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What We Got Wrong About Uber and Lyft

How can we believe that technology will help solve big problems if Uber’s great promise didn’t pan out?

Uber and some transportation experts once predicted that getting a ride with the tap of an app would help reduce traffic and increase riders’ use of public transportation.

The theory of on-demand rides was that they would be like carpooling. As people drove to work, they’d pick up an extra person or two along the way — and some money, too. But Uber and Lyft turned out to be more like taxis.

Dr. Erhardt and I talked over three lessons from this misjudgment. First, Uber and Lyft need to share their data so that cities can understand the services’ impact on the roads. Second, public officials need to steer transportation policy to encourage helpful behaviors and limit destructive ones. And third, new technology needs guardrails in place — and maybe those need to be established before its impact is obvious.

The first point is that Uber and Lyft, which tend to keep certain information such as where people travel and idling times secret, need to share information with cities and researchers. “Cities are pushing hard and have a strong case that we should be able to use this data for planning and research purposes,” Dr. Erhardt said.

His second point was about incentives. Some cities including New York and Chicago have added fees onto Uber and Lyft rides to make it more expensive to drive around without passengers or pick up fares in dense urban centers. That essentially nudges passengers and the companies to reduce the trips that could worsen congestion and pollution.

Maybe you’re thinking, if Uber and Lyft are convenient, why stand in their way? That’s fair, but governments do use taxes and subsidies to encourage people to quit smoking or buy homes. Transportation that works for everyone doesn’t happen on its own. “Designing the right structures matters,” Dr. Erhardt said.

And the third point is that policymakers may have to act early to impose new rules and requirements on new technologies. They didn’t do that when Uber and Lyft came along — because the companies fought regulation and the services were popular.

But the effects of the ride services suggest that emerging transportation, including driverless cars, may need regulations early on to ensure that promises of a collective benefit don’t turn out to be a mirage.

With spring break — and vaccines! — upon us, many of you are probably planning road trips. Add this task to your to-do list: Download offline maps for your destination.

With offline maps, you store mapping data for your chosen destination on your smartphone. If you drive somewhere with poor cell reception, your maps app will still be able show you directions. This may come in handy if you visit a national park with very spotty reception, for example, and need to find your hotel or the entrance to a hiking spot.

Here’s how to download offline maps with Google Maps on iPhones and Android devices:

*Open the Google Maps app. Search for the place you’re planning to go. I’ll use Yosemite National Park as my example.

*At the bottom of the screen, tap on Yosemite National Park. Then tap the More button. That’s the icon of three dots in the upper right hand corner.

*Choose the option to “Download offline map.” Pinch your fingers together or apart to zoom in and out and select the map area that you want to save. Tap Download.

Category: Technology

Source: New York Times

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