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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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
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?
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.
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.
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 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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
“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.
For the past 26 years, Dean Headley, a researcher at Wichita State University’s business school, and Brent Bowen, Dean of the College of Aviation at Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University, have co-authored the Airline Quality Report, a quality ranking of the largest 13 airlines in the United States.
The report uses performance data gathered from the U.S. Department of Transportation’s monthly Air Travel Consumer Report to determine the intersection of public perception of each airline’s quality with the airline’s actual performance.
This year, Virgin America Airlines earned the top spot for the fourth year in a row. JetBlue jumped from fourth to second place, and Delta retained its third place position. The report examines performance in four categories: on-time performance, baggage handling, involuntary denied boardings, and customer complaints.
This report is an objective way for consumers to determine an airline’s overall performance and to examine its attention to whatever detail of the flying experience is important to them. The report found that overall performance for the industry as a whole improved over 2015, while the category that saw the most change was complaints.
Recently, the country’s three major airlines each implemented a little change to their pricing models that, if you’re not careful, can end up costing you a lot more per flight.
The change, says The New York Times, could make it up to seven times more expensive for those who fly what’s called an “open jaw” route.
That’s where you fly to a particular destination, but return home from a different one. For example, if you flew to Miami, but flew home from Orlando, that’s an “open jaw,” or multi-city flight.
We don’t want you to be caught unaware, so here are some things we suggest you do before you purchase a multi-city or open jaw ticket.
- Check into the cost of two one-way tickets. There’s a very good chance the two tickets will cost less than the one open-jaw flight. The example we saw in the Times story showed a $1200 price tag for a Jacksonville, FL to Los Angeles/San Francisco to Jacksonville. But as two separate tickets, it was $400. Read more