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Sep 14, 2016

Bits | The Business of Technology: Test-Driving (or Not Driving) the Cars of the Future - September 14, 2016

Wednesday, September 14, 2016


The New York Times

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The New York Times
Uber is introducing a small fleet of self-driving vehicles in Pittsburgh this week, each with a human minder.
Uber is introducing a small fleet of self-driving vehicles in Pittsburgh this week, each with a human minder. Jeff Swensen for The New York Times
Daily Report
The automobile is known as the machine that changed the world. Now the world is changing automobiles —in a big way.
The New York Times offers two good examples. In onearticle, Mike Isaac is taken for a ride on the streets of Pittsburgh in one of Uber’s self-driving cars. On Wednesday, Uber will introduce a small fleet of these vehicles, each with a human minder to make sure things don’t go haywire in these early days.
Then Farhad Manjoo takes a spin in a Chevrolet Bolt EV, a $30,000 electric vehicle from General Motors that the company says will get 238 miles on a single charge. That, along with G.M.’s ability to market and deliver cars at scale across America, makes it a more plausible mass-market vehicle than anything the flashier Tesla Motors has been able to introduce so far.
There is much to learn from both articles. For one thing, riding in a self-driving Uber car is kind of boring — it goes the speed limit and closely obeys all traffic rules, something apparently out of the ordinary in Pittsburgh. The real thrill is being a momentary celebrity for being inside one, as Mr. Isaac found outwhen people pointed and stared at him while he was riding in the robot car.
Uber seems to be taking advantage of that celebrity, and hoping that its early riders help with the company’s marketing. After each ride, Uber will sendeach passenger a text message with an animated GIF of the route in 3-D, plus a picture of the car. Facebook and Twitter, brace yourselves for a lot of these posts.
Uber has a long way to go before truly autonomous vehicles are widespread — and will truly mess withthe company’s current business model of persuadingpeople to drive for it in their own cars.
Mr. Manjoo’s ride may be more consequential, at least in the near term.
As he tells it, this Chevy has nailed something often important in the car business: excess. Even though the average American drives only about 30 miles a day, electric cars that go 100 miles on a charge stillfeel as if they might leave someone stranded. The Bolt’s ample range should ease that.
In addition, Chevy seems to be making an effort to make the Bolt feel like a luxury vehicle, at a lowerprice than the very luxurious Tesla. Feeling like a boss on less money — that is car marketing.
The next thing for electric-car makers to tackle, in both marketing and engineering, is to make charging seem fast, or fun. An auto futurist I spoke with last year pointed out that filling a tank with gasoline takes about five minutes, once a week or so. Electric vehicles require more time and planning.
That may be the next hurdle, as driving becomes more futuristic, and the futuristic becomes more normal.
-- Quentin Hardy
 
Related
Mike Isaac test-drives an Uber driverless car on the streets of Pittsburgh on Monday, two days before the start of Uber’s pilot program.
Our Reporter Goes for a Spin in a Self-Driving Uber Car
By MIKE ISAAC
Uber is set to start its driverless car pilot program in Pittsburgh with a small fleet of modified Ford Fusions.
State of the Art
General Motors produces the Bolt EV at its existing production system at the Orion Assembly plant outside of Detroit.
How Did G.M. Create Tesla’s Dream Car First?
By FARHAD MANJOO
The Bolt EV by General Motors is a lower-priced electric car than the Tesla, and has similar features.


More From The Times
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The Winners and Losers as Europe Tries to Erase Borders for TV and Films
By MARK SCOTT
The proposal aims to allow people across the bloc to stream shows online and give national broadcasters a Continent-size audience.
Mock-ups of the new Twitter live-streaming app for Apple TV.
New Twitter App Streams N.F.L. Games and Other Sports
By KATIE BENNER
The app, for Apple TV, Amazon Fire TV and Xbox One, offers a wide variety of live content, including Thursday night N.F.L. games.
Robert E. Allen, left, and James L. Barksdale announcing the merger of AT&T with McCaw Cellular Communications in 1994.
Robert E. Allen, 81, Dies; Led an AT&T in Transition
By DIANE CARDWELL
Mr. Allen was chief executive and chairman of the communications giant in the 1980s and ’90s as it acquired wireless and computer businesses.
“The whole birther movement was racist,” Colin Powell wrote in an email to a former aide that has been leaked. He noted that Donald J. Trump once questioned the validity of President Obama’s birth certificate.
Colin Powell, in Hacked Email, Calls Trump ‘National Disgrace’
By MICHAEL D. SHEAR
The former secretary of state also criticized Hillary Clinton’s aides for trying to “drag me” into her email controversy.
The International Tennis Federation said it had granted exceptions for Serena and Venus Williams to take banned substances.
Simone Biles and Williams Sisters Latest Target of Russian Hackers
By REBECCA R. RUIZ
Documents, published this week, show Simone Biles and Serena and Venus Williams received exemptions to use banned drugs.
About New York
Computer Breach Could Have Exposed Trauma Victims to Further Anguish
By JIM DWYER
A hacker (or hackers) broke into servers that held information provided by 22,000 people for 11 mental health studies being done at the New York State Psychiatric Institute.

Personal Technology
From left, Martha Hunt, Michael Kors and Zendaya at the introduction of the Kors Access smartwatch.
Michael Kors Unveils a Smartwatch for the Fashion Set
By ALEX WILLIAMS
The Access smartwatch by Michael Kors comes in two versions: the sporty Dylan and dazzling Bradshaw, with prices starting at $350.
App Smart
SimplyPiano is a piano trainer app for younger learners.
To Take Up a Musical Instrument, First Pick Up Your Phone
By KIT EATON
Apps can help you learn to play piano, guitar and other instruments through videos, interactive graphics and real-time feedback on your progress.