Would You Ride in a Driverless Uber?

February 20, 2017 by · Leave a Comment 

When Uber began testing driverless cars in several cities (and battled with California over its right to do so without a permit) last year, select passengers who wanted to try the experience weren’t the only passengers in the car. That’s because Uber is conducting research and has operators in the vehicles as it tests them in real life scenarios.

As Uber engineers test the automation, several things are proving to be troublesome for the artificial intelligence to interpret. First and foremost, the unpredictability of human drivers makes it challenging for the AI to compensate. For example, crossing over into the left lane to make a right-hand turn is a scenario that does not compute for the software.

Self-driving Uber prototype being tested in San Francisco

Self-driving Uber prototype being tested in San Francisco

Another quandary is bridges, so the company chose Pittsburgh specifically because of its many bridges, as a way to iron those bugs out. Bridges are difficult for driverless cars to handle, said Uber’s engineering director Raffi Krikorian, because they lack environmental cues that streets have, namely buildings. According to Business Insider, Krikorian said Pittsburgh was the “double black diamond of driving” and he believes conducting research in that city will help the research advance quickly.

Weather is also proving a challenge because snow, for example, obscures lane markings, making navigation tricky. Uber is also finding other challenges from nature during its tests, such as trees. The cars rely on high-definition maps with landmarks to navigate. In Pittsburgh, the images on those maps were taken in the winter when there were no leaves on the trees, so the car can’t determine what the new objects on its route are.
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Delta Premium Economy to Premiere in 2017

February 6, 2017 by · Leave a Comment 

For years, customers have complained about the increasing discomforts of flying: the ever-shrinking seat size and legroom, lack of food options, and other amenities. One airline even boldly touts that its seats don’t recline! (Actually, that might not be an entirely bad thing, having ridden with people’s seatbacks in our laps before.)

So it’s no surprise that the major carriers are looking to position themselves as being attentive to their passengers’ comfort needs. United recently unveiled its p.s. (premium service) option and now Delta has announced its own Premium Economy program to bring customers more comfort when they travel.
Delta Airlines A350 jet
Premium Economy will premiere later this year when the company’s A350 aircrafts are introduced into the fleet. In these new planes, Premium Economy will have 48 seats and will only be available on specific international flights.

The most luxurious of all Delta’s enhanced seat offerings, Premium Economy will have a dedicated cabin and attendants, up to 38 inches of seat pitch, up to 19 inches seat width, and up to nine inches of recline. Currently, according to SeatGuru, the standard economy seat average is between 31 and 34 with a 17- to 18.5-inch width.

The seating will also feature adjustable head and foot rests, as well as name brand amenities, pre-flight drink service, special meal service, and a 13.3-inch seatback entertainment screen. Premium Economy passengers will also have priority security clearance, check-in, boarding, and baggage handling.
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American, United Launch Automated Screening at O’Hare

January 27, 2017 by · Leave a Comment 

Just in time for the recent busy holiday travel season, American and United both launched automated screening lanes in order to help lessen the bottleneck in the TSA checkpoints, a serious problem travelers faced in summer 2016.

The two airlines followed the lead of Delta, which partnered with TSA in May 2016 at Hartsfield Jackson International Airport. Delta underwrote $1 million dollars of the total TSA investment to bring the automation to the Atlanta airport.
United and American Airlines have installed automated screening at Chicago O'Hare Airport
The automated screening lanes feature the following innovations:

  • Stainless steel countertops that enable several passengers to place their items in bins simultaneously;
  • Automated conveyor belts that draw bins into the X-ray machines, and return them to the front of the queue;
  • Bags identified as a potential threat are automatically pushed to a separate area to allow bins behind it to continue through the screening process uninterrupted;
  • Property bins that are 25 percent larger than the bins in standard screening lanes in order to accommodate roller bags; Read more

Chip Technology Keeps Checked Luggage in Check

January 6, 2017 by · Leave a Comment 

We’ve reported here before about the increased use of RFID chips in checked luggage and luggage tags to tilt the odds that your bag will arrive with you at your final destination in your favor. There have been new innovations in the effort to reduce lost bags, this time from Delta. Once you see what they’ve been doing, you may never look at those little paper baggage tags the same again.

This year, Delta has implemented RFID technology into its complimentary baggage tags, eliminating the possibility of a bag being unscanned due to a smudged, wrinkled, torn, or obscured tag. Now, in every airport where Delta operates, its bags only need to be be in proximity to the radio scanners to be accounted for. As with the older tags, fliers can track their checked bags using Delta’s mobile app.

Delta Airlines demonstrates its RFID system on a piece of checked luggageImplementing these kinds of changes can be costly and disruptive because they require infrastructure adjustments. While some airports, such as Las Vegas’ McCarren International Airport, have been using RFID for over a decade, any new tracking system is typically the responsibility of the individual airline.

Delta spent $50 million on the system, which included scanners, printers, and said tags. Widespread use of these types of tags has been slow to come online in the airline industry, according to the International Air Travel Association. But the deadline for all 265 member airlines to be able to fully track and trace all bags is 2018. And the system is expected to work, not only on an airline’s own flights, but also connecting flights with another carrier.
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This Travel Scam Hacks Your Phone

December 28, 2016 by · Leave a Comment 

File this under the category “Now We’ve Heard Everything.” According to an article in Smarter Travel, the latest scam to target travelers involves what’s called “juice-jacking.” Travelers desperate for a charge plug into a public charging station that, unbeknownst to them, is masquerading as a data port to steal their phone’s private and personal data.

Once a phone is connected to the station, everything on the device is downloadable: passwords, photos, emails, messages, bank account information. Worse yet, additional malware might also be infecting the device. How can you protect yourself against this new hacking method?

Using a battery pack instead of an almost-too-convenient charging station can help you avoid the juice-jacking travel scam.

Using a battery pack instead of an almost-too-convenient charging station can help you avoid the juice-jacking travel scam.

For one thing, be wary of public USB-friendly charging stations. There’s a chance that it’s a bogus charging station, and instead of just charging your batteries, you could give hackers access to your mobile device.

Instead, always travel with your own power pack. Some of our new Crew™ 11 Carry-on models feature a built-in battery pocket and external USB port. No more digging for your accessories or relying on potentially unsafe charging stations. Just plug your battery into the internal charging USB cord, and then plug your normal charging cord into the port on the back of your luggage.
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Corporate Travel to Increase due to Cheap Airfare in 2017

December 26, 2016 by · Leave a Comment 

Emerging market activity in South America and Asia combined with cheap airfares is expected to afford more companies the opportunity for more corporate travel and to conduct business face-to-face with its clients in 2017.

2017 may see more corporate travel around the world. Delta's new A330 can make your trip a little more comfortable.According to Advito’s 2017 industry forecast, the outlook for various regions is the result of some tangible economic indicators, as well as some intangible appetites. Here’s how the forecast breaks down by region:

North America

North American business travel is expected to be strong, although concerns about the presidential election and a possible interest rate hike are creating some uncertainty for 2017. Continuing competition between the top three airline carriers will keep airfares cheap, while hotel rates will increase as the chains reduce the number of rooms they make available at a negotiated discount. They will instead seek to implement dynamic pricing for corporate travel clients, thereby decreasing their negotiating options and driving up rates between three and five percent.
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IRS Sets New Per Diem Rates for Business Travelers

December 19, 2016 by · Leave a Comment 

Ah, winter! That time of year when a young business traveler’s fancy turns to thoughts of travel allowances.

Each October 1, the IRS releases their new per diem rates that business travelers can either collect or declare on their taxes. The new figures allow employees to receive a set amount (per diem in Latin means “for each day”) to compensate for meals and incidentals incurred daily while traveling for work purposes.

Your lodging and food costs are part of your per diem business travelers' rates.

Your lodging and food costs are part of your per diem business travel rates.

Employers provide this benefit to employees in exchange for the filing of an expense report. Why is the expense report necessary? If the employer cannot produce this paperwork, the government views per diem reimbursement as income, which means it’s taxable. As long as the paperwork is filed and the amount expensed doesn’t exceed the federal daily limit, that money is all yours.

What if you’re self employed? These federal per diem rates don’t help you much as they only apply to meals, and you’d better keep excellent records for everything else related to your travel if you want to deduct it from your taxes.
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Workaholic Americans Impacting Economy by not Vacationing

December 14, 2016 by · Leave a Comment 

Americans wasted 658 million vacation days in 2015.

That’s nearly 2.2 vacation days for every person in the United States. According to Project Time Off, this is the highest number of vacation days they have ever seen.

A nice beach getaway makes a great vacation.

A nice beach getaway makes a great vacation.

More than half of American workers (55%) left vacation time unused in 2015. This adds up to 658 million unused vacation days. It is the highest number Project: Time Off has ever reported, far exceeding the previous 429 million count.

That’s unacceptable. Our bosses may love our commitment to the job, but it’s not good for us, and it’s not good for our country.

We understand the importance of vacations and taking breaks and what it does for our bodies and minds. But did you realize that by taking time off, you could be boosting the economy?

If every American used their vacation days, a whopping $160 billion would be added to the national economy, and another $21 billion generated in taxes. Plus, 1.6 million jobs would be created.
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Crew™ 11 Luggage Roundup: Spinner vs Rollaboard

November 21, 2016 by · Leave a Comment 

I was asked recently which of our pieces of luggage within the Crew™ 11 Collection works better for the business traveler, the Spinner (8 wheels) or the Rollaboard® (2 wheels). This is a tough call, because both of them are great products, but in fact there are reasons that one may work better than the other in certain situations.

Both the 21″ Expandable Spinner and the 22″ Expandable Rollaboard® are designed with the frequent traveler in mind. Each bag fits in most overhead bins, and has many features that make either an excellent choice for anyone who spends a lot of time maneuvering through airports and hotels.

Both Crew 11 models have the Suiter system, which protects jackets and dress clothes from excessive wrinkling. The main difference between the two with regard to this feature is that the Spinner’s suiter is a “drop in” version, while the suiter for the Rollaboard® is built into the lid. The Rollaboard® has a slightly larger compartment due to the 2 wheel design so it’s suiter can actually fold up into the lid.

Travelpro Crew 11 Group Photo

Travelpro Crew 11 Collection — with both spinner and rollaboard bags

Now, the biggest difference: the wheels. This is where most people make their choice. First, the Spinner features MagnaTrac™ self-aligning wheels. This patented design allows you to push the bag with one hand or pull it behind you, and it will always roll perfectly straight, with minimal effort or resistance. This 360-degree maneuverability alleviates arm strain that can occur when pulling a Rollaboard behind you.
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Business Travelers Can Now Schedule Uber 30 Days in Advance

November 18, 2016 by · Leave a Comment 

Business travelers who like to schedule all of the details of their trips now have another arrow in their quiver: Uber is rolling out a new program that lets you schedule Uber rides up to 30 days in advance.

The program, called Schedule a Ride, which rolled out in Seattle this summer, is the latest advancement for the company that pioneered a new category of ride sharing six years ago. Schedule a Ride is now available in 44 US and eight international cities.
An Uber taxi, suitable for business travelers
“Even though we’re an on-demand company, we totally get it. Sometimes you just want that extra reassurance that your Uber will be there when you want to leave,” Tom Fallows, Uber’s director of global experiences, told Wired.

The service will also send you a reminder notice 24 hours ahead and again 30 minutes ahead, and the standard cancellation policy that allows you to cancel a ride within five minutes of when the car is dispatched without incurring a penalty also applies to this new feature. Rates are the same as standard UberX rides, and surge rates during peak travel times will also apply.

The “Schedule a Ride” offering is in response to business travelers’ request for this level of predictability. As a nod to those users, Uber will offer priority access to those who have business profiles or whose profiles are linked to their company’s Uber for a Business corporate account.
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