Siri Plans to Stop Taking Orders and Start Giving Them

Apple CEO Tim Cook has announced the company is going to focus on developing self–driving car “systems” instead of the car itself. In an interview with Bloomberg Television he explained this qualifies as an “MOA” effort as in “The Mother Of All AI projects.”

The decision to concentrate on software, rather than both hardware and software is a new one for Apple. Normally the company designs the hardware along with the operating software and then ships the entire package off to China for manufacturing and intellectual property theft.

When the finished product returns to the US, Apple does its best to control the sales of all related products.

I’ve been with Apple longer than I’ve been with my wife. This is a fitting comparison since buying Apple is the hardware equivalent of matrimony. And even more fitting personally, since I’ve had excellent luck with refurbs, regardless of whether it’s Apple computers or wives.

Apple, like my wife, is a closed system that takes a dim view of playing the field. Cupertino prefers customers make all software purchases through the App Store. The same goes for hardware and the Apple Store.

Android, on the other hand, is a wild and wooly open system with many hardware manufacturers, many software producers and little if any standardization. Apple’s closed system is designed with control in mind.

Think of Hillary Clinton running a Best Buy.

Under Apple there is much more look–and–feel uniformity across the product spectrum, which comes with a price. Usually higher.

So, I would have had mixed feelings about owning an iCar.

I wouldn’t have liked being limited to buying gas at Apple stations. Sure the free operating software updates are nice, but that’s balanced with the thought of being lectured on the size of my carbon footprint by an Apple “Genius.”

Cook, at the time, hadn’t ruled out electric vehicles. He rhapsodized, “It’s a marvelous experience not to stop at the filling station or the gas station.” This only proves the chauffer maintains the car without Cook’s help.

Gassing up takes about five minutes. Charging up takes hours. Electricity may start cheap, but at the rate Apple changes the design of its propriety connectors, the cost of new adapters to plug into the power outlet will no doubt balance out the iFuel cost.

I think for the foreseeable future I’ll keep my manual car. If I want to drive with a woman that argues about routes and how fast I drive, I’ll just invite the wife.

CORRECTION: I was wrong last week. That column concerned NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell’s decree allowing NFL players scoring touchdowns to make fools of themselves — while the blockers that made it possible are ignored.

That may have been attractive for ballerina ball fans accustomed to method acting from their players, but football should be a serious game.

If I wanted to watch bad dancing and mini–charades I’d attend a GOP townhall meeting when Obamacare repeal was on the agenda. When I watch the NFL, I’m hoping professional football players will act professional.

You may recall my temporary burst of optimism when Cameron DaSilva of Fox Sports reminded us next season the NFL will also institute a snap clock. It starts when an official signals touchdown and teams will have 40 seconds to get set and begin the conversion.

DaSilva reported there were 32 touchdowns that weren’t followed by a booth review, penalty or injury. Even without the Original Tap–Dancing Kid performing his routine, teams were taking an average of 45 seconds to snap the ball. Adding choreography would only make the situation worse.

My optimism crashed when I mistakenly calculated those 32 TDs were thinly spread over the 119 games in the season’s last seven weeks and playoffs. At that rate only one quarter of a TD per game would be influenced by the snap clock.

But I was wrong!

It wasn’t the last seven weeks, plus the playoff games. His survey was only for the seven playoff games.

I should have known something was off. Reviewing 119 games, even with fast–forward or NFL Red Zone is a significant investment in a research project for a reporter facing multiple deadlines. That kind of time commitment spent watching streaming video is more characteristic of the government; say the US Patent and Trademark Office.

While only seven games cuts the sample size and increases the margin of error, the results will do in a pinch. (If you know someone in the USPTO who is not under investigation by the Inspector General, maybe you could ask them to examine the other 112 games.) For me, 4.5 touchdowns per game, unsullied by freestyle ego–mania, is much better than what I feared.

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United Airlines Package Tours Now Include Hospitalization!

I’m old enough to remember when the United Airlines slogan was: “Fly the Friendly Skies of United.” Now, according to Twitter wag GoodJuJu, the new motto is: “Our Service Will Knock You Out!”

It’s a cinch the passengers on United Express Flight 3411 got more than they bargained for — I knew United was upgrading seating and entertainment on those annoying puddle–jumper jets, but that floor show looked like a Trump rally!

CEO Oscar Munoz’ response to the incident was so inept he may as well have let the cop who cold–cocked the passenger handle the news conferences. At least that guy had some impact. The only mistake Munoz didn’t make was announcing that in the future all United passengers will be required to turn their cell phones off when they get a boarding pass.

Munoz began Unitedsplaining by blaming 69–year–old Dr. David Dao for all the trouble, claiming he was “belligerent.”

Alternate motto: If You Don’t Need a Wheelchair Before You Board, You May Need One After!

As a PR person I could have told Munoz he was going to have trouble selling that when Dr. Dao was an elderly, paid up, sober and seated passenger who just wanted to go home. On Monday a man claiming to be a United Express pilot called the Rush Limbaugh Show and, displaying the same concern for the paying customer that Munoz has, said, “Flying is a privilege.”

For pilots, yes. For passengers, no.

Flying for a passenger is a commercial transaction; not a boon bestowed on an unworthy recipient. In this case the good doctor’s “privilege” was revoked for because plane was overbooked.

Overbooking occurs when the airline sells the same seat more than once. The practice received official approval back when the Civil Aeronautics Board regulated airlines. (You can only sell a single item to multiple buyers when the government approves — think chair in a VA hospital waiting room — otherwise you go to jail.)

Then airlines lost money when a passenger called to make a reservation and didn’t show up, because the booked seat remained empty. This may be hard for modern consumers to believe, but back in those days a passenger would make a reservation and get a seat assignment WITHOUT PAYING A DIME! If he changed his mind at the last minute the airline lost money.

Even if the spontaneous passenger paid before changing his mind, it was easy to get a refund and fly another time.

Meanwhile, the market changed but government hasn’t. Why does that sound familiar? Passengers now pay extra to make a reservation on the phone, many tickets are non–refundable and the ones are refundable have a $250 change fee, plus added fare if the new flight is more expensive.

Even if overbooking was justifiable, United’s implementation wasn’t. Like many corporations United supports the free market when it helps make money, but dislikes the market when it costs money.

Airlines raise prices as flight times approach because the few remaining seats are more valuable, but it wants to put a lid on prices when it needs to buy the seats back. Here United needed four seats and it began the bidding at $400 and a free hotel room with meal vouchers, if the passengers gave up their seats.

That was too low, so the offer was increased to $800.

Still no takers, but instead of going up to $1,200 to see if that would bring demand in line with supply, the airline bypassed the market and decided to use force.

That money–saving decision that cost United $1.4 billion in stock valuation after the public became aware of the incident.

Overbooking, like free checked bags, is a relic of the past. When fans don’t show up for football games the team loses out on parking and concession revenue, but even rapacious Dan Snyder doesn’t overbook Redskins’ games.

If overbooking is allowed to continue it should be as a percentage of the load factor and airlines should be required to keep bidding until passengers relinquish their seats voluntarily, not at gunpoint.

The load factor for domestic flights has been on a steady climb since 2002, when it was 70.4 percent. So far in 2017 the load factor is 84.6 percent. Jet fuel prices are down and ticket sales are up. It’s a wonder United has any frustrations to take out on passengers.

I’ve flown United since it was called Continental. It’s my airline of choice and my frequent flyer level is so high, there’s no chance of me being bumped. But I will say this: In the future if I were a physician, I’d think twice before answering when a flight attendant asks, “Is there a doctor on board?”

Finally! Democrats Support Cutting Off the Money

It hasn’t made the national news (except for this column) but for a brief time it looked like Democrats around our nation’s capital were going to accept the fact the federal government can withhold funds from states that don’t cooperate with the feds.

And this wasn’t a mere threat to turn off the spigot; funds for Virginia, Maryland and the District of Columbia have been cut off.

metro-cartoonYet no Democrats are vowing to fight to the last ditch to get their money. No state attorneys general are rushing to the courthouse hoping to find a federal judge willing to write legislation from the bench. No legal defense funds have been established. No lawyers have been hired. No posters have been printed. And no protestors wielding superglue and PVC pipe have blockaded entrances to buildings.

Why George Ramos wasn’t even thrown out of a news conference for asking impertinent questions.

If you’re thinking now that Trump has vanquished the Sanctuary City movement, it’s time to move on to Obamacare repeal, I have bad news.

Now I’ve got you. You’re wondering what bad news? The question is easily answered by clicking on the link below and reading the entire column on Newsmax.com:

http://www.newsmax.com/MichaelShannon/city-federal-funding-sanctuary/2017/03/01/id/776296/

 

 

NFL Advertisers Open Re–Education Camp for Fans

When I made political commercials I was often asked what the difference was between political ads and commercial ads. There are many similarities: Exaggerated benefits, bait and switch promises and sleazy, egomaniacal clients; but the main difference is political ads must make all the sales on a single day.

It’s Black Friday, After Christmas, White Sale, Tech Monday and Fire–Blazing Prices all taking place in a compressed 14–hour day with an unalterable deadline.

super-bowl-gagaSo you can imagine my surprise as I watched Super Bowl LI and saw millions of dollars of in–kind advertising for Hillary three months after the election!

I thought the left wanted to overturn Citizens United and get corporate money out of politics. Yet there was on corporate Super PAC ad after another. The only difference being instead of a brief title card at the end with “Paid for by Committee to Crush Republicans” the identification was for Audi, Budweiser, 84 Lumber and KIA, among others.

None of the subject matter had much to do with the products marketed by the companies footing the bill, although the Audi spot did have wheels. Instead the ads were what marketers call “borrowed interest.” Only in this instance they were borrowing the interest of topics that appeal to only half the country and insult the other.

Celebrity endorsement ads are all borrowed interest and potentially risky, particularly if RGIII was your celebrity. But when your borrowed interest ad involves borrowing Chuck Schumer’s thumb to stick in the eye of potential customers, it’s time to re–think your marketing strategy.

Or better yet, the customer’s buying philosophy.

You can discover the three ads I thought were by far the worst, along with my play–by–play when you click on the Newsmax.com link below:

http://www.newsmax.com/MichaelShannon/super-bowl-reeducation-camp-commercial-84-lumber/2017/02/08/id/772562/

 

Disney World Isn’t the Only Fantasy Land

dc-metro-service-memeThe Washington DC region has a subway system referred to as the “Metro.” It’s designed to bring government bureaucrats into the District. There they push paper, write regulations, fight social injustice and otherwise annoy productive taxpayers.

At the close of the business day (anywhere from noon to five, depending on the bureaucrat) the Metro returns them to the suburbs where they moved to avoid living in the type of environment government bureaucrats create.

Today Metro is in trouble. Ridership is down 15 percent in the last year alone and the system’s budget assumes it will decline an additional 5 percent from its 2009 peak during the next fiscal year. Normally this would mean uncrowded cars and plenty of room to stretch out for the remaining passengers, but that’s not the case here.

Since Metro is unionized and governed by a board of politicians, the operating philosophy has been keep wages high and maintenance expense low. If the Metro board had been running a cab company it would have paid Clinton Foundation salaries while not bothering to change the oil.

That’s why Metro is broken. Entire lines are shutdown for long overdue repair. Metro is cutting the number of trains during the day, reducing the speed on trains that do run, closing stations and packing the remaining riders into the cars it can keep on the tracks.

Metro is well on its way to being the world’s first by–appointment–only subway system.

It’s a bad situation that inspires equally bad thinking.

What type of bad thinking? The kind only found among dreamy leftists looking to be rescued from the results of their own incompetence. Details, as always, in my Newsmax.com column which is yours for a single click below:

http://www.newsmax.com/MichaelShannon/washington-dc-metro-bureaucrats/2016/11/09/id/757956/

 

An Education in DC Driver’s Ed

Driving Old LadyNormally cost is the last consideration when an unelected bureaucracy is in pursuit of “safety.” No price is too high, particularly if business or conservatives are footing the bill. Even if only one child, polar bear or glacier is saved by the expenditure, it’s a small price to pay.

The only exceptions to this rule appear to be abortion mills and driver education.

In the former saving the child is hardly a priority and the toleration of a few fly–by–night operators is a small price to pay for “reproductive choice,” even if the “choice” may occasionally prove fatal for both parties. While for most families driver education simply represents a government–approved opportunity to get junior out of the house, with any actual education being a bonus.

That’s why the Washington DC Department of Motor Vehicles’ decision to require all future driver’s license applicants to “complete a private driver education course” came as an unpleasant surprise to Councilwoman Mary Cheh.

Cheh is one of those leftist busybodies that should never be allowed to wield any power not connected to a three–prong plug. If the story in the Washington Post said the DMV was limiting the educational requirement — that can cost almost $1,000 — to commercial operators or Trump supporters there would’ve been no repercussions.

Cheh is, after all, the councilwoman who spearheaded the requirement that every cab company in the District to paint their vehicles in an identical color scheme, approved by Ms. Cheh — an unnecessary expenditure that ran hundreds of dollars per vehicle. Cost is no object even for esthetic goals if Cheh approves.

Certainly safety is a frequent justification when the left wants to spend our money. Still, since this is DC, you can almost be certain that someone in DMV management has a relative that just opened a driving school and said school has just coincidentally received the DMV’s seal of approval for its rigorous motoring instruction.

But that’s not what bothered Ms. Cheh.

Evidently she was concerned because the impervious DMV bureaucracy acted without consulting her and consequently she missed an opportunity for media attention. She’s making up for that by holding hearings in the near future.

What’s surprising is not the unilateral, heedless implementation of the new rule, that’s standard operating procedure for government at all levels in the Age of Obama. What’s surprising is that DC government cares about the document in the first place.

DC is a sanctuary city for illegal aliens. Complete lack of citizenship papers is no problemo, so why are the same politicians and bureaucrats so uptight about operating a car? If the illegal’s mere presence in the District is proof enough for the likes of Cheh that the individual belongs, why shouldn’t the act of sitting behind the wheel of an automobile be proof the individual has a right to be there, too?

These days it’s not possession, but presence that’s nine tenths of immigration law.

Frankly I’m glad Cheh manned (is that insulting for a feminist politician?) the barricades this time, because the design of the DC driver “education” was so poorly thought out, it guaranteed failure.

The program consists of 30 hours in the classroom and 8 hours of behind–the–wheel practice, presumably with an instructor. That’s exactly backwards. My research tells me there are zero instances of people sitting in a classroom being killed in an auto crash, but there are thousands happening on the street.

The ratio should instead be 8 hours in the classroom and 30 on the road. There the instructor could introduce the fledgling driver to the mystery of the turn signal and explain how it’s not just for turning, but comes in handy for lane changes, too!

Then there’s the speed limit. The number on the sign is the theoretical maximum and not an average. Zooming up to 80 in the far left lane and then dropping back to 50 mph while you take a call doesn’t give you an average speed of 65, it just makes you an inattentive fool alternating between tailgating and constipating the traffic flow.

And that’s only two of the many suggestions I have for the curriculum. Maybe if she reads this, Councilmember Cheh will invite me to the hearing.

Now Humans Are Just Along for the Ride

Google self driving car lucky buttonI have seen humanity’s future and it is cargo. Not shipping cargo, but being cargo. One cannot pick up the newspaper without discovering a new area of transportation where human control will soon be superfluous.

I don’t know whether to blame the auto–pilot or Roomba.

So much of flying today takes place while the aircraft is on auto that some safety experts believe the human pilots are at a disadvantage — due to lack of hands–on practice — when they have to seize control in an emergency.

AP reports Government Motors is working on a self–driving car in cooperation with Lyft that will automatically apply for a government bailout when the car is involved in a crash. Even better, if any of the humans at fault are illegal, the car’s CPU will file an emergency asylum request.

Google is hard at work on a self–driving car just perfect for anyone that’s ever considered human cannonball as a career option. The control freaks there are lobbying Congress to grant the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration “special, expedited permission” to allow it to sell cars that don’t have steering wheels or brake pedals.

Even if you refuse to relinquish your steering wheel until its pried from your cold, dead, flattened hands — programmers can still affect your driving experience. Daimler, a major auto manufacturer from the country that gave the world the Panzer, is part of an umbrella body in Europe working on the self–driving truck.

AFP says the concept is called “’truck platooning’ similar to concepts with self-driving cars” only there will be two to three trucks driving in a convoy where the lead truck determines the route, speed and who gets mashed on the way — much like the elephant march in the movie Dumbo.

Think of a traffic jam that has the power to move independently and is never cleared.

Melanie Schultz van Haegen, a cheerful EU bureaucrat, speaks with certainty when she says, “Truck platooning will ensure cleaner and more efficient transport. Self–driving vehicles also contribute to road safety because most accidents are caused by human failure.” Meaning regardless of how it occurs, any time a “truck platoon” runs over your car, it’s your insurance rates that will be increasing.

There’s no refuge on the ocean either. The Telegraph has discovered Rolls’ marine unit is developing “drone ships.” These automated leviathans are destined to be controlled from land bases as they cruise from port to port. Rolls predicts the S.S. GetOutofMyWay will be in commercial use by the end of this decade.

“Sensors such as radar, lasers and computer programs will allow the ships to pilot themselves, with shore-based captains taking over if there is a problem or for complex docking procedures.”

Don’t let that reference to “complex docking procedures” get your hopes up for maintaining a modicum of control in your robot vehicle. The Israelis are working on taking that away, too.

Israel21c found the Unitronics Group is automating parking garages. Here’s how it works: If the programmers at Google approve and you’re allowed to go there in your self–driving vehicle, the car is directed into a 20’ X 20’ entry bay. At which point you need to step lively, because a “Unitronics robot scoots under the car, engages the wheels and lifts the vehicle” into it’s parking spot.

No speed–demon valet parking attendants. No cellphone–under–the–ear idiot banging their door into your car. No car burglaries.

To retrieve the auto you swipe a credit card through the terminal and if your carbon footprint for that day is low enough, the car takes you home.

No wonder the Mail Online predicts if current trends continue — lack of exercise, gluttony and the common belief that a 16 oz. bag of Fritos is a single serving — “by 2025 18 percent of the world’s men and 21 percent of women will be obese.”

You may not even be able to use a Lark scooter to get to your car, if your waist is too large. But tech can solve that problem. Amazon is building robots that can load even the biggest cargo into the proper transportation. And Prime members will be able to choose between headfirst or feet first.

Throwing Money Down a Metro Hole

metro-cartoonThose wacky guys and gals at the Washington, DC Metro system are at it again. It’s quite an experience having the largest mass transit system in the world run by an improv group. Just last week the head of the Metro board proposed shutting down one of the lines for six months so maintenance that should have been done years ago could be completed.

Mass transit suddenly becomes Missing transit.

Construction and maintenance has never been a strong point for the Metro. God help us if a Metro executive ever moves into the airline industry. Which reminds me, airlines and Metro have some things in common.

Passengers are at their mercy, you’re wedged into aluminum tubes with strangers and you’ve always got an ear tuned for the cry of “Allahu Akbar!”

There are also more prosaic similarities and that’s what this week’s Newsmax.com column concerns. How Metro wasted years and millions on a communication project while airlines made money from theirs.

Click on the hyperlink below. I promise it won’t be time wasted.

http://www.newsmax.com/MichaelShannon/AT-T-Cellphone-Washington-D-C-/2016/03/24/id/720765/

 

The Little Streetcar That Couldn’t

Not toy trainThere’s good news for Washington, DC area parents with small children. No longer will you have to travel hundreds of miles to Disneyland to let the little ones enjoy a thrilling ride on a toy train. Instead you can pack the wee folk off to DC and let them ride a streetcar line that’s as short as their attention span.

I know you’re thinking, “Ha, ha he’s talking about that little train that runs beneath Capitol Hill between House and Senate offices! But you can’t ride that unless you’re toting a Member of Congress’ sedan chair.”

Actually, that’s no problemo if you’re a campaign contributor. A large enough check and you’ll be like Trump — when he rides Donald gets to wear the engineer’s hat and blow the horn. But I’m talking about the new DC mini–mass transit system that connects a riverbank with Amtrak.

It’s another example of the elitist left’s fascination with boutique transportation “solutions.” You can find the rest of the details by clicking on the link below for my Newsmax column:

http://www.newsmax.com/MichaelShannon/D-CCar-Rail-Road/2016/03/04/id/717509/

 

Google Designs the Self–Absorbed Car for the Self–Absorbed Man

Self Driving Car memeTo give you an idea of how far the nation’s confidence has retreated from the exuberance of the 60’s — I promise this isn’t an endorsement of Donald Trump — just look at current automotive culture.

Government Motors designs flimsy boxes to conform to arbitrary fuel efficiency standards. Electric cars, which the government wants a select few to drive while the rest of us are on a bus, are so expensive the only way to persuade the average person to own one is to subsidize the purchase with thousands of tax dollars.

Naturally “activist” busybodies worry those geek hummers don’t make enough noise to warn headphone–wearing idiots of the auto’s approach. That certainly wasn’t a problem with the Shelby Mustang. The roar of the exhaust in even the stock model approached NASA decibel levels.

Muscle cars were the perfect compliment to a muscular country. “Big Daddy” Don Garlits was a household name, “Fun, Fun, Fun” dominated the radio and Ford won the 24 Hours of Le Mans.

Today we’ve gone from the “Little Old Lady From Pasadena” (Go granny, go granny, go granny go!) to the Little Old Robot from Cupertino (No baby, no baby, no baby no!).

The future according to Google features a self–driving car characterized an inability to relate to the moving culture around it. I call Google’s effort the Asperger Auto because of the effect the cars have when they leave the Google test track.

Individuals with Asperger Syndrome have trouble with social interaction and are often bound by limited or restricted patterns of behavior. Google’s car has all the classic symptoms: inward directed, reluctant to change behavior to fit surrounding social circumstances and a refusal to acknowledge social cues from other drivers.

Bloomberg Business reports a California motorcycle cop had experience first–hand when he observed traffic stacking up behind a suppository–shaped auto.

He entered the history books as the first motorman to initiate a traffic stop on a robot car. Equally unique, he resisted the temptation to inquire: “Do you know why I stopped you?” because there was no one to ask.

The self–involved vehicle was putt–putting along at 24 MPH in a 35 MPH zone, ignoring the jam it was creating as drivers with a rapidly deteriorating opinion of Google stacked up behind.

The quandary for the cop was to whom to give the ticket? The car couldn’t sign the summons and the two engineers aboard claimed to be just passengers. So the officer let the human cargo off with a warning and threatened to drop a magnet into the car’s CPU if it happened again.

Depending on whom you ask, auto–autos have between twice and five times the accident rate of human drivers. One similarity the cars share with humans is the accident is always the other guy’s fault, although in the car’s case it appears to be true.

A study from the University of Michigan found driverless vehicles, like your teenage daughter, have never been at fault in an accident. The auto–autos are “usually hit from behind in slow-speed crashes by inattentive or aggressive humans unaccustomed to machine motorists that always follow the rules.”

In essence, an auto strictly obeying the law is such a rare occurrence it may actually constitute a road hazard.

California is ready with a solution similar to the old law that required a horseless carriage to post a man with a lantern walking before it to warn unsuspecting horses. Regulators want a “backseat–driver–on–call” vehicle that “would require a human always to be ready to take the wheel.”

Naturally Google, the inventor of the “Cast Your Fate to the Wind” model that doesn’t have a steering wheel or a gas pedal, objects to the new rule.

Google has managed to automate the velocity vigilante who parks his sanctimonious speed limit observing vehicle in the fast lane and forces drivers with a greater sense of urgency to pass on the right.

The self–righteous, self–absorbed Asperger Auto coming to a highway near you.