Archive for August, 2018

How Silicon Valley should celebrate Labor Day

Ask any 25-year old engineer what Labor Day means to him or her, and you might get an answer like: it’s the surprise three-day weekend after a summer of vacationing. Or it’s the day everyone barbecues at Dolores Park. Or it’s the annual Tahoe trip where everyone gets to relive college. Or simply, it’s the day we get off because we all work so hard. And while founders and employees in startup land certainly work hard, wearing their 80-hour workweeks as a badge of honor, closing deals on conference calls in an air-conditioned WeWork is a far cry from the backbreaking working conditions of the 1880s, the era when Labor Day was born. For everyone here in Silicon Valley, we should not be celebrating this holiday triumphantly over beers and hot dogs, complacent in the belief that our gravest labor issues are behind us, but instead use this holiday as a moment to reflect on how much further we have to go in making our workplaces and companies more equitable, diverse, inclusive and ethically responsible. Bloody Beginnings On September 5th, 1882, 10,000 workers gathered at a “monster labor festival” to protest the 12-hours per day, seven days a week harsh working conditions they faced in order to cobble together a survivable wage. Even children as “young as 5 or 6 toiled in mills, factories and mines across the country.” This all erupted in a climax in 1894 when the American Railway Union went on a nationwide strike, crippling the nation’s transportation infrastructure, which included trains that delivered postal mail. President Grover Cleveland declared this a federal crime and sent in federal troops to break up the strike, which resulted in one of the bloodiest encounters in labor history, leaving 30 dead and countless injured. Labor Day was declared a national holiday a few month later in an effort to mend wounds and make peace with a reeling and restless workforce (it also conveniently coincided with President Cleveland’s reelection bid). The Battle is Not Yet Won Today in Silicon Valley, this battle for fair working conditions and a living wage seems distant from our reality of nap rooms and lucrative stock grants.  By all accounts, we have made tremendous strides on a number of critical labor issues. While working long hours is still a cause for concern, most of us can admit that we often voluntarily choose to work more than we have to. Our workplace environments are not perfect (i.e. our standing desks may not be perfectly ergonomic), but they are far from life-threatening or hazardous to our health. And while equal wages are still a concern, earning a living wage is not, particularly if the worst case scenario after “failing” at a startup means joining a tech titan and clocking in as a middle manager with a six-figure salary. Even though the workplace challenges of today are not as grave as life or death, the fight is not yet over. Our workplaces are far from perfect, and the power […]

Apple is late to a self driving milestone — its first test car accident

Apple’s secretive self-driving vehicle program has disclosed its first accident, according to a report filed with the California Department of Motor Vehicles. The low speed accident, which occurred August 24, is a milestone of sorts for the company, albeit not one that is being celebrated. These days, as more companies head out onto public streets to test their autonomous vehicle systems, accidents have become more common. The vast majority are minor, low-speed incidents. There was just one accident involving a self-driving vehicle (that one was owned by Delphi) reported to the DMV in 2014. So far this year, there have been more than 40 accidents involving self-driving cars reported to CA DMV. The first fatal autonomous vehicle accident, which involved an Uber self-driving vehicle striking a pedestrian, occurred in March in Arizona. The Apple test car was attempting to merge onto an expressway near its headquarters in Cupertino, California, and traveling about 1 mile per hour, when it was rear-ended by a Nissan Leaf, according to the report. There were no injuries reported. Both parties reported moderate damage to their vehicles. Apple doesn’t talk about its self-driving vehicle program. The tech company’s permit with the California Department of Motor Vehicles, the agency responsible for monitoring AVs in the state, is the only official acknowledgment that it even has a program. Apple’s self-driving program has been considered an open secret in Silicon Valley. And more recently, CEO Tim Cook has made references to the company’s interest in autonomous systems. In an interview with Bloomberg, he called it the mother of all AI projects. But the company doesn’t talk about its program or its ultimate product plans. The accident report doesn’t reveal much, beyond the make and model of Apple’s test vehicle. The self-driving test vehicle involved in the accident was a 2016i Lexus RX450H. This the same make and model that Google used to test its self-driving system.