California Democrat Proposes ‘Robot Tax’ to Protect Workers

HANOVER, GERMANY - MARCH 20: The robot "Nao" performs Tai Chi at the IBM stand at the CeBIT 2017 Technology Trade Fair on March 20, 2017 in Hanover, Germany. "Nao" has a face detection and can either play football, teach Tai Chi or just entertain. The 2017 CeBIT will run from March 20-24. (Photo by Alexander Koerner/Getty Images)

HANOVER, GERMANY – MARCH 20: The robot “Nao” performs Tai Chi at the IBM stand at the CeBIT 2017 Technology Trade Fair on March 20, 2017 in Hanover, Germany. “Nao” has a face detection and can either play football, teach Tai Chi or just entertain. The 2017 CeBIT will run from March 20-24. (Photo by Alexander Koerner/Getty Images)

California could soon be the first U.S. state to impose a “robot tax” to mitigate the economic effects of the replacement of factory workers by machines — if one San Francisco Democrat gets her way.

According to Wired magazine:

San Francisco supervisor Jane Kim, who Wednesday launched a campaign called the Jobs of the Future Fund to study a statewide “payroll” tax on job-stealing machines. Proceeds from the tax would bankroll things like job retraining, free community college, or perhaps a universal basic income―countermeasures Kim thinks might make a robotic future more bearable for humans.

The idea is being discussed in industrialized countries the world over, as Artificial Intelligence (AI) is beginning to outpace human development in the workplace.

According to Swiss Info, an online European business publication, the idea is gaining traction across the globe: “South Korea this month introduced the world’s first tax on robots amid fears that machines would replace human workers. The country will limit tax incentives for investments in automated machines as part of a newly proposed revision of its tax laws.” The report notes that the European Union is also looking at the issue.

YCombinator start-up guru Sam Altman has been experimenting with the idea of a universal income grant to offset displacement caused by AI. The idea has spread throughout Silicon Valley and is beginning to take root across the country, according to Bloomberg News.

Kim is not ready to push Sacramento for a new law yet.  For now, she’s pushing for an open dialogue with all stakeholders including business owners, tech experts, as well as government and union leaders.

Tim Donnelly is a former California State Assemblyman and Author, currently on a book tour for his new book: Patriot Not Politician: Win or Go Homeless.  He also ran for governor in 2014.

FaceBook: https://www.facebook.com/tim.donnelly.12/

Twitter:  @PatriotNotPol

This article was originally published by Breitbart.com/California

Judge Rejects Uber Settlement, Saying It Lowballs California Labor Claims

As reported by Forbes.com:

A federal judge has thrown out a proposed $100 million settlement negotiated by a Boston lawyer on behalf of more than 200,000 Uber drivers in California and Massachusetts, saying it places too low a value on potentially costly claims drivers could bring under California labor laws.

U.S. District Judge Edward Chen, who has consistently ruled in favor of attorney Shannon Liss-Riordan over Uber’s fierce objections, rejected the settlement because it allocated only $1 million for claims under California’s Private Attorneys General Act, a law that allows employees to sue for civil penalties on behalf of the state. The California Labor and Workforce Development Agency estimated the value of those claims to be $1 billion if a court determined Uber drivers were employees and not independent contractors, as Uber maintains.

The judge also dismissed as meaningless an unusual provision in the settlement that would increase it from $84 million to $100 million if Uber held a successful initial public offering, saying he couldn’t consider that part of the deal since he had no assurance it would happen. (Uber, which has a private market value of $28-$60 billion based on recent venture capital rounds, told the judge “it would not be proper” to respond to his questions about an IPO.)

The settlement came on the eve of the first trial, and Chen’s rejection puts …

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Can CA Survive Without Oil? Two Perspectives

Gas-Pump-blue-generic+flippedA week ago, Zocalo Public Square published an article, Imagining California Without Oil Refineries, by one of its editors, Lisa Margonelli, suggesting that Californians are embracing new technology that will lead to an oil free future. She wrote that not being gasoline consumers has become part of many Californians’ identities. Meanwhile, the California Resources Corporation (CRC), a publicly traded oil and natural gas exploration and production company, produced a website also asking Californians to imagine the state without oil. The two imaginings could not have been more apart.

The Zocalo piece spoke of the history of the environmental movement in the Golden State and the fact that younger generations are limiting consumerism and supporting a new way of living that reduces — and some day would eliminate — the need for oil. The CRC imagined a day without oil and offered a list of products that would disappear. Never mind the energy that is used to power products, petroleum is raw material used in refrigerators, dishes, smartphones, coffee makers, kayaks and more.

But it was the area of economic effects that made me take notice.

Margonelli wrote that, “Technologies as diverse as Facebook, compost bins, and electric vehicles have made many Californians see themselves as participants in building an oil-free future, without much fear of the potential downsides.”

And: “Rather than being afraid, a surprising number saw an economic upside in getting oil out: In polls, 43 percent of Californians said that cutting gasoline use would create jobs, while only 13 percent said it would kill them.”

(I might note that the PPIC poll respondents don’t always have the best information. Continually when asked, they describe prisons as getting the most money from the state budget and education near the bottom when the opposite is true.)

But accepting for the moment that there would be a rush of new jobs with technology and alternative energy what might be lost if we shut down the oil business?

The CRC made the following assertions:

The industry directly employs 184,100 Californians from diverse backgrounds and all levels of the socio-economic spectrum, which translates into $23.3 billion per year in wages and salaries for oil and natural gas jobs. It offers jobs to workers of all education levels, including truck drivers, geophysicists, chemists and machinists.

The oil and natural gas sector reflects California’s diversity. Over a quarter of the statewide industry workforce is Latino … In California, the average annual oil and natural gas industry salary of $118,032 is double the $56,590 average for other private industry jobs, according to a 2015 report by the Los Angeles Economic Development Corporation (LAEDC).

In total labor income alone, the oil industry injected $40 billion annually into the state’s economy, according to the LAEDC report. These salaries filter into the local economy through the vendors who work with the oil companies and the local businesses frequented by workers… The oil industry supported 456,000 jobs in the state, or 2.1 percent of California’s employment, and generated more than $204 billion in direct economic activity.

In addition, U.S. oil and natural gas companies pay considerably more in taxes than the average manufacturing company. According to Standard & Poor’s research, in 2013 the oil and natural gas industry paid an average effective tax rate of 40.2 percent versus 22.3 percent for other S&P 500 industries such as healthcare, retail, utilities, media and pharma.

In California, nearly $22 billion in state and local taxes collected in 2013 can be attributed to the oil industry, as well as $14.8 billion in sales and excise taxes, according to the LAEDC report, all of which help fund essential services and infrastructure that Californians rely on every day.

The issue of taxes paid by oil and gas companies plays against the future imagined in the Zocalo piece. Will the new alternative energy industries produce the same kind of revenue for the state?

The end-oil commentary concluded that a young woman was driving an electric vehicle – a Leaf—“with state and federal incentives.” (The family) “even installed solar panels that feed the Leaf, making them participants in generously funded state programs…”

You wonder if we cut out the traditional energy industries with all those jobs and the billions paid by the oil and gas industry in taxes if there will be revenue available to offer generous state funded incentives to buy solar panels and electric vehicles or pay for other budget items.

Originally published by Fox and Hounds Daily

Self-Driving Cars Getting Dinged Up on CA Roads

google carGoogle admitted that its self-driving cars had racked up some dings on California’s streets, prompting a flurry of interest and caution among analysts closely watching the tech giant’s foray onto American roads. Reported NBC News:

“Four of the nearly 50 self-driving cars now rolling around California have gotten into accidents since September, when the state began issuing permits for companies to test them on public roads. Two accidents happened while the cars were in control; in the other two, the person who still must be behind the wheel was driving, a person familiar with the accident reports told The Associated Press.”

Setting standards

The relatively minor news provoked outsized attention, especially in California, because of the way self-driving cars heighten the tension between public issues of safety and transparency. “The fact that neither the companies nor the state have revealed the accidents,” noted the AP, “troubles some who say the public should have information to monitor the rollout of technology that its own developers acknowledge is imperfect.”

On the other hand, the layer of secrecy involved in the incidents came courtesy of California’s own pro-privacy regulations. “In half of the fender benders,” Endgaget reported, “the cars were in control when the accident occurred, and all of them happened at speeds of under 10 MPH.” None resulted in injuries; because of “the state’s privacy laws, the report doesn’t indicate any further details — like if they happened while backing out of a parking space, for example.”

The head of Google’s automated car program, Chris Urmson, emphasized that Google’s cars encountered just 11 accidents over 6 years and nearly 1 million miles on the road. Ironically, he suggested, the real lack of transparency that should concern drivers is the uncertainty surrounding the nature of unreported accidents with little damage and no injuries: “according to National Highway Traffic Safety Administration data, these incidents account for 55 percent of all crashes. It’s hard to know what’s really going on out on the streets unless you’re doing miles and miles of driving every day.”

Self-driving trucks

Meanwhile, across the border in Nevada, Daimler Trucks North America became the first to license a self-driving big rig this week in Nevada, as USA Today reported:

“Four of the experimental Freightliner trucks — Freightliner is a Daimler unit — drove around Nevada for a total of 10,000 miles over six months, says Steve Nadig, the chief engineer on the project.”

Self driving truckIn addition to a test track in Germany, Daimler sent out two trucks on “quiet public roads in Nevada,” according to Wired. “To earn the autonomous vehicle license plate from Nevada, Daimler needed to prove the system could safely cover 10,000 miles on its own.”

In a Las Vegas press conference, Daimler board member Wolfgang Bernhard depicted the trucks as a step ahead of self-driving cars in safety, desirability and economic impact. But Bernhard conceded that the trucks wouldn’t hit commercial viability until “enough U.S. states allow them on their roads to make inter-state commerce viable,” as Reuters summarized his remarks.

Despite the regulatory challenges and red tape involved in licensing self-driving trucks, said Bernhard, California — along with nearby Arizona and auto-centric Michigan — “had shown an interest in self-driving trucks, but more states would need to get on board before the federal government took up the issue.”

Analysts did quickly flag one big economic difference between self-driving cars and trucks: jobs. Whereas switching to automated cars wouldn’t necessary eliminate jobs, automated trucks would eventually render truckers increasingly obsolete. “The trucking industry constantly struggles to find enough drivers, even when unemployment is high,” noted Vox. “And the cost of a machine operating a vehicle will be dramatically cheaper than the cost of a human.”

Originally published on CalWatchdog.com

Self-driving cars ready to hit CA roads

With remarkable speed, California’s top technologists have reached a breakthrough point in their development of automated cars. Automated vehicles from seven companies have hit Golden State freeways, with more to come.

Dramatizing the developments, one firm’s team of engineers and scientists recently kicked off a historic road trip in San Francisco, as the Bay Area’s ABC 7 reported:

“Engineers and cutting edge scientists from Delphi Automotive decked out a fleet of Audi SUVs with cameras, lasers, and radar all to teach the nearly $53,000 luxury car to drive itself … on a history-making cross-country trip from San Francisco to New York. It’ll cover 3,500 miles in about 10 days.”

Although Delphi has focused on achieving automated travel by applying technology to cars made elsewhere, Google and Tesla have reached an advanced stage in automated cars constructed with their own software and hardware.

The firms have concentrated on two basic types of transportation. Some work has centered around “self-driving” technology, wherein the person behind the wheel would not have to operate the car in order for it to drive. Other efforts have pursued “driverless” technology. More radical than self-driving, driverless technology would free travelers from having to occupy a driver’s position at all.

Self-driving, but not driverless

Tesla chief Elon Musk raised eyebrows with an announcement that went beyond driverless cars. Musk revealed that, this summer, “a software update — not a repair performed by a mechanic — would give Tesla’s Model S sedans the ability to start driving themselves, at least part of the time, in a hands-free mode that the company refers to as autopilot,” the New York Times reported.

Translation: Motorists would be able to experience “driverless” personal transportation in cars they already own or have access to.

Yet Musk’s remarks weren’t the first to put skeptics on notice that the future was coming whether they were ready or not. Google itself beat him to the punch earlier this year. According to the Times:

“Chris Urmson, director of self-driving cars at Google, raised eyebrows at a January event in Detroit when he said Google did not believe there was currently a ‘regulatory block’ that would prohibit self-driving cars, provided the vehicles themselves met crash-test and other safety standards.”

“A spokesman for the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration responded at the time that ‘any autonomous vehicle would need to meet applicable federal motor vehicle safety standards’ and that the agency ‘will have the appropriate policies and regulations in place to ensure the safety of these types of vehicles.’”

Making drivers obsolete

In comments calculated to make headlines, Musk recently opined that, eventually, humans would be prohibited from driving by law for safety’s sake.

Some activists have maintained the opposite view. In a letter to the California DMV, Santa Monica-based Consumer Watchdog wrote:

“To express our concern that Google and others with a vested interest in developing ‘autonomous vehicle technology,’ also known as driverless cars, are pushing the Department of Motor Vehicles into promulgating rules regulating the public use of these vehicles on California’s highways that are inadequate to protect our safety. Safety issues are paramount, of course, but there are other substantial questions about privacy, data security and insurance that are also raised by driverless cars.”

Legislation

Last year, Gov. Jerry Brown signed into law Senate Bill 1298. It formally legalized autonomous cars and required the DMV to “adopt regulations as soon as practicable,” no later than January of this year, “and to hold public hearings on the adoption of any regulation applicable to the operation of an autonomous vehicle without the presence of a driver inside the vehicle.”

But the DMV missed that deadline because of safety concerns. The Los Angeles Times editorial board tallied the public’s many fears associated with the loss of human control over cars:

“DMV has to grapple with more difficult questions. Should autonomous cars be allowed on the road with no one in them capable of taking the wheel — empty, perhaps, or with passengers in the back seat drinking or watching a movie? Should the vehicles be required to have steering wheels and pedals, or will a ‘stop’ button suffice? In theory, driverless cars could significantly reduce the number of collisions, as 90 percent of accidents are caused by human error. (The Google car won’t text and drive, for example.) What happens, however, if the car malfunctions or causes an accident? Would the carmaker be liable? Would the passenger be liable, even if he or she didn’t operate the vehicle?”

Evidently well aware of such concerns, Google recently obtained a patent for its driverless car that could see external airbags deployed to protect pedestrians from any unforeseen difficulties.

Originally published by CalWatchdog.com