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My deaf Lyft driver reminded me of the changing future

I attended a Snapchat event in L.A. two weekends ago, and I, along with other attendees, were given Lyft promo codes to cover our transportation expenses. The ride there was alright, I got in a black Prius and started chatting with the driver. This is exactly how all of my Uber/Lyft/Taxi experience has been. I'm really talkative, so I always find something new to keep the conversation going especially since I only get to meet the drivers once for about 20 minutes, and may never see them again.

Except for the time I was in OKC and an Uber driver drove a friend and I home from a bar, and somehow reappeared the next morning to drive me to the airport.

Anyway, on my way back, as soon as I stepped into the new lyft, I asked 'How's it going?,' as usual. He pointed to his ear, showing me his hearing aid and I replied by speaking... why? The rest of the ride was quiet, and I had a lot of time to think about how technology has evolved and how it has made it easier for disabled people to earn a living. Imagine a world without Uber/Lyft where clients have to give specific details to taxi drivers? How would a deaf driver compete in this situation? The message could be conveyed in various ways, but introducing an app makes it much easier because it handles most of the communication that's required.

Technology made that possible. And soon, no one will be driving our taxis because they will be fully autonomous. A lot of people are not ready for this change, and it's OK. But that won't necessarily stop it from happening.

Don't be that guy who held on to his horse business while cars were hitting the streets.

It's inevitable, and it'll be here sooner than you think. How soon? How about 2018? nuTonomy, a self-driving taxi service, will be hitting the streets of Singapore in less than 2 years. Check out this video I tweeted about it.

And they aren't alone. Ford, BMW, Audi, Nissan, and of course Tesla are all working on fully autonomous (at least level 4) vehicles.

There are currently 5 different levels to autonomous driving:

  • Level 0: A human is in control at all time. The vehicle offers no extra help.
  • Level 1: A human is still in full control, but the car can assist with things like breaking or electronic stability.
  • Level 2: At least 2 controls are handled by the vehicle, but a human still needs to be present. Things like cruise control and lane centering are considered to be level 2 autonomous driving. You can take your feet off the gas pedal, but you'll still have to steer.
  • Level 3: Control can be handed to the vehicle, but a human needs to be present in some cases where the vehicle can't navigate properly.
  • Level 4: Full autonomy. These vehicles can safely get you from point A to B without any need for human intervention. Human controls like the steering wheel and pedals are present just in case you feel like driving.
  • Level 5: What steering wheel? You can't drive this vehicle even if you wanted to because it won't have any human controls.

I think there will be a lot of hybrids between level 4 and 5 before we can fully adapt level 5. Hybrids like the Nissan IDS concept car that can hide human controls when they aren't required. Car manufacturers aside, taxi services like Lyft and Uber are also working on autonomous services. In fact, Uber's autonomous delivery truck just delivered 50,000 beers. Do you trust them now?

What about all the jobs that self driving cars will eradicate? What about singularity?
I think these are important questions to ponder and discuss as autonomy marks the beginning of an era. Up until this point, we haven't trusted technology to make crucial and final decisions for us. We've always had the last say in what computers do, and how they affect our daily lives. Jobs come and go, society evolves and new niches are created as a result. We were all farmers once, then some of us decided to make farming easier by creating tools and machines such as tractors. After that, a few of us thought it would be much convenient if the tractors drove themselves and did all the work. Then maybe later generations can work on self care where tractors automatically drive to repair shops, and get repaired by other autonomous machines. Regardless of what the future holds, life will be more convenient, and all the benefits outweigh the disadvantages. Unless the disadvantages includes skynet, but that's a different story for a different post.

You can read more about the different levels of autonomy on the U.S. Department of Transportation website. The header image is a Mercedes Benz F 015 Luxury concept car.

Tolu Salako

Tolu Salako

Software Engineer. UCI grad. Currently reading Dark Intelligence (Book 1) by Neil Asher - http://amzn.to/2D776LJ, and Principles by Ray Dalio - http://amzn.to/2CDSaUk .

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