Driverless Taxi Rides Are Headed Your Way This Year (2-19-18)

Ready for a completely driverless taxi cab? Riders in the Phoenix area will have the chance to summon a fully autonomous, self-driving vehicle when Google’s Waymo launches its ride-sharing service later this year, the company announced.

Waymo launched a pilot program last year, but has until now relied on vehicles that still have “operators” ready to take control in an emergency. And volunteers got to use the service for free. With the approval of Arizona regulators, it will soon start charging riders who will be able to summon a vehicle using a smartphone app, much like competitors such as Uber and Lyft. Those new vans will operate driverlessly.

“As we continue to test-drive our fleet of vehicles in greater Phoenix, we’re taking all the steps necessary to launch our commercial service this year,” a Waymo spokesman said.

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If You Can’t Beat Them, Fee Them. Cities Turn To Ride-Sharing To Fix Ailing Infrastructure (2-19-18)

By placing a tax or extra fee on rides provided by companies like Uber, Lyft and Juno, municipalities are finding an effective way to raise funding that can be invested back into the community.

Chicago has already instituted a 15-cent surcharge for Uber, Lyft and other ride-hailing services, which will be given to the Chicago Transit Authority to be used for the city’s train track, signal and electrical upgrades. The fee is anticipated to bring in $16M by the end of the year, the New York Times reports.

Philadelphia has chosen to allocate proceeds from its 1.4% tax on the ride-hailing services toward its public school system, while Massachusetts — which placed a 20-cent charge on ride-hailing trips — is putting the money toward improving its roads and bridges, in addition to giving back to the taxi community by helping them integrate new technologies and improving job training, the NYT reports.

New York is one of the latest cities to join this trend. Funds from the surcharge will go toward necessary subway system repairs. Ride-sharing users could be face additional fees of between $2 and $5 a ride, generating an estimated $605M per year.

Read Full Story Here (via BISNOW)

Mayor Bowser Establishes Autonomous Vehicle Working Group (2-14-18)

A dog carefully observes a food delivery bot in Germany.

D.C. government is looking ahead on self-driving cars.  On Monday, D.C. Mayor Muriel Bowser announced the creation of the city’s Interagency AV Working Group to explore an autonomous vehicle pilot program to “help benefit District residents and visitors.”

“We will keep the District on the cutting edge of autonomous vehicles and do so in a way that benefits our residents,” said Mayor Bowser in a statement. “Washington, D.C. is a creative, tech-savvy city, and as we grow, we will always be exploring and investing in innovation and finding ways to make it more inclusive.”

The working group is made up of representatives from across multiple city agencies.

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How to Get Free Rides on Valentine’s Day: Uber & Lyft Codes

There’s no reason to drink and drive on Valentine’s Day. Whether you’re out on a date and you both had a little too much to drink or you’re having a single Valentine’s Day that simply requires drinking, there are plenty of options available to avoid drinking and driving. Many transportation companies are offering reduced-price coupon codes for the day. You can also reduce your price even more if you know how to avoid surge pricing. If you know of any other good coupon codes, let us know in the comments below.

Read Full Story Here (via Heavy.)

This DC Taxi Driver Was a Superstar in Ethiopia (2-12-18)

Left: Photo collage by a fan (unknown) at the Hilton Hotel, late 1960s. Right: Hailu Mergia today.

In the 60s and 70s, Hailu Mergia was a famous musician in Africa. But famine in the 80s forced him to move to the US. Now he’s poised for a comeback.

As a young man living in Addis Ababa during the swinging 60s, Hailu Mergia was a superstar. The Ethiopian capital city was a bustling cosmopolis where art and culture flourished amid the country’s uneasy quest for independence.

His jazz and funk band, The Walias, performed for the domestic and international elite at the then-prestigious Hilton Hotel’s music club, which granted residencies to Ethiopia’s hottest bands. Crowds of dignitaries and foreign diplomats, Hollywood movie stars, famous musicians like Duke Ellington and Alice Coltrane, and important African figures like Manu Dibango would flock to the hotel to dance and jam until sunrise.

Read Full Story Here (via VICE)