Wednesday, December 20, 2017

Uber not a technology company

Uber is a transport services company, the European court of justice (ECJ) has ruled, requiring it to accept stricter regulation and licensing within the EU as a taxi operator.
The decision in Luxembourg, after a challenge brought by taxi drivers in Barcelona, will apply across the whole of the EU, including the UK. It cannot be appealed against.
Uber had denied it was a transport company, arguing instead it was a computer services business with operations that should be subject to an EU directive governing e-commerce and prohibiting restrictions on the establishment of such organisations.

Tuesday, September 26, 2017

Seattle experimenting with new tax proposals

I love examples where governments experiment with new policies without actually being totally sure of the outcomes, but knowing they have to to do something.

This effort seems warranted, particularly in the light of the growing use of electric vehicles that seems to be emerging. The double whammy will be the possible widespread adoption of  autonomous vehicles.

Washington state to test pay-by-the-mile as a way to fund highways

  • As cars get more fuel-efficient, gas-tax revenues won’t nearly keep up with the costs of highway work that those taxes fund. Washington is launching a pilot project to test a new way of funding roads — a tax on every mile you drive.

  • Next year the Washington State Department of Transportation expects gas-tax revenues to rise by 0.9 percent. It expects its construction costs to increase by 2.6 percent. The year after, it expects gas-tax revenue to increase by 0.7 percent. It expects construction costs to increase by 2.7 percent.

  •  “Inflation that we have forecasted is higher than these motor-fuel growth rates of less than 1 percent,” said Lizbeth Martin-Mahar, the Department of Transportation’s chief economist.

  • It’s a problem that will only get worse in the future as cars get more and more fuel efficient and, eventually, revenues begin to actually decline. It’s also not a problem that has sneaked up on anyone. The Washington State Transportation Commission has been studying it since 2012 and is now recruiting volunteers to test a possible solution.

Tuesday, November 22, 2016

They had better hurry with the autonomous vehicle rules

From Electrek

NVIDIA reported its financial results for the last quarter yesterday and surprised Wall Street. The chip maker, which is now becoming an “AI company” according to its leadership, reported revenue of $2 billion on expectations of $1.7 billion and they also surpassed earnings expectations by a similar margin. On a conference call with CEO Jen-Hsun Huang following the results, analysts were particularly interested in the company’s push in AI and the automotive industry, especially since Tesla’s started delivering every single one of its vehicles with NVIDIA’s Drive PX2 supercomputer. Huang offered some very interesting insights into how he sees Tesla’s self-driving program playing out.He says that by introducing the necessary hardware for full autonomy now, Tesla “sent a shock wave through the automotive industry”:

“And I think what Tesla has done by launching and having on the road in the very near-future here, a full autonomous driving capability using AI, that has sent a shock wave through the automotive industry. It’s basically five years ahead. Anybody who’s talking about 2021 and that’s just a non-starter anymore. And I think that that’s probably the most significant bit in the automotive industry. I just don’t – anybody who is talking about autonomous capabilities in 2020 and 2021 is at the moment re-evaluating in a very significant way.”

For a tiny insight into the regulators, but one that unfortunately does not not delve deep enough.

Policing Driverless Cars an interview with Christopher Hart, who heads the National Transportation Safety Board. MIT TECHNOLOGY REVIEW, VOL. 119 | NO. 6 p 15. 

The ideal scenario that I talked about, saving the tens of thousands of lives a year, assumes complete automation with no human engagement whatsoever. I’m not confident that we will ever reach that point. I don’t see the ideal of complete automation coming anytime soon. Some people just like to drive. Some people don’t trust the automation, so they’re going to want to drive. [And] there’s no software designer in the world that’s ever going to be smart enough to anticipate all the potential circumstances this software is going to encounter. The challenge is that when you have not-so-complete automation, with still significant human engagement, complacency becomes an issue.

Wednesday, November 16, 2016

China's new cybersecurity rules

From MIT Technology Review Blog

China has announced a new set of cybersecurity rules that could make it harder than ever for foreign technology companies to operate in the country.The rules, announced Monday, will provide central Chinese authorities with greater powers over the monitoring of data and hardware. Notably, the laws will open companies up to far greater scrutiny from the government, demanding that Internet firms coöperate with the state’s criminal investigations and provide full access to data if officials suspect them of wrongdoing. The law also demands that companies demonstrate that their systems are capable of withstanding hacks


Thursday, October 27, 2016

European messiness

Court Decision 

A recent court decision in Germany has just made things even more messy in the European Union.

The European Court of Justice (ECJ) recently announced its decision in Sony v McFadden with important consequences for open wireless in the European Union. The court held that providers of open wifi are not liable for copyright violations committed by others, but can be ordered to prevent further infringements by restricting access to registered users with passwords. EFF reported on the legal aspects of the case last year and collaborated on an open letter to the ECJ on the costs to economic growth, safety and innovation of a password lockdown.
Free wifi is rare in Germany compared with other EU countries due to legal uncertainty generated by the doctrine of Störerhaftung, a form of indirect liability for the actions of others,which has deterred cafes, municipalities and others from offering free connectivity. Many in Germany hoped that the McFadden case would remove these doubts, but it is now clear that a legislative fix is needed instead. 

Google / Facebook tax

As the European Union reviews its copyright rules there appears to be the re-emergence of an idea that is twice tried and failed. The idea is to limit or tax or somehow force changes where uses upload a link of a news stories to the web and you get that that little picture and the headline of the article. 

The idea will probably fail again because all it does it reduce the exposure of news stories to a wider audience.

 More here @BBC Click

Monday, August 15, 2016

Obama's regulatory legacy

From the New York Times.

WASHINGTON — In nearly eight years in office, President Obama has sought to reshape the nation with a sweeping assertion of executive authority and a canon of regulations that have inserted the United States government more deeply into American life.
Once a presidential candidate with deep misgivings about executive power, Mr. Obama will leave the White House as one of the most prolific authors of major regulations in presidential history.
Blocked for most of his presidency by Congress, Mr. Obama has sought to act however he could. In the process he created the kind of government neither he nor the Republicans wanted — one that depended on bureaucratic bulldozing rather than legislative transparency. But once Mr. Obama got the taste for it, he pursued his executive power without apology, and in ways that will shape the presidency for decades to come.
The Obama administration in its first seven years finalized 560 major regulations — those classified by the Congressional Budget Office as having particularly significant economic or social impacts. That was nearly 50 percent more than the George W. Bush administration during the comparable period, according to data kept by the regulatory studies center at George Washington University.
An army of lawyers working under Mr. Obama’s authority has sought to restructure the nation’s health care and financial industries, limit pollution, bolster workplace protections and extend equal rights to minorities. Under Mr. Obama, the government has literally placed a higher value on human life.

Tuesday, July 5, 2016

a16z podcast - the sharing economy & Arun Sundararajan

From a16z

In this podcast Arun Sundararajan discusses the economics of the sharing economy and his views on regulation as they change from no regulation to self regulating industries.