any more than I doubted that we could send a space probe to Pluto. Given enough time, our probes will eventually travel interstellar distances.

    What I doubt is that we really have any idea if it will happen in our lifetimes. At least with the space probes, we can be pretty damned sure that it will not.

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 10005 posts Report Reply

  • Speaker: Confessions of an Uber Driver…, in reply to Sacha,

    Works that way on buses and trains

    Yes, being able to do something other than drive is a consolation for the discomfort that often results from crowding in with other passengers. But in one's own vehicle it could be actually quite luxurious. Especially if parking it was not an issue - I can see people picking much bigger vehicles. Which is not going to improve commuting times. But improving comfort could be a big factor. Naturally that will come at considerable cost. Strangely, people seem to be OK with that when it comes to cars, but outraged about it with public transport. There's sort of a public consensus that a public facility like a train or bus should be designed with cost cutting as its number one purpose. I can barely sit in a bus seat, so small have they become.

    BTW, this is all IF self driving cars become a reality here soon. Goodness knows what things will really be like in 30 years. That's a time frame over which it is possible to build a decent commuter rail system, and over which Auckland's population is likely to justify that. People crawling in from outer suburbs in huge driverless limousines could be seen as the schmucks, as passengers on nicely designed trains with cafe facilities scream past them. It doesn't have to be only the passengers on the Waiheke Ferry for whom commuting is actually a pleasurable experience, a daily wind-down with mates drinking a coffee or a glass of wine, and watching the world go by.

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 10005 posts Report Reply

  • Speaker: Confessions of an Uber Driver…, in reply to Moz,

    I wouldn't hold your breath for electric cars making viable taxi services. Taxis do big miles, and they can't plan in advance how many. Which makes electric a very limiting option.

    Whether it would be viable in an online carpooling commuter service is somewhat independent of the electricness. That's either viable for passenger vehicles or it isn't, regardless of drive train. I'm thinking that it probably will become more viable, and your wish may be partially granted. By partially, the problem is still people who would simply rather have the whole vehicle to themselves. I expect this will still be the majority for quite a long time. Even driverlessness is not going to improve this. It might help with the parking. Or it might make parking anywhere near big cities anywhere at all a nightmare, as self-driving cars park out the inner suburbs completely. But people won't care because it's just the robot doing it. However, the robots won't be able to make traffic in commutes go faster. Could be less irritating, I guess, to sit there without having to control the vehicle.

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 10005 posts Report Reply

  • Speaker: Confessions of an Uber Driver…, in reply to Rich of Observationz,

    Give us some credit.

    Indeed. Some of us are even Uber drivers ourselves.

    it removes the ‘can’t decide where to go issue’ as the person paying has to enter a destination on their phone.

    That's not entirely true. They can enter a destination, but they don't have to, and the route can be anything that is agreeable to the driver and passengers. It needn't go to the destination entered at all. I would say around half of my trips in an evening are not a single point to point trip. The app does give the ability to set and change destinations too, although this works in a less than satisfactory way recently because the "back-to-back" requests we get base themselves upon the current destination, making you the choice of riders near there, but we have to refuse these requests as the app does not know that the current passengers actually want to go further on. Refusing requests impacts on a driver's rating and can lead to disconnection for the driver.

    At least half of my destination requests are verbal, and every instruction after that is verbal, about preferred routes, driving style, airconditioning, windows, inquiries about places and goings on, requests for music or to get the aux, and anything else a sensible human could be reasonably asked and expected to understand and act on, if willing.

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 10005 posts Report Reply

  • Speaker: Confessions of an Uber Driver…, in reply to Moz,

    As you say, carpooling which relies on a stranger staying off the drugs for an evening is even higher risk than when it’s a friend. But the alternative is paying someone outright, which the law likes to call “a taxi service”.

    Pretty much, although I don't know if the risks of drug taking are less likely when it's a friend driving. I'd venture to say they're a lot less with a professional driver, though, because they could literally lose their job, their license, and all future chance of driving for a living legally.

    It’s harder to find people to pool with, even with the app. The longer the distance the less often people drive it, and the more spread out the sources and sinks become.

    It's true enough that finding someone going from and to the exact same locations is harder the further apart they are. But there are very much traveled routes which could be used as two stage methods, if such a thing could be organized well. And my point still stands that the greater the distance, the more compelling sharing the cost becomes.

    I'm not sure I'd agree that 30km is an easy biking distance, even on an electric. It's still an hour of riding, minimum, and around Auckland a lot more like 80 minutes. In fact, I don't consider the 10km I have to ride to the city to be "easy", in the sense of it replacing a car trip. It involves around 30mins on the vehicle and if timeliness is important you really do have to build in another 10 for adverse conditions. You have to be willing to get changed if necessary at the end, which involves carrying a change of clothes with you, and having somewhere you can do that.

    I say this in response only to the concept of biking as an alternative to carpooling rather than as any cut down of the idea of biking, which is something I do myself, and think it serves the purpose very well at times.

    Carpooling is really quite a different concept, a lot more like catching a bus. Get the convenience of a warm dry vehicle and no physical effort, and the ability to carry a load, and you lose the convenience of completely picking when you can do it. And I suggest that there is still a possibility that the killer app is yet to come that transforms carpooling into a much, much less irritating kind of service than it currently is. Especially at the busiest times, when vast numbers of people are traveling in the same directions. As you say, it's not that viable when your pool of drivers is only among friends and acquaintances, and the method of organization is messages sent to and fro. But if it's a mapping system that could automatically work out the deviation cost for thousands of potential rides, and possibly even a multistage routing search, a rating/friending system that gives you reasonable quality control over the drivers/other passengers, and reimbursement is automatic via an automatic conveyancing system, I can see that as very much transformative of transport during busy times. Lots of complications to iron out, and obviously a critical mass to make it truly viable.

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 10005 posts Report Reply

  • Hard News: "Meth contamination": the…,

    I'm curious about the scale of the actual meth lab problem itself, given I'll be a landlord soon. How many houses has this actually happened in in NZ? Even a ballpark would be good. Are we talking hundreds, thousands, tens of thousands, or hundreds of thousands? Because if a cleanup is, say, $20,000, but the chances are one in a hundred thousand per annum, then the average cleanup cost is 20c per annum. If it's more like one in a hundred per annum that takes it up to $200, and it might be worth the cost of a MethMinder.

    I'm guessing no one really knows these figures?

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 10005 posts Report Reply

  • Speaker: Confessions of an Uber Driver…, in reply to goforit,

    You have to decide if you want to be part of the noncommerical carpooling system or part of the commerical rideshare system, once that is estabished then systems can be put in place to promote such systems. You cannot be both systems thats where all this pie in the sky crap all falls down.

    I'm presuming that by "you" you mean companies such as Uber offering services, rather than drivers, or me in particular. But whichever one you mean, I don't think that choice is necessarily compulsory. I am both a commercial driver and a consumer of driving services, both commercial and non-commercial. I don't have to choose only one and stick with that. Sometimes I drive for money. Sometimes I drive my friends and family for free. Sometimes I drive people on a cost-reimbursement basis.

    As such, there is nothing stopping companies offering technological aids to more than one of those. The problem I have with Uber over this is that they pretend to be doing one, but are in fact doing the other. Misinformation and misunderstanding are their allies here. People like Seymour are their perfect useful idiots.

    I still think the world of carpooling has not yet had its killer app. They haven't managed to bundle up something that makes a unique, cool, useful service out of it. It's still too fraught with the inherent problems that are precisely what led to all of the regulation in the taxi industry.

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 10005 posts Report Reply

  • Speaker: Confessions of an Uber Driver…, in reply to Moz,

    Remember that car-pooling and ride-sharing also fall flat where there’s not the population density or the distances are too great.

    Well some of that applies to commuting, certainly, although that its only one of the uses of car pooling, and in the case of Uber, much less than half of the volume. The other use, low cost sober driving to a night out, does not predicate on density at all.

    I don't follow why longer distances make carpooling less attractive. I'd think the exact opposite applies, since it's a cost-saving and driver-fatigue sharing measure. It's probably more common for people to see the point of carpooling for an intercity trip than for commuting.

    I pretty much don't see electric bikes replacing Ubers when it comes to delivering groups of young girls to nights of partying in the city. Even less likely is for the homeward trips, drunk, vulnerable, in the small hours of the morning. Doing it as a true ride-share, in which the driver is also going out partying, very much predicates on the driver remaining sober.

    But bikes, including electrics, are certainly a possible commuting alternative, and it's an academic discussion to bring Uber into it, since I do not believe Ubers are much used for commuting. We're comparing to the alternative of carpooling. Both are measures which can improve matters, each with advantages and disadvantages.

    Biking has the advantage of independence (and cost, although this is less so with an electric), but at the cost of comfort. It's not hard to see why most people don't choose to jump on a bike when it's cold, raining, dark, or they want to look their best. I say this as a bike fan myself.

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 10005 posts Report Reply

  • Speaker: Confessions of an Uber Driver…,

    Herald Editorial fails to acknowledge that the Small Passenger Services Review is already nearly complete and included submissions from Uber and all the other stakeholders, and that changes are coming, and that the government has essentially done their due diligence on this (unlike the writer). Furthermore, those changes are NOT reflective of what Uber had decided is OK.

    And EVEN IF they were, you still don't just go around breaking the law of the land for profit. That never has been OK.

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 10005 posts Report Reply

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