Driverless Cabs and Dreaded Trolls

No Driver? No awkward conversation!

When Uber debuted, it seemed like the perfect solution to our many taxi woes. But after myriad problems both big and small, Uber’s Achilles heel was clear: its drivers. While Uber sits mired in lawsuits over their choice of drivers, Google is quietly working on the future. Ride-share using self-driving cars. All of the convenience, none of the pesky human interaction. Writing this I’m trying to think of an eloquent way to describe that other than “cool” but really, it’s just incredibly cool. Google has been working on autonomous vehicles for years, envisioning a truly sci-fi future in which driverless cars enjoy widespread use.

At the Detroit Auto Show on January 14, Google executive Chris Urmson said, “We’re thinking a lot about how in the long-term, this might become useful in people’s lives, and there are a lot of ways we can imagine this going. One is in the direction of the shared vehicle. The technology would be such that you can call up the vehicle and tell it where to go and then have it take you there.” And on Monday, Google announced an unprecedented partnership with Carnegie Mellon that could bring us one step closer to being able to personally recreate that scene from Total Recall. 

But hold on, driver. Didn’t Google drop $258 million into Uber’s development? They did, and it now appears that Uber’s Daddy Warbucks is about to become its biggest competitor.

Nope, it’s not just you. They’re everywhere.

If Gamergate taught us anything (other than to weep for the future) it’s that trolls are a huge problem on Twitter. The thing is, any Twitter user knows this to be true; if it hasn’t happened to you you’ve watched it happen to someone else. Rageful, deliberately offensive users who get their kicks from harassing and threatening other users. This isn’t a new problem – trolls have been gaining ground on Twitter for some time now, but this is the first time Twitter has addressed it.

In a memo that Wired called “candid” and I call downright painful, Twitter CEO Dick Costolo said, “I’m frankly ashamed of how poorly we’ve dealt with this issue during my tenure as CEO. It’s nobody else’s fault but mine, and it’s embarrassing.” He went on to say that Twitter will finally take steps to protect its users and address the massive trolling issue. It remains to be seen just how they’ll do this, with 284 million monthly users, increased monitoring and more decisive and permanent responses to reported accounts is a big job. But it’s essential if Twitter is to grow, and they really need to grow.

With user growth that’s fallen short of predictions, Twitter must clean up its image if it is to attract new users. And with this week’s announcement that tweets will now be searchable on Google, it’s even more imperative.