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OneZero
The undercurrents of the future. A publication from Medium about technology and people.

Transportation

In OneZero. More on Medium.

By now it’s a familiar story: Uber enters a new market, enticing drivers with big promises and relatively high pay. Drivers base their decisions — like whether to buy a car that meets Uber’s standards — on these initial terms. Then, as more drivers flood the platform, Uber drops rates, in many cases leaving the drivers saddled with debt and no way to pay it off.

In a new report based on interviews with more than 80 current and former Uber drivers, NBC News zooms in on how this pattern played out in Kenya, where Uber cut prices by about…


General Intelligence

Waymo is officially launching a fleet of self-driving cars in Phoenix

Photo: picture alliance/Getty Images

OneZero’s General Intelligence puts the week’s biggest A.I. news into context.

Waymo, the driverless car company spun out of Google in 2016, is finally fulfilling its promise to bring truly autonomous cars onto city streets.

The company announced Thursday, October 8, that anyone in a 50-mile swath of Phoenix, Arizona, would be able to hail a fully driverless car in the “near term.”

This is undeniably a big step. Only 5% to 10% of Waymo’s rides so far this year have been fully driverless, according to Business Insider, for a select group of passengers who have signed NDAs. …


One Bird Charger estimates that he took on $40,000 in scooter debt

By the time that Daniel got a surprise call from someone at Bird this spring, things seemed dire for the dockless scooter industry. A 35-year-old former jet engine mechanic for the military, Daniel had been supporting his family of five by charging dockless e-scooters in San Diego, California, earning an average of $500 a day in the summer months, with the help of a sprinter van and generators he purchased so that he could collect and charge more scooters simultaneously. But payouts from the scooter giants Bird and Lime suddenly dropped late last year. Then, Lime left town in January…


What the long history of the autonomous vehicle reveals about its fast-approaching future

Vintage illustration of a family of four playing a board game, while their futuristic electric car automatically drives itself, 1957. Image: GraphicaArtis/Getty Images

The first self-driving vehicles were ships. After centuries of wrestling with wind and waves, ancient sailors devised contraptions that harnessed these forces of nature to fill in for man. They were simple but ingenious solutions, like the sheet-to-tiller system, which is still used today.

To rig it, you simply take the jib sheet (the rope that controls the smaller sail up front) and run it around a pulley and back across the deck. Finish by tying the bitter end to the tiller (the stick that steers the boat). …


Essential workers may be exempt from curfew orders, but their commute options are not

Photo: Drew Angerer/Getty Images

On Tuesday nights, Glen Livingston normally walks from his home in New York City’s South Bronx neighborhood to his 11 p.m. shift as a supervisor at a homeless shelter in East Harlem. It’s a trip the 34-year-old Bronx native has been making for years. But when New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio announced a citywide curfew earlier this week in response to protests over the murder of George Floyd, Livingston’s usual late-night walk suddenly became a potential crime.

He decided to take an Uber, but there were none to be had. Along with other ride-hailing services across the city…


Autonomous ride-hailing services seem less appealing than ever before

Pilot models of the Uber self-driving car at the Uber Advanced Technologies Center in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. Photo: AFP/Stringer/Getty Images

2020 was supposed to be the year that automated robotaxis took over the world. But instead of the year in which we can finally enjoy our robotaxi rides, this year has become the one in which much of the world’s economy ground to a halt because of an organism we can’t even see. Things are so bad that Uber is planning to lay off 14% of its staff (3,700 full-time employees) in the next week. In addition to killing hundreds of thousands of people and infecting millions, the coronavirus has also upended the plans to transform transportation.

Even before this…


A Silicon Valley tech shuttle bus on San Jose Avenue in San Francisco. There are an estimated 1,020 private commuter shuttles
A Silicon Valley tech shuttle bus on San Jose Avenue in San Francisco. There are an estimated 1,020 private commuter shuttles
A Silicon Valley tech shuttle bus on San Jose Avenue in San Francisco. Today, there are an estimated 1,020 private commuter shuttle buses in the Bay Area. Photos: Mark Davis

Into the Valley

1,000 white-collar tech shuttles are stalling Bay Area public transit

This article is part of Into the Valley, a feature series from OneZero about Silicon Valley, the people who live there, and the technology they create.

In 2004, in the Glen Park neighborhood of San Francisco, an unmarked employee shuttle bus rolled up to the curb in front of a group of employees. The crowd was likely dressed in the uniform of tech workers: blue jeans and sneakers, with backpacks slung across their shoulders and headphone cables dangling from their ears. Onboard, the small group of tech workers would have settled down for their 80-minute journey to Google’s Mountain View…


Tesla has changed the way we see cars and software

A photo of a Sonos Move on a table in a kitchen.
A photo of a Sonos Move on a table in a kitchen.
A Sonos Move battery-powered Bluetooth smart speaker, taken on September 26, 2019. Photo: Phil Barker/Future Publishing/Getty Images

Over the past 15 years or so, Sonos has established itself as the purveyor of pricey speaker systems that come with a unique twist. The company developed a proprietary wireless communication system that enabled multiple speakers to sync up for easy whole-home audio. But last month, Sonos announced that it will end support for many of its oldest wireless speakers. This is just the latest in a recent string of such moves by technology companies.

Over the past 40 years, as technology has permeated every aspect of our lives, many of us have become accustomed to a different pattern. For…


Here’s an exclusive excerpt of ‘The Gold Coast’ (1988), which Tor Books is reissuing as part of KSR’s ‘Three Californias’ trilogy

Image: Just_Super/Getty Images

Today, Kim Stanley Robinson is best known for his celebrated Mars trilogy, which follows a techno-utopian society establishing itself on a terraformed red planet, and books like New York 2140, which explore a relatively near future consumed by accelerating tech and ecological collapse. But before those books brought him fame, he began with a trilogy of novels forecasting — and exploring — three different futures for California.

This week, Tor Books is reissuing the novelsThe Wild Shore (1985), The Gold Coast (1988) and Pacific Edge (1990) — in one volume, called Three Californias. Today, the title conjures the…


A civil engineer looks at traffic data to improve road safety

Photo: Brian Bumby/Getty Images

E-scooters continue to intrigue us. They’re new and unfamiliar, and they’re also everywhere. Perhaps this explains the sensationalized media coverage on e-scooters, much of which is driven by anecdotes of accidents. But an army of researchers has been itching to unveil empirical evidence to augment the e-scooter dialogue.

I am a soldier in this army.

At the center of the e-scooter controversy is safety. Let’s look at some recent headlines:

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