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The Bug That Crashed New York’s Wireless Network

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For at least a year, federal officials and technology companies had been warning of the so-called GPS rollover, a once-in-20-year event that had the potential to wreak havoc on computer networks around the world.

The simple remedy involved some necessary upgrades.

Yet somehow, New York City’s technology managers were caught completely off guard, and did nothing to prepare for the calendar reset of the centralized Global Positioning System.

As a result, a wireless network used by city agencies crashed in April, crippling many services that relied on it, including some Police Department license plate readers and a system to remotely control traffic lights. It took 10 days to get the network running again.

Officials at several city agencies, including the Police Department and the Office of Emergency Management, knew about the rollover, according to a report released by the city on Friday.

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But officials at the Department of Information Technology and Telecommunications (DoiTT), which was responsible for operating the wireless network, claimed “that they were not aware” of the rollover before it occurred, the report said.

After the network went down, confusion, poor communication and a lack of coordination hampered attempts to get it working again, according to the report, which was compiled by the consulting firm Gartner at a cost of $300,000.
A week before the report’s release, the DoiTT commissioner, Samir Saini, resigned. Mayor Bill de Blasio said that Mr. Saini wanted to return to the private sector, and disputed the notion that his departure was connected to the failure.

The report did not name any of the people who were responsible for the missteps, and the city has not publicly disciplined anyone in relation to the incident.

Nonetheless, the report, with its revelations of poor preparation and the chaotic response, could be embarrassing for Mr. de Blasio, who is running for president and has argued that his experience managing the nation’s largest city makes him more qualified than other candidates.

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On the day the wireless network crashed, Mr. de Blasio was in Nevada, an early primary state, as he considered whether to declare his candidacy for president. City Hall initially tried to hide the shutdown. It made no public acknowledgment of the problem and, in response to questions from The New York Times, officials initially characterized it as a routine maintenance issue.

The report does not indicate when Mr. de Blasio was told of the problem or whether he was informed of the confusion surrounding the attempts to get it working again.

In a statement accompanying the report’s release, Laura Anglin, the deputy mayor for operations, who also oversees the information technology department, asserted that “there were no interruptions to city services during the NYCWiN outage,” but acknowledged that “it is critical we learn from this event.”

Ms. Anglin’s statement, however, is directly contradicted by the report, which details several service interruptions. About half of the city-operated signs showing arrival times at bus stops were disabled, as were about 200 cameras that provide online images of traffic conditions; many other tasks handled by the network were knocked offline, requiring city workers to be reassigned to perform the tasks manually.

The report made it clear the episode could easily have been avoided. The wireless network, like many other computerized systems, uses GPS data to keep track of time. The GPS rollover was widely known, and government and industry notices encouraged technology managers to upgrade systems to avoid possible interruptions.

The report’s authors interviewed eight top officials at the information technology department, including Mr. Saini. But the report said that no one at the agency admitted being aware of the approaching rollover. It does not say whether it considered those denials to be credible, given the amount of publicity related to the rollover in the technology industry.

Mr. Saini was hired just a year and a half ago by the mayor and was involved, among other key initiatives, in the modernization of the 911 system. Attempts to reach Mr. Saini were unsuccessful.

According to the report, the system could easily have been upgraded by replacing what is known as the firmware in the dozens of nodes, or antennas, that make up the network.

Northrop Grumman, the contractor that maintains and operates the network at a cost to taxpayers of $37 million a year, also did not alert city officials to the need for an upgrade, the report said.

“Northrop Grumman worked expeditiously” with city officials “to address the GPS rollover event,” said a company spokesman, Tim Paynter, in an emailed statement. Mr. Paynter did not respond to questions about whether Northrop informed the city of the need for upgrades ahead of the rollover.

Many passages in the 35-page report were blacked out, which city officials said was done for security reasons.

The wireless network was built for about $500 million and has been in use since 2008. But today it is used by only about 10 city agencies. The city plans to shut it down in the coming years and shift its wireless needs to commercial carriers, which it says will save money.

But the city has been slow to carry out plans for such a transition. The report recommended that New York review its technology infrastructure and warned that the city “may be exposed to more risk than necessary regarding technology-related incidents.”

Source: https://www.nytimes.com/2019/06/24/nyregion/wireless-network-crash-gps-rollover.html

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Uber, lyft and other taxis

Lyft Is Another Step Closer to Driverless Ridesharing

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Ridesharing company Lyft (NASDAQ: LYFT) inched a little bit closer toward self-driving ridesharing last week when it said in a blog post that it’s adding Chrysler Pacifica hybrids to its autonomous vehicle (AV) testing fleet and opening a new self-driving vehicle test facility.

The new facility, located in East Palo Alto, California, will allow the company to increase the number of AV tests it can run. It will also let the company test how the systems do with different road configurations, including intersections, merging lanes, traffic lights, and similar challenges. The company said in the post that the new facility will let Lyft “further accelerate the speed of innovation.”

Lyft says that it’s driving four times more autonomous miles per quarter than it was just six months ago and has about 400 employees worldwide working on self-driving tech. That figure is likely to expand, considering that Lyft has more than 40 autonomous vehicle job openings listed on its website.

In addition to the new facility, Lyft said that it’s adding Pacifica minivans to its AV fleet, which is the same vehicle that Waymo, Alphabet’s self-driving car company, uses for its public self-driving ridesharing project and AV tests. Lyft said that, “The minivan’s size and functionality provide our team with significant flexibility to experiment with the self-driving rideshare experience.”

Why does all this matter for Lyft’s autonomous-vehicle future? Because to have a successful, public self-driving ridesharing fleet in the coming years, Lyft needs to lay the groundwork right now.

Isn’t Lyft already doing AV testing?

Lyft is, of course, already working on AV testing. The company’s original self-driving test facility has been up and running since early 2018. The company also started a partnership with Waymo earlier this year to test autonomous ridesharing. Additionally, Lyft also works with Aptiv, an AV tech company, and together they’ve created “the largest publicly available commercial self-driving program in the country” and have completed more than 75,000 rides through the partnership.

But the recent announcements by Lyft show that the company is taking its AV focus a bit further. The Pacifica minivans have been used by Waymo’s AV ridesharing program in Phoenix for more than a year now, making them a proven choice for shuttling around ride-hailing passengers. Lyft may not be ready to launch a wide-scale autonomous ridesharing service just yet, but testing out these vehicles likely means that it’s moving past earlier stages of AV testing and is now looking at how its next-generation self-driving tech can handle new vehicles.

Why this matters for Lyft

Lyft and other ride-hailing companies, including Uber, are keeping a close eye on self-driving developments and testing out the technologies themselves because it could eventually become an integral part of their business model. Research from Intel predicts that the AV ridesharing market could be worth $3.7 trillion by 2050.

Additionally, as regulations surrounding ridesharing drivers continue to increase, Lyft is likely looking to AVs to eventually replace some human drivers. Just a few months ago, the state of California introduced a bill that could pave the way for independent contractors, including Lyft’s drivers, to be reclassified as employees. If a version of the bill becomes law and other states follow California’s lead, it could significantly increase operating costs for Lyft. That could be bad news for the company, which is unprofitable right now and hoping to be in the black just two years from now.

While Lyft’s announcements may not seem all that significant right now, investors should know that these baby steps moving the company closer to AV ridesharing could have huge results in the coming years. For now, investors should be pleased that Lyft is beefing up its own AV testing. Each move the company makes now means that it’ll be much more ready for a self-driving ridesharing future.

Source www.nasdaq.com

By Chris Neiger

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Uber, lyft and other taxis

Uber fined $650 million by New Jersey over driver classification

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New Jersey is the latest state to say Uber’s drivers should be classified as employees rather than independent contractors. The state’s Department of Labor and Workforce Development said that because of this misclassification, the ride-hailing company owes it roughly $650 million in unemployment taxes and disability insurance, according to Bloomberg Law.

The Department of Labor reportedly has been trying to get unpaid employment taxes from Uber going back as far as 2015, according to documents obtained by Bloomberg Law. It said the company owed the state $523 million in overdue taxes along with another $119 million in interest and penalties for the last four years. Uber disputes these findings.

“We are challenging this preliminary but incorrect determination,” an Uber spokesman said in an email. “Because drivers are independent contractors in New Jersey and elsewhere.”

Driver classification is an issue that government regulators have been taking a closer look at over the past year. California passed a law in September that could require Uber and other on-demand companies to reclassify their drivers as employees instead of independent contractors. The law is set to go into effect Jan. 1. New York, Oregon and Washington state have considered similar legislation.

Uber, Lyft and several other tech companies have vowed to fight the California law, collectively putting more than $90 million behind a ballot initiative that’ll take the issue to voters next November. Many drivers have said this move is a slap in the face as they struggle to earn a living wage.

Uber’s and Lyft’s business models depend on bringing aboard hundreds of thousands of independent contractors, whose labor is typically cheaper than that of employees. That’s because Uber and Lyft drivers supply and maintain their own cars and also pay for their own health care and benefits, such as sick days or overtime pay.New Jersey is the latest state to say Uber’s drivers should be classified as employees rather than independent contractors. The state’s Department of Labor and Workforce Development said that because of this misclassification, the ride-hailing company owes it roughly $650 million in unemployment taxes and disability insurance, according to Bloomberg Law.

The Department of Labor reportedly has been trying to get unpaid employment taxes from Uber going back as far as 2015, according to documents obtained by Bloomberg Law. It said the company owed the state $523 million in overdue taxes along with another $119 million in interest and penalties for the last four years. Uber disputes these findings.

“We are challenging this preliminary but incorrect determination,” an Uber spokesman said in an email. “Because drivers are independent contractors in New Jersey and elsewhere.”

Driver classification is an issue that government regulators have been taking a closer look at over the past year. California passed a law in September that could require Uber and other on-demand companies to reclassify their drivers as employees instead of independent contractors. The law is set to go into effect Jan. 1. New York, Oregon and Washington state have considered similar legislation.

Uber, Lyft and several other tech companies have vowed to fight the California law, collectively putting more than $90 million behind a ballot initiative that’ll take the issue to voters next November. Many drivers have said this move is a slap in the face as they struggle to earn a living wage.

Uber’s and Lyft’s business models depend on bringing aboard hundreds of thousands of independent contractors, whose labor is typically cheaper than that of employees. That’s because Uber and Lyft drivers supply and maintain their own cars and also pay for their own health care and benefits, such as sick days or overtime pay.

 

“New Jersey is sending a message that the state’s labor laws aren’t dictated by corporations,” Bhairavi Desai, executive director of the New York Taxi Workers Alliance, said in a statement. “It’s a stinging rebuke of the architects of the gig economy, and we hope it permeates across other sectors.”

Even if Uber’s drivers were determined to be employees rather than independent contractors, Uber said the $650 million New Jersey tax fine would be too high — particularly if it’s based on what the company has earned in the state. Uber didn’t disclose the revenue it generated in New Jersey over the past four years, but its combined revenue for all the markets where it operated in 2018 was $11.3 billion.

 

 

 

Source www.cnet.com

By Dara Kerr

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Adams Clinical removes hurdle to clinical trial participation

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How Adams Clinical increased retention and streamlined operations by switching to Uber.

One of the hardest parts of conducting a clinical trial is identifying willing participants. Once a participant is identified, strict qualifications and an often-lengthy time commitment limits who can participate, and a lack of access to transportation can make it difficult for participants to commit to and complete the study. To help improve recruitment and retention rates, Adams Clinical offered taxi rides to their participants. However, this solution became a burden on operational efficiency since taxis were only accessible to participants who lived close by and required the staff to pay at the end of each ride.

Finding the perfect transportation solution with Uber Health

To expand their transportation offering, Adams Clinical became an early beta partner with Uber in 2016. The team started using Uber’s web dashboard to arrange and pay for rides for participants with just a few clicks. Over the three years of this partnership, the switch to Uber Health simplified operational management, while reducing time spent on recruitment with increased retention rates. The easy-to-use Uber Health dashboard tracked all the rides and processed payments from one centralized interface, allowing the staff to arrange rides without the hassle of paying at the end of each trip. This flexibility, plus the extensive reach of Uber driver-partners in the Boston area, provided Adams Clinical with the transportation solution needed to successfully manage their participants in need of rides—which removed the headache from recruiting and retaining their study participants.

The result: Improved retention rates, simplified financial records, and an overall lift in team morale

By teaming with Uber Health, Adams Clinical enjoys a number of key benefits including:

• Expanded Recruitment—Using Uber Health cut down the length of enrollment by providing a larger pool to recruit from, resulting in a 5 to 10 percent reduction in recruitment time over the last two years. 

• Centralized Billing—All rides are charged to one company credit card, which is then processed at the end of each month to streamline the amount of administrative effort required.

• Reliable Service—Each ride is tracked in the dashboard so the team knows when the participant will be arriving to help keep the rest of the study on schedule.

• Improved Retention—In the first two years of the partnership with Uber, Adams Clinical estimated up to 20 percent fewer people dropped out of a trial when transportation was arranged to and from the clinic.

• Financial Accountability—Details for each ride are available in the dashboard, and can be downloaded to a spreadsheet, offering convenient management with trial-specific reporting per participant.

• Easy to Use—Using Uber Health has been easy for both staff and participants, even among populations without smartphones or passengers new to Uber.

 

by Kendall Brown

Source uber.com

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