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By Ather Fawaz
Nuro approved to become the first driverless delivery service in California
by Ather Fawaz
Image via Nuro Nuro, the autonomous delivery startup, has obtained the first-ever approval from the California Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV) to launch driverless services in the state. The milestone achievement makes Nuro the first company to receive approval of this kind, ahead of companies like GM and Amazon who have only received testing approvals for their bids in the same technology thus far.
Following the approval, Nuro can now start autonomous routine deliveries of food, beverages, medicine, and other products in California. The firm states that it will soon begin operating commercially on California roads in two counties—Santa Clara and San Mateo— near its headquarters in the Bay Area with an established partner. The company stated in a blog post:
Service will start off with a fleet of Toyota Prius vehicles in fully autonomous mode before the company eventually deploys its custom-built electric R2 vehicles. Nuro accentuated that safety is the primary concern for its vehicles, stating that the "R2 was purposefully engineered for safety, with a design that prioritizes what’s outside — the people with whom we share the roads — over what’s inside." As such, deliveries can only occur during good weather conditions, and the vehicles will be limited to a maximum of 25mph (~40km/h).
Facebook designates $150 million to build low-income housing
by Paul Hill
Facebook has announced that it’s earmarking $150 million of its $1 billion affordable housing commitment to building houses for the low-income residents around Silicon Valley. The money will cover the building of 2,000 new homes that will eventually be occupied by those making less than 30% of the region’s medium income.
According to the social media giant, its work to assist the low-income residents in the area has only become more important in the last 10 months as COVID-19 has ripped through the country, causing economic hardship. Those who were already struggling financially before the pandemic are expected to be some of the hardest hit by the economic downturn.
Facebook said the money will be handled by an advisory board of core partners including Support Corporation and Destination: Home as well as community members who have personal experience with homelessness. It said that it plans to distribute all of the $150 million by 2026 and wants to fund at least five projects across Santa Clara, San Francisco, San Mateo, Alameda and Contra Costa over the next 12 months.
The firm said that projects can begin the intake process to receive funding from today. In the next few months, it plans to fund a First Community Housing project in San Jose, California, which will create 123 “deeply affordable” apartments. The apartments will provide on-site support services and will be situated near public transit. Residents will also receive an annual VTA SmartPass that provides free bus and light rail access throughout Santa Clara County.
Aside from funding different projects with its Catalyst Housing Fund, the firm is making efforts to support policy changes at organizations that address system issues within the housing crisis. These efforts should lead to the construction of housing at all income levels, reduce the cost and increase the speed of house production, encourage sustainable development in transit-rich areas, and address the impacts of discriminatory housing policies that have excluded communities of color and prevented economic mobility of low-income households.
Voters in California say gig economy drivers are contractors
by Paul Hill
While most people’s attention has been on the Presidential election, voters in California got to vote on something called Proposition 22 too. It asked voters whether app-based drivers should continue to be classified as contractors or whether they should be considered employees and gain extra rights; 58.42% said they should continue to be classified as contractors while 41.58% were in favour of changing their status.
Unsurprisingly, the big tech firms with a stake in the measure such as Uber, Lyft, Instacart and DoorDash backed the bid to classify workers as contractors. The firms were so invested in keeping their costs low, in fact, that they invested more than $200 million, which is a record, trying to convince people to vote in their favour.
Drivers and unions were hoping the public would vote the other way. Nicole Moore, a driver and organiser at Rideshare Drivers United, said that tech firms outspent the competition by 20:1 but ultimately, the decision will not stop workers and unions from demanding better working conditions. Had drivers been classified as employees, they would have been eligible for the minimum wage, unemployment benefits, and health insurance.
While the result is not what a lot of drivers wanted, Proposition 22 still requires some concessions from the likes of Uber and Lyft. They will have to provide some benefits such as vouchers to access subsidised health insurance and guarantee hourly earnings. The companies will also bolster safety by performing more background checks on drivers.
Source: The Guardian
By News Staff
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