Tempus Fugit

Technology and law are inevitably running up against each other, with legacy technology and unions (naturally) clinging to what they have, and standing in the way of progress — of course technology will eventually win.

Let’s start with a dead-bang loss. Aereo, the over the air aggregating TV model has been declared a violation of copyright laws, ending a valiant effort to supplant costly cable companies. I understand the Justices’ reasoning. It was indeed a copyright violation and another method will have to be devised. It will be, because cable companies are not your friend.

Uber is similarly under attack. Philadelphia has banned Uber because a Judge has ruled that the Pennsylvania Public Utilities Commission (PUC) has ruled on the car and driver for hire situation. This may be a temporary setback, because even the Mayor of Philadelphia has sent a letter to the PUC asking acceptance of Uber and its competitors. There are lawsuits a batch against Uber from taxi companies and taxi driver unions — but the only serious impact may be in London and Paris where unions have serious political power and are not immune to the use of force.

After all, London was the home of Henry Ludd. Nevertheless, the London Transit group has approved Uber, but the taxi companies are still suing.

Now, the new “threat” comes in the form of autonomous long-haul trucking. Both Mercedes and a subdivision of VW are working on autonomous long-haul trucks. Driver costs are a third of the cost of trucking, so this is a target rich area for automation. Mercedes already has prototypes, and the first step is likely to be a “train” of trucks with but a single driver…until the public becomes accustomed to the process.

Can planes without pilots be far behind? The answer is “no.”

Air Bus has filed for a patent on putting the “pilot” in an unused part of the plane (like the tail section) but surrounded by cameras and displays — opening up the cockpit for extra passengers. Of course, completely pilot-less cars, trucks, and airplanes are currently possible with “drone” technology, but the public must be brought along slowly.

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