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.
As Uber, Lyft, and other ridesharing services continue to grow, it stands to reason that the emergence of these services would negatively affect the rental car industry.
But it turns out it’s not as cut and dried as it may appear.
According to car rental industry leaders, the need that rental cars fill for the public is not the same as the one being met by Uber and Lyft. In fact, according to USA Today, Avis Budget Group reported a three percent increase in revenues over the first three quarters of 2016 and Enterprise Holdings saw a 10 percent increase in its airport car rental revenue in 2015.
So, no real disruption here.
The reason for these upward trends is that rental cars and Uber are not an apples-to-apples comparison. According to Neil Abrams, a consultant in the car rental industry, “Typically, auto rental is lumped into the general category of ground transportation, including taxi and livery services. However, whereas taxi and livery are of shorter duration and mileage, the rental customer normally has a different requirement which demands more time and distance.”
Now that most companies are working under a new fiscal year, you may find you need to stretch this year’s business travel budget a little further than before. Here are some of our favorite budget-saving techniques for making the most of your business travel dollars.
Look for hidden costs, and be wary of special “savings.” What looks like a savings could actually increase your costs in the long run. For example, you may find a cheaper hotel on the other side of town from your big meeting, but the commute will eat up the savings in taxi or Uber fees.
Similarly, if three people are visiting a client together, but all book travel separately, all three have to get to the hotel or client on their own. Even if the flights are cheaper, you may be able to reduce costs if everyone coordinates rides to and from the airport, and even stay in the same hotel. Some hotels will give discounts for multiple rooms, so call the hotel directly and ask for the sales desk.
Use technology whenever possible. There are a variety of mobile apps to help you keep track of expenses, such as apps that let you take photos of your receipts and build expense reports as you go. This eliminates the need to save all your receipts throughout the trip, and risk losing any. You can even export your reports and quickly share them with your finance department when you get back to the office.
Getting sick when you’re at home is bad enough. But to get sick while you’re on a business trip? That’s the worst! You don’t have access to your own bed or your favorite pillow, and you don’t have access to your doctor or favorite pharmacy.
So what should you do if you get sick while you’re on the road?
First, be attentive to your body and your symptoms. If your stomach is sensitive, don’t automatically assume it’s a stomach virus. However, be careful of what and where you eat. Test the severity of your situation by seeing if you can keep down some simple food like a banana, a piece of toast, or some tea without things getting worse. Get your favorite over-the-counter antidote for an upset stomach during the day so you have a potential remedy in case you need it in the middle of the night. Alert fellow travelers or your meeting partners so someone knows to check on you if you don’t show up for the scheduled event the next day.
Sometimes you may think you’re sick when you’re really just overtired. Try to get as much sleep as possible and reassess in the morning. If you haven’t been sleeping in the weeks leading up to your business trip, get as much as you can a couple days before you leave. If you’re too tired, you’re more susceptible to illness.
If the illness progresses and you need to see a doctor, know what your insurance will cover. Don’t leave home without your requisite cards, call your provider in advance to be sure the visit will be covered, and inquire at the front desk or with your in-town contacts to see where urgent care services are located.
Even if you’re an experienced business traveler, there are a few little things you can do to make your next travel experience more expedient, efficient, and economical. Based on our own experiences, as well as those of some of our customers, these are a few travel hacks you can do to save money, time, and your sanity.
Pay premium for the direct flight. The old axiom is true: time is money. And if you’re a business traveler, you’re losing money while you’re in transit, which means you need to find a way to shorten that time. Traveling more legs than necessary just to save money actually decreases your productivity, which costs you more money in the long run.
Every segment you add to a flight also increases the risk of delay or cancellation, which costs time as well as energy. Plus, those who book full-fare tickets, even if they’re in economy, are more likely to get an upgrade if it’s available because the gate agent will know the price you paid by a code on the ticket. Remember, if you get to your destination sooner, you can start working sooner.
Negotiate with car rental agencies. Did you even know you could do this? According to some of our experienced business travelers, you can. While premium cars are more expensive, rental agents may be willing to negotiate if there are available cars in this category, and if they’re not pressed for time with lots of customers behind you.
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
Delta has just added another way its SkyMiles members can accrue points toward reward travel, and you can get them just by sleeping on your next trip. Besides booking flights and making purchases with a Delta credit card, now members can earn points when they choose Airbnb as their lodging. Members must book lodging through deltaairbnb.com, and earn one mile for every dollar they spend.
We’ve been fans of Airbnb for a
and recently talked about how Airbnb is returning to its roots and working to attract business travelers.
The arrangement has benefits for new Airbnb members too who are looking to “Fly Global, Live Local,” with $25 credit earned toward any stay totaling $75 or more if they book via the Delta dedicated site within 60 days of opening a new Airbnb account. In addition to the flat mile per dollar deal, those whose stay totals $75 will earn an extra 500 miles, and those whose stay totals $150 or more will earn 1000 extra miles.
The benefits aren’t just one-sided. New Airbnb hosts can incent their potential customers by advertising the partnership and can accumulate miles with Delta in the following increments:
It can be the ripple effect of a storm or a part that needs to be replaced that they’re waiting to arrive on an incoming flight or some other situation that is completely out of your control. Whatever the reason, when you learn your flight is about to be delayed for many hours, that is not the time to think about how you’re going to weather the situation. You should plan ahead.
Here are a few tips for surviving those dreaded crazy long flight delays.
Be prepared before you leave home. I don’t mean you have to try to figure out how to fit a sleeping bag in your carry on, but if you plan to have a few items with you, you’ll be in better shape than most to ride out the wait.
For women, think about incorporating a blanket scarf into your wardrobe choices so that it’s already in your luggage and can serve as a true blanket if you have to bed down on the floor or create a makeshift bed at the gate. Some fuzzy socks will keep your feet warm and a toothbrush and toothpaste will help you feel mostly human and not offensive to others, should you have to spend the night in the terminal.
With the steadily increasing popularity of Uber and Lyft, it seems ride sharing is becoming a popular mode of transportation for business travel. If you rely on it regularly, what are the best ways to save money? We’ve done some research and here’s what we found:
Booking in advance allows you to secure a ride when you need it, instead of waiting when you’d really rather be on your way. You’ll save money by scheduling your ride when you know it’s not rush hour. If you use Lyft, scheduling locks in your fare; Uber doesn’t offer that feature.
Search online for coupons. Both companies are competing for customers, so do a little poking around on either company’s official site or at sites like Groupon. Uber offers free rides for those who refer a friend who downloads the app, so if you’re traveling with a friend, have him or her download the app with your referral link, and you can both get a free ride to wherever you’re going.
Avoid traveling during surges. Fares are adjusted automatically, based on demand. For example, prices soar after events because of the demand for drivers, so if you can wait, the cost will drop. Don’t think you’ll get the average fare for a trip you’ve taken before if you’re among the throngs waiting for a ride.
It’s every weary traveler’s nightmare scenario: the flight you’re supposed to be on is canceled. What you do next will determine whether your day is totally ruined or ultimately redeemed. Not every situation can be remedied, but knowing a few action steps can make all the difference in getting you to your destination.
Get on the phone.
The faster you get on the phone with the airline to rebook your flight, the better your chances are of making it to your final destination. It’ll do you little good to stand in the long line with everyone else who’s waiting to speak with the ticket agent at the gate. Tip: If you feel like talking to a gate agent, go to another gate of the same airline where a flight recently left. They’re all plugged into the same system, and can do just as much for you as your original gate’s agent.
Adjust your itinerary.
Be sure to have some alternatives in mind, because the agents don’t always know the destination region where you’re flying. For example, you may not be able to get into Chicago due to weather, but if Chicago is your final destination, you could reroute through Milwaukee or even Indianapolis and be within driving distance of the Windy City. Thinking through your options and presenting them to whomever you’re working with to rebook your flight will let the agent know you’re flexible.