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Why Self Driving Cars Won’t Work For Ridesharing

Driverless CarsSan Francisco is where ridesharing started. Uber, Lyft and the defunct Sidecar as well as smaller players have all started here in the City and they all seem to think they can get rid of drivers now.

This is one of the strangest ideas I have heard in a long time and these companies need to look at Muni in San Francisco to understand what will happen if you remove drivers from cars. Our Muni and BART trains have tried to be autonomous in the tunnels and that didn’t work very well now did it. Many of you may not know this, but there was a time when Muni tried [for a very short time] to have the drivers step out of the compartment when trains entered West Portal Station and let the trains, on tracks, be controlled by a computer. That didn’t work and now a driver has to sit there and make sure the computer is working right and doesn’t crash when the train begins to pass 60 mpg in the tunnel.

I know what some of you are saying, but Google/Uber/some other tech company wasn’t controlling them. OK, fine, but even with a driver riding along on a Muni or BART train have you seen what happens on one of those trains? How would a driverless car picking people up and taking them to their destination on city streets be any different?

There is already the reported problem of lots of these cars getting into accidents. Most of the time it isn’t the fault of the car’s computer, but the humans that are driving around them.  You can write that off if you want, but I don’t think everyone is going to jump onboard from day one when a driverless car becomes available.

Then there are the other problems that people don’t think about. I’m one of those guys that do and here’s something to think about. A driverless car is like the set of Home Alone. People won’t have an overseer to keep them in check. I’ve given rides to young people who even with me behind the wheel have gotten into a fight in the back of my car. I stopped and threw them out, but think about what the first thing that dominates a new technology is…PORN.

VHS, DVDS, the Internet all become intrenched because of the porn industry. I would not be surprised if some of the first people who grab a driverless car will shoot a porn film in it that will be on the internet within a couple of days. The second or third will be someone who pukes and after that will probably be some kid who thinks it would be cool to take a dump in a driverless car.

Imagine if you will for a moment the amount of human body fluids that will be flooding, soaking into and dripping from the insides of a driverless car. No one has talked about safety features in these cars because that of course would be an invasion of someone personal privacy.

Will these cars be equipped with cameras that can see all over the car? Will these cars be equipped with fluid sensors to notify home base if someone barfs or pees in the car? NOTE: I have heard from lots of drivers who have had riders not just puke, but also pee in their cars. This usually happens after midnight and the person is pretty drunk and well, it seems like a good idea at the time… Maybe the companies that are on the bandwagon will make these cars self cleaning so that after a person or porn film crew leaves the car it will sanitize and sterilize the interior for the next rider’s safety.

Then there is the drunken factor that I barely touched on. People like the current ridesharing services because they don’t have to drive home drunk, but their faculties are not at their best. I’ve been asked to pull over so someone could jump out and vomit. I’ve also had a large number of people who put in the wrong address or wanted to go to Safeway, but Google’s Maps which every system uses for some reason chose not the Safeway that was closest to them, but one in the East Bay or North Bay [seriously, try it]. How will the computer controlling the vehicle know whether the customer is right? Will the car electrically zap the riders who have passed out after drinking too much to rouse them to get out because the car has hopefully arrived at the correct location?

In the end the public has been sold a science fiction novel that has been poorly written. This isn’t the taxis of Blade Runner or even Total Recall for that matter. Driverless cars for the masses are a long way off and the idea of driverless transport vehicles are an even longer way off.




The Knight Driver: NSFW

Beware, the knight Driver...WARNING! This post is not safe to read at work if you have people who work with you who will lean over your shoulder in weird positions and angles to view the little type on your screen and then complain about sexual harassment or some other sort of thing.

As many of you know I’ve been driving for one of the local ridesharing companies and in a few of the posts I have made on Facebook, friends of mine have suggested that I write an article about it. In no way is this a reflection on any of the ridesharing companies that operate in SF. This is more just observations of people I’ve met along the way.

At first many people have said things like, I bet you have a lot of stories to tell. In reality, I don’t. Most of the people are nice normal people. Actually they’ve become a lot nicer and more normal since there have been a few changes to the way the system works so the oddballs I don’t see too much of anymore. There have been a few that I’ve given rides to and those were in the mostly under 30 range so they haven’t had the time to realize some of the things they’re saying. As an example…

JOB INTERVIEW GIRL

Nice girl. Kind of bubbly, but in a good way. We’re talking as I’m giving her a ride and she says to me…Is this dress too slutty for a job interview? OK, my mind is racing with responses. Like, depends, what position are you trying for at the Mitchell Brothers? or If you have to ask… No that wouldn’t be good to say because then she would ask what I asking. In the end I just asked her if her interview was with a law firm and she said no, Hot Topic. OK, you’re fine. That’s good because most law firms don’t like pink and purple striped hair in general.

THERAPY GIRL

Girl gets in the car while talking to someone on the phone and I can hear that the conversation is going bad. OK, bye… and the flood gates open. She starts crying. I suggest that she have some candy that I have in the back because candy makes everything better. She then starts to tell me why she’s crying.

Her: I told my boyfriend we were getting too serious and that we should start seeing other people.

Me: and let me guess. He’s seeing other people.

Her: YEEEESSSSSSS! <wailing tone>

Me: Well that’s what you wanted to do right?

Her: Yes, but I’M not seeing anyone else yet.

Me: Well generally when you say we should start seeing other people that usually means you’re already seeing other people.

Her: I know I fucked up didn’t I <still crying>

Me: So where are you going now?

Her: A bar. [name deleted so people don’t think it’s a spot for finding rebound girls]

Me: It’s Friday night, fix your make up and everything will be better tomorrow.

Her: I know it’s still early.

Me: He was probably an asshole anyway. [that’s still a line all girls tell their friends right?]

I would have sent her a bill for the therapy session, but all I had was her first name and I don’t want to get labeled as a creepy driver for contacting riders later unless they left something in my car.

I’M NOT A SLUT, YOU’RE A SLUT!

Oh boy. I’ve seen a lot in my life, but I didn’t expect this one. PLEASE people when you accept a ride from someone you have to remember whether it’s a rideshare company or a cabbie that there is someone there who is driving the car that can hear what you’re saying. Two girls get in the car and I knew right away this was going to be kind of different.

Girl 1: So remember that guy I hooked up with a couple of weeks ago that I’ve been seeing?

Girl 2: You mean the one you said had a small penis?

Girl 1: Yeah, I call him “little Richard”.

Girl 2: You do not!

Girl 1: I do

Girl 2: So how is he? How are things going?

Girl 1: Alright, but he’s kind of sleazy.

Girl 2: How so?

Girl 1: He like pulls it out of my ass and tries to put it in my mouth.

Girl 2: <silence>

Me: <Dare I ask if it was the first date?>

That pretty much ended the entire awkward conversation until I dropped them off and they ran away from the car.

HIPSTER DOUCHEBAGS

This was a first for me. I’ve talked about hipsters, heard other people talk about them, but I had never met one or more that were so stereotypical.

Hipster 1: The Yeah yeah yeahs were awesome!

Hipster 2: True, but I was there for The National.

Hipster 1: It’s so weird that we just met at Outside Lands and we both live a block away from each other in the Mission.

Hipster 2: Yeah I know. I’m going to get a burrito when we get dropped off.

Hipster 1: El Farolito rocks!

Hipster 2: Quesadilla Suiza DUDE!

Hipster 1: So what do you do?

Hipster 2: Well a just moved out here a couple of months ago and got a job with a tech company and I’m the ambassador of their product line so they send me to London to get their social media voice more prominent.

Hipster 1: No way! I do the same thing for my company, but they send me to South America to do the same thing. I usually stay over an extra week so I can more fully experience their culture, but I usually spend it drinking on the beach.

Me: ????

If I am lying, I’m dying. I did not make that up. The only thing missing from that conversation was PBR and American Spirit cigarettes. Now I understand much better the locals who complain about the hipsters ruining their taquerias. On the plus side I got a 50% tip.

Farting Passengers

Look, I understand it’s a natural body function and all that, but if you’re only going to be in my car for around 15 minutes don’t you think you could at least hold it until you got out? Or maybe, oh, I don’t know. Roll down the windows afterwards? This is something that I found seemed to happen with the under 30 crowd which I’ve been getting less and less of now that we’re getting closer to the end of summer here. The biggest problem for me is that I have to air out the car before the next person gets in because you don’t want people complaining that your car stinks when they rode in it. Luckily I carry a can of ozium just in case this happens and I pull over and spray the car and close it up for a couple of minutes before I start driving again. Since people used it in the 70’s to get the smell of pot smoke out of the air I figured it would be a good choice and it works really well against, ahem, offensive odors. Luckily it’s something that I haven’t had a problem with in the past couple of weeks.

That’s a pretty good sample of some of the people I’ve given rides to, but as I said most are pretty normal people. I’ve got four people who are regulars who I feel like they’re my best buddies since they get in and we carry on where we left off a few days before. Those people I’ve given cards to so they can read my blog. The people I’ve written about above, I don’t want to give cards to. I don’t mean any ill will towards them, but they really need to be careful about what they’re telling people when they get into the car with a stranger…

Parkside Theater: San Francisco Grindhouse

I watched a movie the other day called American Grindhouse [if you’re into film making you should see this]. I’d learned more about the genre than I could from the Quentin Tarantino movie of the same name. This stirred up some memories in my mind of the old Parkside Theater which was a top notch theater in it’s day, but took a turn towards the Grindhouse genre when it was sold and became the Fox-Parkside as we all knew it.

Grindhouse films were always low budget films that focused on many seedier ideas such as T&A, gratuitous gore, racial exploitation or all of the above. For me, after seeing American Grindhouse I had to see some of these films that I wasn’t old enough to see as a kid because most were made in the early 70’s and I wouldn’t turn 18 until 1980. WOW! Now I know why people were talking about Pam Grier films. She was always having clothes come off in her movies. I couple of little know grindhouse girls who showed up frequently were Anitra Ford who was the first female model on the Price is Right. The other was Victoria Vetri who was the 1968 Playboy Playmate of the Year and born in San Francisco [and that was also the first issue of Playboy I ever got to see!]

The titles of these films pretty much told you what to expect in the films, The Big Bird Cage, Caged Heat, Invasion of the Bee Girls. You knew that there would be lots of nakedness in these films. I knew it, even though I never got to see one of them until recently. So how does the Parkside fit into this? Well when I was in 2 & 3 grade they were a first run theater or close to first run. They had a thing during the summer where your parents would buy you tickets for Tuesday or Wednesday matinees so your parents could get rid of you for a few hours. I still remember buying Mike and Ike’s, Good and Plenties or Red Vines at the food counter which were larger than a box you would buy today [the Red Vines are about the same size] and it would cost you 16¢. The extra penny was to cover tax. I may be dating myself here, but you could go to a movie with $5 get in see the movie with popcorn and a drink and come out with change.

It was a respectable theater for the most part. Not one of the bigger theaters like you’d find downtown or in higher class neighborhoods, but it was a good working class theater. Then something changed…

In the 70’s it was sold off [1976 according to my my friend Woody at the Western Neighborhoods Project]. Things changed. The seats were pulled out of the downstairs and during the day it was a daycare center for kids. At night it ran grindhouse pictures or when they could get them older movies like Dr. Zhvago [always a big one they’d show]. Blacula, SuperFly, the aforementioned movies where all weekday evening movies. On Friday’s and Saturdays it was a different kind of grind house. I think smokehouse would have been more appropriate. Friday’s the fun started at 6pm and on Saturday’s it would start at noon. They would run every rock music film from the 60’s or 70’s they could find and seating was moved to the balcony. I remember a few nights when you could barely see the screen for the amount of pot smoke floating around. You would hear the clanking of beer bottles and people would be making deals trading beer for joints or vice versa.

The bathrooms upstairs were a good place for people to exchange drugs and liquor and puke. Back then they were pretty in line people that wouldn’t throw up on the way to bathroom, but knew their limit enough to get to the bathroom first. I think because of that time I have films like Jimi Play’s Berkeley, Woodstock, Tommy, Song Remains the Same as god knows how many other movies burned into my brain. I can’t always remember their names, but I know there were a couple with Pink Floyd, Santana, Janis Joplin [not at Woodstock]. It was like I was living through the 60’s again only I was old enough to understand it now.

Note that all the movie links above are only to the Wikipedia references, but if you have NetFlix you can stream them and see how open the movie industry used to be. The only scary part about watching these films today is I remember how hot some of these women were back then only to discover that most of them are turning 70 or older this year. Yes, your Grandma had sex.

Valentine’s Day: San Francisco

I am lucky that my wife never even looks at this site and couldn’t even tell me what color it is if her life depended on it, so I’ll share this with you instead.

I never liked Valentine’s Day very much because I always felt guys are on the short end of the stick. It’s all about what you’re buying for your girlfriend/wife. I suppose it’s slightly different in the gay community, but not being gay I don’t know for sure.

I never get even a card on Valentine’s day, but I’m usually expected to “put out” something along the lines of chocolate and sweets or jewelry. Well, I’m lucky. I didn’t marry that kind of girl. When we go out to dinner we don’t like to sit and languish for hours and hours. She’s a simple girl and that’s why she’s put up with me for over 14 years.

[mappress mapid=”33″]So I’m going to do something different today. Today I’m going to take my wife to a special place on Union Street called American Cupcake for lunch. This is a place that isn’t just a bakery shop, but more of a café that specializes in cupcakes. They’ve done so well that they’ve been featured on the Food Network or the Cooking Channel [I can’t keep the two straight anymore]. They have lots to offer outside of their sweet menu which is their cupcakes. They also offer a savory menu which is what you’ll want to get for lunch or dinner unless you like to eat cupcakes for those two meals.

They also have a PBJ assortment to offer as well as beer and wine based cocktails. All of their goodies are organic and sustainably farmed so the eco-geek in you will be kept very happy. I suggest you check them out and see what you think.

Raccoon Sex…

Well I suspect the title alone will cause all the freaky people who sit up late at night in the dark doing google web searches to come to this site, but after last night I feel I should write something.

While San Francisco is a major metropolitan city it doesn’t mean we don’t have wildlife other than rats and mice. You can find raccoons, skunks, possums and even coyotes within San Francisco. Luckily, I have yet to run into a coyote in my backyard, but raccoons are pretty common in the backyards as they’re a lot more agile. I did notice a skunk once when I went outside to throw some food on the grill thinking, “that’s an odd looking cat” and getting a closer look at the white stripe up its back I walked backwards very slowly until the skunk decided to check out the next yard.

Now raccoons tend to be on the rather friendly side. Either that or they aren’t afraid of people one bit. We used to have an old raccoon that lived in a tree in our backyard. He was blind in one eye and covered in mange and couldn’t compete at night with the others so he’d come out during the day. He was slow and probably had a lot of arthritis so we took pity on him as he would come up to the Indian grinding stones my Mother had in our backyard for water. One day I went outside with an egg and sat on the steps a few feet away and with his one good eye he saw I was holding out something that looked like food. He walked over to me and sheepishly took the egg from my hand and walked over, cracked it on the rock ate the insides and then washed it down with water [raccoons don’t have salivary glands like the rest of us, so they need lots of water to eat]. This continued for a few months until my new little pet would come up and actually sit by me while he ate and let me give him a good look over. He had fleas and ticks real bad. That was obvious and I would be checked every night after feeding him to make sure I hadn’t picked up any ticks.

While being stripped down to your underwear and checked for ticks every night was kind of humiliating, how cool was it to have a pet raccoon that would come up for dinner every night? He started slowing down and his condition came up when we took our dog to the vet one day and our vet had seen an article in the newspaper about our “little friend”. When I told the vet about his condition he mentioned that it would probably be best to have the raccoon put down because it was suffering. We called animal care and control one day when my “pet” was sleeping for what seemed like three hours in our back yard. They came out expecting him to have left, but there he was sleeping on the ground and they just picked him up and put him in a cage and took him away to be put to sleep in a nice warm comfy room. At least it was more warm and comfy than the outdoors in the Sunset district.

So where does the raccoon sex [warning audio not for the faint of heart] come in? Old raccoons are nothing like younger raccoons. They are all over the city even down in the financial district. They’re just very adept at hiding. I usually see them at dusk or after dark. Well, last night I was woken up to a sound I hadn’t heard in a few years. If I had been more awake I would have run for my microphone and recorded the sound because I would have made millions using the sound in a horror movie. There were a couple of raccoons on our back deck having sex.

Raccoon sex is nothing like a human porn movie or even human sexual relations. It sounds more like gladiatorial combat, only with more scratching and hissing. The only thing more horrifying is raccoons fighting. These nice fuzzy creatures aren’t so nice when it comes to sex. It’s worse than the sound of a cat fight and there are no quotes because I’m referring to actually cats, not drunk women at a bar. It’s also something that is extremely loud probably reaching close to the 100db range, but I didn’t have a meter to test the truth in that, but trust me, it was LOUD AND ANGRY. [raccoon sex audio]

Luckily, it only lasts a couple of minutes [no snickering now!] and then they go off along their merry ways. I suppose this was caused by our current warm weather that turned this pair into a couple of cats on a hot tin roof. Now I bet some of you will ask me, how I knew they were having sex and not fighting. I will only say this…

I know of raccoon sex, but of this I can speak no further.

Are San Franciscan’s smug?

smug.JPGThere’s a podcast I occasionally give a listen to that is from Minnesota where the podcasters talk about sex. Sometimes it’s mildly amusing at other times they’re downright insulting sex nazis. On one of the recent podcasts one of the members said she’d like to move to San Francisco because of how open minded we are sexually. Then one of the other members made a comment that she’d have to be able to afford $7000 a month for rent and that the people here are smug.

Obviously this person has never been to San Francisco. Yes, rent is high here. Probably some of the highest in the US, but you can find deals if you look hard. The smug comment though got to me even more. I think with the economy crash all the techie yuppies that put the smug in San Francisco left to be smug somewhere else. They occupied only a small part of the city as well. If you travel out to some of the other parts of the city you find real community in the people who live there. I used to live west of Sunset Boulevard near Judah Street. Once you go west of Sunset the entire vibe changes. Everyone’s a little more laid back and relaxed. The people who run the stores and restaurants out there know your name and you know your neighbors as well. We all had something in common out there. We learned to tolerate the fog for the few days of beautiful sunshine we’d get by the beach. Over the years I’ve noticed that for some reason the Sunset is getting more sun and less fog which is a good reason for me to have stayed here.

We’re all good people here and I think it would be best to leave the smugness to the people outside San Francisco who like to look down on us even though they act like us or want to act like us. What do you think?