Friday, March 24, 2017


Starting with a Kalanick:

"These days, everything is political: even the ride-sharing app you use. Uber had a bad weekend...."

That Lyft you up?

"Uber CEO argues with driver over falling fares in video" by Eric Newcomer Bloomberg News  February 28, 2017

SAN FRANCISCO — When chief executive Travis Kalanick takes an Uber, he prefers a black car, the high-end service his company introduced in 2010. On this particular night in early February — Super Bowl Sunday —Kalanick is perched in the middle seat, flanked by two female friends. Maroon 5’s ‘‘Don’t Wanna Know’’ plays, and Kalanick shimmies.

He clutches his smartphone as the three make awkward conversation. The two women ask when his birthday is, and marvel that he’s a Leo. One of his companions appears to say, somewhat inaudibly, that she’s heard Uber is having a hard year. Kalanick retorts, ‘‘I make sure every year is a hard year.’’ He continues, ‘‘That’s kind of how I roll. I make sure every year is a hard year. If it’s easy I’m not pushing hard enough.’’

There’s no question that it’s been a hard year for Kalanick and Uber — or a bad year compressed into an awful three months. And it keeps getting worse. That pleasant conversation between Kalanick and his friends in the back of an Uber Black? It devolved into a heated argument over Uber’s fares between the CEO and his driver, Fawzi Kamel, who then turned over a dashboard recording of the conversation to Bloomberg.

Kamel, 37, has been driving for Uber since 2011 and wants to draw attention to the plight of Uber drivers. The video shows off Kalanick’s pugnacious personality and short temper, which may cause some investors to question whether he has disposition to lead a $69 billion company with a footprint that spans the globe.

I wonder if he would win a boxing match with an Italian.

Uber declined to comment on this video.

In December, Uber pulled its self-driving cars off the road in San Francisco after the California Department of Motor Vehicles said they were operating illegally without an autonomous vehicle license.

RelatedUber self-driving cars are coming back to California roads

Made some improvements once they were on the road a while.

In January, more than 200,000 people uninstalled their accounts, and #DeleteUber trended on Twitter, after the company was accused of undermining a New York taxi union strike protesting President Trump’s temporary ban on refugees.

On Feb. 2, Kalanick reluctantly left his spot on Trump’s business advisory council to appease the company’s liberal-leaning employees and users — not to mention its many immigrant drivers.

Created a real uproar, it did.

On Feb. 19, a former software engineer at Uber wrote a blog post alleging she had been propositioned for sex by her manager and when she’d taken the issue to human resources, a staffer said that he wouldn’t be punished, in part, because he was a ‘‘high performer.’’

On Feb. 23, Alphabet’s autonomous car company Waymo sued Uber and its self-driving car company Otto, accusing an Uber employee of stealing trade secrets by downloading 14,000 files onto a hard drive.

On Monday, Uber’s head of engineering resigned after the company said it learned that he had faced a sexual harassment complaint at Alphabet, his former employer. He denied the allegations.

What, no name?

The company has responded to the former software engineer’s allegations by hiring former US attorney general Eric Holder to investigate her claims. ‘‘What’s described here is abhorrent & against everything we believe in. Anyone who behaves this way or thinks this is OK will be fired,’’ Kalanick wrote on Twitter.

SeeUber hires Eric Holder to investigate sexual harassment claims

He's the guy who spied on AP reporters for 20 or so days way back when, remember?

SeeUber CEO apologizes for company culture after harassment claims

You know what the solution is, right?

“This partnership opens the way for more people to drive when they want and earn what they need, even if they don’t own a car.” 

That means lower rates and Zipping right along....

On Waymo’s claims that Uber has stolen trade secrets, an Uber spokeswoman said, ‘‘We have reviewed Waymo’s claims and determined them to be a baseless attempt to slow down a competitor, and we look forward to vigorously defending against them in court.’’

Despite it all, Uber’s business is growing, week after week. This is the service that Kalanick and his friend, Garrett Camp, dreamed up. Get a car in an instant, just like James Bond. They weren’t the first people to have that idea, but they were the ones who won — or at least the ones who have gotten the furthest.

Camp stepped back and became chairman of the board, while Kalanick turned Uber into a global endeavor that operates in more than 400 cities. The company, which has its headquarters on Market Street in San Francisco, has more than 11,000 corporate employees. It has many more drivers-millions of them, scattered all over the world, working as independent contractors, without the health care and other benefits typically provided to full-time employees. 

Not such a bad gig, right?

And the gig has gotten harder for longtime drivers. In 2012, Uber Black cost riders $4.90 per mile and $1.25 per minute in San Francisco, according to an old version of Uber’s website. Today, Uber charges $3.75 per mile and $0.65 per minute. Black car drivers get paid less and their business faces far more competition from other Uber services.

They are working on that.

Kalanick has a reputation for being ferociously competitive and hard-charging. He’s the guy who has bragged about having earned the second-highest rank on Nintendo’s Wii tennis game. He’s still dogged by the fact that he once referred to Uber as ‘‘Boob-er’’ because it improved his dating prospects. Current and former employees say he can be empathetic when the mood strikes — or tyrannical when it doesn’t. Kalanick loves fighting over a good idea, which sometimes means admitting that his isn’t the best one. ‘‘Toe-stepping’’ is one of Uber’s cultural values.

Kalanick is trying to be a better listener. He met with more than 100 of Uber’s female employees last week to address the morale crisis that followed the former software engineer’s blog post. Kalanick sounded some of the right notes, standing in front of the crowd. ‘‘There are people in this room who have experienced things that are incredibly unjust,’’ he said, according to a recording obtained by Buzzfeed. ‘‘I empathize with you, but I can never fully understand, and I get that. I want to root out the injustice. I want to get at the people who are making this place a bad place, and you have my commitment to make that happen, and I know it doesn’t end there.’’

Then print took it up again. 

Like Facebook’s Mark Zuckerberg before him, Kalanick is trying to learn how to empathize and communicate. But Kalanick at 40, compared with 32-year-old Zuckerberg, is having to change his ways later in life, and he’s often reluctant to tread too far from his intuitions.

He was going to run for president but hit a wall in Hawaii (what a phony!).

Even when Kalanick tries to empathize in his own way — which often means jumping into a dialectical argument of sorts — his temper can flare.....


Related: Uber said it would listen to drivers. Then its CEO got in the car.

It was "a scene that could have been lifted straight from a “CEOs Behaving Badly” reality TV show."

You can charge the ride to him:

"American Express is escalating the rewards war for premium credit cards, offering Platinum customers $200 of free Uber rides while raising the annual fee. Redesigned in stainless steel, the card will cost new holders $550 starting on March 30, a $100 increase that will take effect for existing users when they renew after Sept. 1. It’s the first fee hike in more than a decade, according to Janey Whiteside, AmEx’s senior vice president for global charge products, benefits, and services. The largest US credit-card issuer by purchases is under pressure to defend its dominance. Rival JPMorgan Chase made a splash in August with a Sapphire Reserve card featuring an initial sign-up bonus of 100,000 points, drawing so many applicants it temporarily ran out of materials to mint it."

What do you mean they wouldn't pick you up?

"Report of Uber ‘Greyball’ tactics concerns Boston officials" by Adam Vaccaro Globe Staff  March 04, 2017

Uber has used a secret tool to prevent authorities such as police officers and government inspectors from hailing rides in markets where the service was under scrutiny by local governments, the New York Times reported Friday. The report said the feature, called Greyball, was utilized in Boston.

The program makes booking a ride difficult for users whom Uber suspects of carrying out sting operations aimed at busting drivers in jurisdictions where its legality is unclear. Uber identified the officials through personal information such as credit cards and social media accounts, as well as their geographic location, such as near a municipal building, according to the report.

In recent years, many states, including Massachusetts, have passed laws to explicitly make Uber legal. But in its early years Uber earned a reputation for exploiting legal uncertainty over whether its service should be regulated like taxis. The Greyball technology allegedly blocked targeted authorities from booking an Uber ride, showed them false images of available drivers in the app or quickly canceled any rides they were able to book.

Boston Police Commissioner William Evans said it “is troubling that a company would take steps to circumvent certain operations being done to ensure the safety of the public.” Through a spokeswoman Mayor Martin J. Walsh echoed his concerns.

The Walsh administration has generally been receptive to Uber, although police commissioner Evans has adopted a harder line on the issue of background checks for drivers of the service.

I wouldn't worry; why do you think they are diligently developing driverless cars?

Several years ago, when Uber was still new to Boston, the city police cited hundreds of passenger car owners, including some driving for Uber, for operating illegal ride services. The Times report on Greyball fleetingly mentioned Boston, giving little information about how the program was deployed here. Uber’s local office said it would not give further details Friday night.

Boston Police spokesman Lieutenant Michael McCarthy said the city’s officers have never conducted a sting operation aimed at catching drivers, and that the citations came because officers happened to see Uber drivers operating on the road.

Cambridge Police conducted sting operations aimed at pulling over Uber drivers in 2012, before then-Governor Deval Patrick took action to clarify the company’s ability to operate legally. The Cambridge Police Department declined to comment Friday.

Attorney General Maura Healey’s office found the report concerning and will seek more information about the Greyball feature, said spokeswoman Emily Snyder. State Representative Aaron Michlewitz, a Boston Democrat who last year led the drafting of state regulations overseeing Uber, said the Times report “raises a lot of red flags right now about the veracity of the company.”

In a statement, Uber defended its screening policies, saying it “denies ride requests to users who are violating our terms of service—whether that’s people aiming to physically harm drivers, competitors looking to disrupt our operations, or opponents who collude with officials on secret ‘stings’ meant to entrap drivers.”

The Greyball revelation is just the latest controversy to rock Uber. In recent weeks, it has faced sexual harassment allegations at its California headquarters, was sued by a division of Google’s parent company, and was hit by a social media campaign that urged users to delete its app. Chief executive Travis Kalanick was also recently caught on tape dismissing the concerns of a driver upset over declining fares, prompting Kalanick to admit he must seek “leadership help.”


What if Uber never becomes profitable?

SeeUber to get a COO

That should fix things.

"It’s already been a tough year for the San Francisco-based startup, valued at $69 billion. Uber is facing calls from customers to #DeleteUber, reports of a toxic corporate culture, sexual harassment allegations, criticism from investors over the company’s response, and the abrupt departure of a new senior executive over an undisclosed harassment claim from his previous job at Google. The company is also contending with Alphabet Inc.’s high-profile lawsuit accusing it of copying technology for self-driving cars, and Uber’s chief executive officer said this month he’s seeking ‘‘leadership help’’ in the form of a chief operating officer after his verbal altercation with a driver was caught on video...."

I didn't watch it.

"It's the emerging field of self-driving cars, which is already revolutionizing the auto industry."

The rest is a sideshow:

Cambridge startup will be first to test self-driving cars on Boston’s streets
Boston and nuTonomy to test self-driving car by year-end
Self-driving car hits Boston streets next week
First self-driving car hits the road in Boston But don’t expect to see nuTonomy’s self-driving cars zipping through the Back Bay anytime soon.

Was it the rain or the wi.... it was birds?

Proposed law would wreck self-driving car industry, says nuTonomy

Cause of road rage now? 

What do you mean "a human in the driver seat to take control as needed?" 

I got texts to read!

Time to speed up....

"Drivers and passengers complained that the apps were down for an hour or two on a rainy evening. In addition to general outages, some riders complained of very high surges in pricing and of being charged for cars that never arrived. Uber and Lyft abruptly stopped operating in Austin almost a year ago in protest of a law that required drivers to be fingerprinted. Fasten, in particular, was looking at SXSW as a coming-out party of sorts as it attempts to raise a $20 million fund-raising round and move into new markets...."

Effin' spy tracker, I mean phone!

Time for a test drive:

"Zipcar and Uber have lowered the hourly rates drivers will pay for short-term rentals after the initial charge was criticized as too high. Drivers using Zipcar vehicles essentially pay $7 an hour on weekdays and $8 on weekends, compared to the $12 charge when the partnership was rolled out in February. Each company is playing a role in lowering the rate. Zipcar will charge Uber drivers $9 an hour on weekdays and $10 on weekends, while Uber pays drivers $2 an hour for using Zipcar, provided they complete at least one ride each hour. Zipcar spokeswoman Lindsay Wester said the system is mostly aimed at people who are interested in driving for Uber, but want to try it out without committing to buying a car or renting for more than a short period of time."

Look whose getting out:

"Uber Technologies Inc. president Jeff Jones quit Sunday after less than a year, amid multiple controversies engulfing the ride-hailing company. The scandals range from allegations of sexual harassment and a toxic work culture to the combative behavior of chief executive Travis Kalanick. After Bloomberg published a video on Feb. 28 showing Kalanick berating an Uber driver, he said he would seek “leadership help” and was planning to hire a chief operating officer. The plan was viewed internally as an effective demotion for Jones, who was hired last year as president of ride sharing and second in command, a person familiar with the matter said. Jones decided to leave because the long string of controversies are not what he signed on for when he left his post as chief marketing officer at Target Corp., according to Recode, which reported his departure earlier Sunday. He’s not leaving the closely held company because of the COO search, the website reported. Jones’s purview included Uber’s brand, which took a beating during his short tenure. Uber has been in the limelight for all the wrong reasons this year. The San Francisco-based ride-hailing app was accused of undermining a taxi strike against President Trump’s immigration ban in January. Kalanick stepped down from Trump’s business advisory council after a #DeleteUber movement began to pick up steam. In February, a former employee wrote a blog post about her experiences of sexual harassment while working for the company, and Uber is also facing a lawsuit from Alphabet Inc.’s autonomous car company Waymo for allegedly stealing trade secrets."

Soon all driverless so no need to worry.

"BMW AG plans the biggest rollout of new and revamped models in its history as the luxury-car maker fights back after losing the global sales crown to Mercedes-Benz. Over the next two years, the Munich-based manufacturer will unveil 40 vehicles, including the new X2 compact sport utility vehicle and full-sized X7. The rollout is part of a plan to invest $10.8 billion in developing new models and technology for the transition to an era of electric-powered robo-taxis. “We are launching the biggest model offensive ever,” chief executive  Harald Krueger said at BMW’s annual press conference. The combative tone marks a turnaround for Krueger, who took charge in 2015 and is now under pressure to revitalize growth after profitability fell to a six-year low in 2016 and sales slipped behind Mercedes for the first time in more than a decade. The maker of BMW, Mini, and Rolls-Royce vehicles is looking for a spark after the revamped 7-Series sedan failed to challenge the Mercedes S-Class and a redesign of the 5-Series drew only a tepid response from buyers."

With all the internalized war terminology dished out by the war pre$$, one would think the future is a Terminator world -- with AI weapons waging war on humans. 

Oh, sorry, that car wasn't for us (you see the brand?).

"Uber Technologies has been squabbling with its drivers over the issue of tipping since the company’s inception. Drivers argue tips have always been a part of their trade and should continue to be. Uber thinks that tipping is a relic of the past and wants the idea to wither away. After some back and forth, Uber grudgingly settled on a policy in 2016 that lets drivers take cash tips, but the company still hasn’t integrated tipping into the app. This irks drivers. By telling them to take cash instead, Uber risks running afoul of laws governing the ride-hailing industry in more than a dozen states...."

All driverless soon anyway so what's the complaint?


Boston cabbies vent Uber frustrations at hackney boss

Who cares, their industry dead!

‘Taxi king’ Ed Tutunjian to abdicate his throne The decades-long reign of Boston’s “taxi king” is coming to an end.

Those who dethroned him.

So what’s Boston’s plan for the taxi industry?

Even the courts are against them, and I see no future at all.


"Sleepy behind the wheel? Some cars can tell; Automakers are putting technology to work to stop drowsy driving" by Eric A. Taub New York Times  March 17, 2017

NEW YORK — It’s called a microsleep, a brief state of drowsy unconsciousness that can happen even if your eyes remain open. When drowsiness is detected, drivers are typically warned with a sound and the appearance of a coffee cup icon.

Just like reading a Globe every morning.

But manufacturers and automobile suppliers are now working on advanced technological solutions that go beyond visions of coffee cups.

To find out if drowsiness can be detected even earlier, Plessey Semiconductors has developed sensors, to be placed in a seat, that monitor changes in heart rate. Algorithms developed by the company indicate when breathing changes to patterns that are typical of someone who is sleeping, giving a warning before someone actually feels tired.

“We could see this in a vehicle in five years,” said Keith Strickland, chief technology officer of the company, which is based in Plymouth, England.

Bosch, a German supplier of technology to automotive companies, is developing a camera-based system that will monitor head and eye movements, as well as body posture, heart rate, and body temperature.

Someone will always be riding shotgun with you, monitoring every little tick. How comforting!

In addition, sensors on the outside of the vehicle will monitor the state of traffic in which the fatigued driver is engaged. Once vehicles can communicate with each other — a capability expected in the next few years — other cars will be able to take appropriate maneuvers to avoid the drowsy driver.


In France, Valeo, a supplier of automotive technology, is developing an infrared camera system that will monitor children in the rear seat as well as the driver’s shoulder, neck, and head movements, looking for deviations from the norm.

Checking body temperature and even how the driver is dressed, the system will also be able to customize the interior temperature for each driver, said Guillaume Devauchelle, the company’s innovation director.

All good, huh?

Nvidia — chip supplier to Audi, Mercedes, Tesla, and others — is developing the Co-Pilot, an artificial-intelligence tool that can learn the behaviors of individual drivers and determine when they are operating outside their norms.

The system will eventually learn a driver’s standard posture, head position, eye-blink rate, facial expression, and steering style, among other indexes. Based on a vehicle’s capabilities, the driver will be warned or driven to a safe spot when conditions warrant.

Don't move or anything.

Advanced drowsiness detection systems exist today. Mercedes’ Attention Assist monitors a driver’s behavior for the first 20 minutes behind the wheel to get a baseline of behaviors. Then the system checks those against 90 indexes, such as steering wheel angle, lane deviation, and external factors such as wind gusts and pothole avoidance.

While NHTSA reported 824 deaths in 2015 because of drowsiness, the actual number is likely to be considerably higher, the agency said. Drowsy driving can only be self-reported and not measured like drunkenness.

“We’re a nation of tired drivers,” said Deborah Hersman, the head of the National Safety Council and the former chairwoman of the National Transportation Safety Board. “People talk about sleep deprivation as if it’s a badge of honor. As a society, we have to realize that drowsy driving is really dangerous.”

I know what I'm tired of.


Pothole will rouse you!

"What potholes? Startup making ‘digital’ version of the shock absorber gets huge investment" by Curt Woodward Globe Staff  February 01, 2017

Investors have put $100 million into a startup in Woburn that is developing software-controlled suspension systems for cars, hoping to commercialize a technology that could neutralize the rough ride on Boston’s notoriously pockmarked roadways.

ClearMotion Inc.announced Wednesday that J.P. Morgan’s private equity unit was leading the new investment. The company has now raised a total of $130 million from investors.

Bank potholes get paved immediately.

ClearMotion is pitching its technology as a natural extension of the push for increasingly autonomous cars, a separate set of driver-assisting systems that tech and car companies are betting will produce the next great wave of automotive innovation.

The possibility of self-driving cars, ClearMotion chief executive Shakeel Avadhany said in a news release, “mandates a future in which cars afford not just driving pleasure, but the utility of a mobile office.”

Talk about $lave drivers!

ClearMotion, founded in 2008, was formerly known as Levant Power. The company was previously developing shock absorbers that promised to reduce gas consumption by turning a car’s bouncing motions into electricity that could be fed back into the vehicle’s electrical system.

The idea has long enchanted techies in the Boston area....


You $ee where it's all going, right?

"Intel buys Mobileye for $15.3 billion in bid to lead autonomous car market" by Mark Scott New York Times  March 14, 2017

NEW YORK — In the world of driverless cars, household names like Google and Uber have raced ahead of rivals, building test vehicles and starting trials on city streets.

But when it comes to what is under the hood, a wide array of lesser-known companies is looking to supply the technology required to bring such driverless cars to the masses.

And in a $15.3 billion deal announced on Monday, Intel made a play to corner the market on how much of that technology is developed.

That's a big buyout and payday for who?

The chipmaker’s acquisition of Mobileye, an Israeli company that makes sensors and cameras for driverless vehicles, is one of the largest in the fast-growing sector and sets the stage for increasing competition between Silicon Valley companies as well as traditional automakers over who will dominate the world of autonomous cars.

The likes of Google and Uber have already invested billions of dollars in their own technology, signing partnerships with automakers Chrysler and Volvo and sending test vehicles onto the road in a bid to cement their place in the industry.

The sector is estimated to be worth $25 billion annually by 2025, according to Bain & Co., the consulting firm.

Faced with an existential threat to its legacy computer business, Intel — alongside competitors such as Qualcomm — has focused on autonomous cars as a potentially lucrative market. Many of these driverless vehicles, experts say, will require immense computing power, including the latest microchips able to crunch reams of data in seconds to keep the cars on the road and safe.

And by acquiring Mobileye, whose digital vision technology allows autonomous vehicles to safely navigate city streets, Intel aims to broaden its offerings beyond just chips to a wider suite of products that driverless vehicles will require.

It hopes, as a result, to appeal to automakers that want to offer autonomous driving but lack the in-house expertise and do not want to rely on companies like Google.

“Scale is going to win in this market,” Brian Krzanich, Intel’s chief executive, told investors on Monday. “I don’t believe that every carmaker can invest to do independent development into autonomous cars.”

Intel has a history with such strategic moves.

It dominated the personal computer market during more than three decades, supplying hundreds of millions of desktop computers with much of their internal architecture, after dominating which microchips were used in the industry. But in recent years, Intel has struggled to find its feet as people’s habits have increasingly turned to the mobile world, where the company’s chips have lost out to rivals.

Last year, for instance, the company announced that it was laying off 12,000 people, or 11 percent of its global workforce, as demand for personal computers continued to decline.

While Intel still makes more than half of its annual revenue from traditional computing chipmaking operations, the company’s sales from its “Internet of things” division, a unit that includes its burgeoning automaking team, grew 15 percent in 2016, to $2.6 billion, according to regulatory filings.

During the last 18 months, Intel has signed partnership deals with BMW and Delphi Automotive, an auto parts supplier, to expand its presence in the field. It also acquired a 15 percent stake in Here, a digital mapping business owned by a consortium of German automakers, and announced last year that it would invest $250 million in startups working on driverless car technologies.

Mobileye, founded in Jerusalem in 1999, has signed deals with several automakers, including Audi, for the use of its vision and camera technology, which uses machine-learning and complex neuroscience to help drivers — and increasingly cars themselves — avoid obstacles on the road.

It also has long-standing ties with Intel. The chipmaker was a partner with Mobileye and BMW last year over efforts to bring autonomous cars to city streets by 2021. In January, the companies announced plans to have up to 40 autonomous cars on American and European roads by the end of this year as part of initial trials.

As that collaboration grew, Intel and Mobileye executives began talking about a potential takeover at the end of December, holding meetings, mostly in New York, to complete a deal that will see Mobileye’s executives take the lead in Intel’s new expanded efforts.

“This deal makes Intel a tier-one partner for the automotive industry,” said Martin Birkner, an automotive analyst at Gartner, a technology research company in Munich. “As the industry moves towards autonomous driving, new types of digital suppliers like Intel are developing quickly.”

Intel’s efforts to stamp a claim on driverless cars represents a recognition that chipmaking rivals Nvidia and Qualcomm had moved slightly ahead in the race to provide the computing power needed for autonomous vehicles.

As part of the deal, Intel said it would buy Mobileye’s outstanding shares at $63.54 a share, a 34 percent premium to Mobileye’s closing price on Friday.

The acquisition requires shareholder and regulatory approval, and is expected to close by the end of this year.

Much of Intel’s success will depend on Amnon Shashua, Mobileye’s cofounder and chief technology officer, who has a doctorate in brain and cognitive sciences from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.

Part of Shashua’s plan is to have cars with Mobileye’s advanced driver assist systems collect imaging and location data that can be used to create what the company calls RoadBook — a vast digital map of roadways in the United States and Europe.

You wouldn't mind helping to drive construction of the total surveillance grid, would you?

The goal, Shashua said, is to provide carmakers with a complete product line of digital services that go beyond what they can do for themselves.

“The collaboration that we want to do can’t happen if we are two different organizations,” he said Monday. “The collaboration already runs deep.”


Let's hope it's not Bluetooth technology....

So who insures the thing, the occupant of the car or the makers of the software and sensors?

"Here’s why your car insurance might be skyrocketing" by Deirdre Fernandes Globe Staff  March 20, 2017

The price of auto insurance is once again increasing for Massachusetts drivers, and insurers are laying the blame squarely on technology.

Drivers distracted by their smartphones are crashing their cars more often, and those cars are now more expensive to repair because they’re loaded with sensors and devices. 

Stuff puts you to sleep, doesn't it? 

That's what I read anyway.

The inevitable result: higher premiums for consumers, even for those who have not had accidents lately.

“If you have sticker shock, don’t be surprised,” said James Lynch, vice president of research at Insurance Information Institute, a New York-based industry group. “It’s a phenomenon. A number of companies have increased rates.”

This is the second straight year of steep increases: Rates in 2016 jumped between 6 to 9 percent, on average.

In addition to the increase in claims, insurers had also been waging a fierce battle for customers by offering lower rates, which has resulted in them collecting less in premiums. And the long period of low interest rates has not helped, as it limits returns on investments that insurers use to cushion business ups and downs.

Think about that for a minute. 

How do risky, up-and-down investments help cushion.... sigh. 

Insurance specialists said it is difficult to peg just how much distracted driving — specifically mobile phone use — contributes to rising accident claims. They say drivers who have had accidents are reluctant to admit they were texting or using their phones at the time.

Still, it’s clear that drivers are spending plenty of time on their mobile devices while behind the wheel. 

Is it?

TrueMotion is a Boston company that makes an app to track how much drivers use their phones. In its most recent data covering 18,000 users, TrueMotion found that drivers spent 20 percent of every trip on a call, holding their phone, or texting and scrolling through social media.

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration said fatalities attributed to distracted driving, which includes texting, fiddling with GPS, even eating, increased by 8.8 percent in 2015, the latest year available.

Those incidents helped reverse a long-running decline in automobile-related fatality rates. In 2015, the overall number of motor vehicle fatalities in the United States increased 7.2 percent, the largest jump in half a century.

The Massachusetts Division of Insurance, which reviews rate requests to ensure they are justifiable, said it has noticed companies reporting higher property damage claims.

“I would characterize distracted driving as a big factor,” said Chris Goetcheus, an agency spokesman. “It’s resulting in more accidents out on the road.”

Other factors are also driving rates up, particularly the increasing amount of technology packed into cars these days, such as sensors that monitor and measure nearly every aspect of performance. Just fixing a damaged bumper cost $1,705 more in 2016 than it did two years earlier, according to Boston-based Liberty Mutual.

A simple windshield replacement that used to cost about $350, now involves higher-quality glass and connections to the car’s sensors, and costs twice as much, said Joe Salerno, vice president of claims at Quincy-based Arbella Insurance Group.


Never a concern about hacking, either. 

Now they don't have to blow up the car or cut the brakes. Looks like an "accident" now.

He also pointed out that more cars are made from aluminum, instead of steel, bodies; that softer material requires more-expert mechanics to repair.

Manufacturers are also bringing the sophisticated safety features that once came only in luxury lines, such as systems that keep motorists from veering into another lane, into everyday models. But Salerno said those new technologies have not yet come into wide enough use to help improve traffic safety.

That's how luxuries are turned into necessities -- which you will then fight to keep. 

See how manipulation of the population by those running society works?

“Traditionally what we would hope to see with all these advanced driverless systems is we would hope to see a decline the frequency of accidents,” Salerno said. “But because of the small penetration, we’re not seeing the benefits.”

Automobile coverage, which used to be a reliable profit-maker for insurance companies, has become far less so in recent years, with more drivers on the road texting, talking, and plugging directions into their phones.

The bottom line: Many insurance company profits have taken a whack.


That's the point of all this one-day wonder, front-page feature fare?!!!!

Illinois-based State Farm Mutual Automobile Insurance Co., the country’s largest auto and home insurer, recently disclosed that its profits for 2016 plummeted to $400 million from $6.2 billion the previous year, due to auto accident claims.


The Travelers Companies Inc. reported earlier this year that car insurance claims for 2016 were nearly 840,000, an 11 percent increase from the prior year. Travelers said it is now considering rate increases.

Across the nation, between 2014 to 2016, the frequency of collision claims rose by 2.6 percent, after years of decreases, and their severity, or cost, increased by 8 percent, according to the Insurance Information Institute.

A decade ago, companies spent 98 cents on claims and medical costs for every $1 in premiums; in 2015 the industry spent $1.05 for every $1 they took in, according to the insurance research group.

“Insurers will need to adjust their pricing to reflect this new reality,” said said Patrick McDonald, executive vice president of business and clients at Mapfre, the largest auto insurer in Massachusetts....

Time to hit the brakes!!!


I see the family home now, looming in the headlights....

"The next financial crisis might be in your driveway" By Kyle Stock Bloomberg News  February 22, 2017

NEW YORK — Lured by low interest rates, low gas prices, and a crop of seductive vehicles that are faster, smarter, and more efficient than ever before, American drivers are increasingly riding in style. Don’t be fooled by the curb appeal though: Those swanky machines are heavily leveraged.

The country’s auto debt hit a record in the fourth quarter of 2016, according to the Federal Reserve Bank of New York, when a rush of year-end car shopping pushed vehicle loans to a dubious peak of $1.16 trillion. The combination of new car smell and new credit woes stretches from Subarus in Maine to Teslas in San Francisco.

It’s an alarming number, big enough to incite talk of a bubble, but the market for cars is a lot different than that for houses. For one, vehicles are a much more fluid asset; they are far easier to repossess and resell. What’s more, car payments tend to be cheaper than mortgages and people tend to use their vehicles a lot, so when it comes time to prioritize bills, the auto loan typically takes precedent over other things.

Indeed, delinquencies on vehicle loans, though rising, are still lower than late payments on student loan debt and credit card balances. So those getting ready for global economic collapse shouldn’t panic about car payments just yet.

But they should worry, just like executives at the big automakers. Barring a few finance startups, the manufacturers are the ones loaning money to the riskiest buyers. They have more incentive to push a sale and, unlike a bank, make money on both the loan and the product, if all works out right.

Recently, carmakers have been focused on moving SUVs and trucks, which tend to carry higher profit margins than vanilla sedans and cost a little more as well. Lowering credit standards a bit and stretching repayment windows up to six or seven years has helped drive business to record levels, with 17.55 million vehicle sales last year.

In the past two years, US drivers with credit scores of less than 620 borrowed $244 billion to buy cars, a tally not matched since 2006 and 2007 when the same strata of buyers rolled off with $254 billion in auto loans.

The problem is that a lot of those drivers have a record of not handling their finances particularly well. Car companies — and their captive finance units — make about half of all car loans these days, but they underwrite three-quarters of the ones going to subprime vehicle buyers. As delinquencies rise, these are the first companies that will feel them. Indeed, the Fed says recent delinquencies are inordinately hitting carmakers, while bank and credit unions have actually seen an improvement in late payment data.

In other words, every time a dealer upsells someone into swanky SUV, they have more in common with the buyer than one might think: both may be paying for it later....


Looks like we won't be going anywhere after all, driver or not.

Santander to boost auto loan controls

That's after the scandal and it's still not good enough.

Hope you paid your loan on time... 

US government now looking out for your privacy, ha-ha-ha-ha-ha -- or not

(No concern about government and company data collection, criminal hacking, or any of the other issues surrounding your privacy. It's all protecting you from adverts)

Better buckle up

Mazda recalling 174,000 cars over seat problem

Ford recalls more than 36,000 vehicles over faulty air bags The air bags were made by Japanese supplier Takata Corp., air bags can inflate with too much force and spew shrapnel at occupants.


"Lawsuit alleges automakers knew of deadly Takata airbag defects" by Steven Overly Washington Post  February 28, 2017

WASHINGTON — Court documents filed Monday allege that five auto companies were aware of defects that caused Takata air bags to potentially harm or kill motorists, but continued to use them in order to save on costs.


The documents filed by lawyers representing victims and their families claim that Honda, Ford, BMW, Toyota, and Nissan have known about the issues with the Japanese manufacturer’s air bags for more than a decade.

It's like the GMs stalling out while driving!

The companies used the air bags anyway because Takata was cheaper than its competitors and could produce the bulk quantities the automakers needed, according to the court documents.

The allegations come as Takata entered a guilty plea in a federal courtroom Monday as part of its agreement with the Department of Justice.

Related: "A federal judge on Monday will consider Takata Corp.’s proposed $1 billion settlement over automotive air bags that have claimed at least 17 lives worldwide. The Tokyo-based company is scheduled to enter a guilty plea in Detroit before US District Judge George Caram Steeh to one count of wire fraud for falsifying data and reports provided to automakers. Takata agreed last month to pay a $25 million criminal fine and establish a $125 million fund to pay victims, and a separate $850 million fund to reimburse automakers for recalls. Takata and the Justice Department have nominated lawyer Kenneth Feinberg to run the compensation fund.“I’ll be in the court tomorrow at the request of the US district judge,” Feinberg said Sunday. “What happens there is up to the judge.” Feinberg handled compensation for victims of the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks and BP’s 2010 Gulf of Mexico spill."

Wow, cover-up and keep quiet expert Feinberg is in charge of the payouts (they forgot to mention the Marathon fund).

That deal, reached last month in the final days of the Obama administration, saw three Takata executives indicted on wire fraud charges and required the company to pay $1 billion in fines and restitution.

The largest portion of the penalty, $850 million, would be paid to automakers who incurred billions of dollars in expenses recalling vehicles and replacing air bags.

Takata also agreed to set up a $125 million fund for the families and individuals impacted by the faulty air bags as part of the Justice Department deal....

You $ee that? 

The auto companies got 80% of the $ettlement, not the people whose loved ones are dead or crippled. 

Thanks, U.S Ju$tu$ Department!


Airbags now coming from China.

GM to recall 200,000 cars over faulty airbags

GM to lay off 1,100 workers in Mich.

I'm stuck in reverse after I was led to believe Trump shamed them into keeping jobs here, even though they claimed to have not changed a thing

It's a struggle just to get to the end of the trip with all the road signs pointing every which way. Just have to Carrier on, by God, and keep on trucking.

Detroit automakers said to win Trump review of efficiency rules

"The letters mark an escalation in the auto industry’s campaign to shape efficiency regulations that they say are overly demanding amid cheap gasoline and tepid demand for the most fuel-efficient vehicles, and could jeopardize industry jobs...."

Trump announces challenge to Obama-era fuel standards

He's really walking a tightrope.

The last time Cadillac dealers were as busy as they are right now, Ronald Reagan was president.

Must be Trump's preferred vehicle.

How about those emissions?

"German police raid Audi offices, escalating Volkswagen diesel inquiry" by Jack Ewing New York Times  March 16, 2017

FRANKFURT — A criminal investigation of Volkswagen’s diesel fraud escalated on Wednesday after authorities in Germany searched offices of the automaker’s Audi luxury car unit, threatening a crucial source of badly needed profit.

You $ee where i$ the pre$$ concern.

The new Audi investigation by prosecutors in Munich, along with a separate criminal inquiry into Volkswagen out of Braunschweig, are keeping the carmaker on the defensive as it tries to move past the emissions-cheating scandal.

Volkswagen has already agreed to pay $22 billion in penalties and settlements in the United States, and pleaded guilty to its vast emissions deception, which involved a variety of Volkswagen, Audi, and Porsche-branded vehicles. Six Volkswagen executives face criminal charges in the United States, and the company is grappling with further legal action in Europe, where dozens of senior staff members — including its former chief executive — are being investigated.

In Europe, authorities are pursuing different threads from the same deception. 

Nice word coming from a pre$$ that leads you to war with lies.

Prosecutors in Munich said the raids were part of a criminal investigation of Audi’s behavior in the United States, where its parent company has admitted installing software in diesel engines to deceive regulators about how much the cars polluted.

You'd think they were CIA!

The Munich investigation hits directly at a major profit center.

Audi produces a disproportionate share of Volkswagen’s profits, so any damage to its image would have particularly grave consequences....

Same with newspaper circulations and subscriptions.



"Volkswagen and Audi face a host of problems, including slipping market share in Europe and China, and can ill afford any further damage to their reputations. The warrant, whose contents were viewed by The New York Times, was first reported Sunday by the German newspaper Bild am Sonntag...."

Times got scooped?

Bosch, a Volkswagen supplier, agrees to settle over diesel scandal

Peugeot maker’s deal for GM’s Opel faces political headwinds

Guess what I'm running out of.

"Gas stations disappearing across Massachusetts" by Matt Rocheleau Globe Staff  March 23, 2017

Massachusetts drivers had best keep a close watch on their car’s gas gauge these days.

The number of gas stations across the state has plummeted over the past decade, with an even sharper decline in Greater Boston, making a quick fill-up harder to find.

The city’s downtown area, in particular, has become somewhat of a gas station desert, forcing motorists to range farther afield to fill up their tanks.

Some mom-and-pop operations have been squeezed out by bigger suburban stations. Stricter environmental standards have prompted some stations to close rather than pay for expensive equipment upgrades, analysts say.

But perhaps the main factor for the decline: Stations make most of their profit today not by selling gas, but by selling other products on site, like coffee and snacks in a convenience store....

And lottery.


Also see:

Students solemn at school after crash that killed 5 teens

Vt. man pleads not guilty in crash that killed 5 teens

Deaths of 5 teens in wrong-way crash reclassified as murder

Related: This Blog Going the Wrong Way

Not going to go that way.

Time for some Chow:

"When Yan Long Chow allegedly ran over his ex-wife in the driveway of her Quincy home last September, he told police it was an accident, that he had gotten dizzy behind the wheel. But on Thursday, prosecutors said Chow killed Zhen Li in brutal fashion, running her over four times after they fought over his gambling...."

I've had enough. 

It's not healthy to read the Globe, and the alleged changes to the Repug bill make it worse than the original bill they wrote (imho), and which the Senate will like even less. 

Will there be a Friday night surprise? Pre$$ is well known to lead you to believe one way before.... surprise. Been a lot of that lately, in fact.

I don't want to filibuster here so I'll simply say that's stupid. Gorsuch is the most moderate of the three nominees it came down to and he's replacing conservative Scalia. Why waste it on this fight? Trump played it masterfully. Appeased the conservatives and abortion folk and it costs him nothing. McConnell going to use rules to get him through anyway.

What is notable is his involvement in the Bush DOJ regarding torture and surveillance policy, none of which is being explored too much and which signals a status quo court deference to the executive.

Moving right along.... it does appear that White Lives Don't Matter, although I object to the $upremaci$ts of the paper dividing up the working class along lines of identity politics. All of us are getting screwed, including the illegals and refugees that are imported for the purpose of cheap labor and driving down wages. The irony is that their alleged allies and benefactors are the ones who created the very conditions causing them to flee.

You would be lucky to break even, but then I talk too much

Americans love paid family leave — just not when others take it

I love the corporate cla$$ setting workers at each others throats, don't you? 

And I don't believe it. I never gave a damn about what other people were doing at work and what they were getting away with, blah-blah-blah. I was too busy being physically and mentally abused by the bosses.

"Disney chief executive Bob Iger’s base salary of $2.5 million will be unchanged, but he gets a $5 million signing bonus, according to filings with the Security Exchange Commission. He made a total of $43.9 million in 2016, when tacking on stock awards and other perks."

That's what you are doing staying home with the kiddies? Watching Disney?


"Three people were killed Wednesday morning when a livery vehicle crossed an Interstate 195 median in Westport and struck a car in a head-on collision, causing a chain reaction of three other crashes, State Police said. Two people in the livery vehicle, a 2005 Dodge Caravan, were killed in the collision, State Police said in a statement. The agency did not release the names of the victims or the livery service because officials are still working to notify their families...."

I'm sure it wasn't....

Three of 5 victims in fatal wrong-way crash identified

Wrong-way crash leaves families shattered

"A 24-year-old Norwell man was arrested late Thursday night for allegedly driving on the wrong side of Interstate 95 and Interstate 93 while under the influence of drugs and alcohol, State Police said. Ahmed Ziad pled not guilty in Dedham District Court Friday to eight driving offenses, including driving under the influence, negligent operation, and a wrong-way violation, according to the Norfolk County district attorney’s office. It is at least the fourth instance of a wrong-way driver on Massachusetts highways since late-October...."

War refugee?

Man held on $75,000 bail for allegedly hitting officers with car

"The plan for the Volkswagen brand follows Friday’s announcement that the division would eliminate 30,000 jobs...."