Thursday Buzz: A Self-Driving Car Is Picking You Up (Soon)

Uber isn't just testing self-driving cars—it's actually putting them on the road in Pittsburgh. Also: Lessons from a New York Times app shift.

Conference attendees in Pittsburgh will soon get a chance to experience a tech novelty that no other major market has.

What’s that? Well, Uber is about to launch self-driving cars in the market, reports Bloomberg Businessweek. That makes it the first public-facing experiment in automated driving targeted at a large group of people. That’s right: If you call Uber, an automated vehicle may pick you up.

(Humans will still be involved, however: They’ll be sitting in the driver’s seat, ready to help in case something goes wrong.)

Why Pittsburgh? Simple: The city is home to Carnegie Mellon University, a school with an ambitious robotics department, and many CMU alums worked closely on the Uber project over the past year and a half.

The company is jumping far ahead of its competitors in this space by putting it in a commercial context rather than a long-term testing context, as Google has notably done.

“We are going commercial,” Uber Founder Travis Kalanick told the magazine. “This can’t just be about science.”

It’ll be interesting to see how quickly Uber’s big bet on automation expands out of Pittsburgh and into the rest of the country. The firm is already thinking big—really big.

Drop the App, Not the Ideas

Sometimes, no matter how hard you try, an app just doesn’t meet audience expectations.

That’s the situation for The New York Times as it announces that, at the end of the month, it will shut down NYT Now, a onetime subscription-based app that was designed to expand the Times to a new audience.

But, rather than letting the lessons of that failure die, the company has found a good spot for those ideas: the mainline NYT app.

“We are retiring NYT Now because we’ve incorporated so much of it into all the Times’s digital platforms, in particular the NYTimes app,” the company announced on Wednesday.

The lesson here: Even if something doesn’t work in full, you don’t have to get rid of the parts that did work.

Other Links of Note

Big news in the online world: After its assets were acquired by Univision, Gawker Media announced Thursday that its namesake site,, will shut down next week—a major shift in the online climate.

Trying to win over millennials? Colleen Dilenschneider, chief market engagement officer at IMPACTS Research and Development, says that a couple of mindset changes are needed.

Need to access the stuff on your iPhone via your Mac? It can get pretty complicated, but a new app called AirMount could be just the tool you need to make it easy.

(handout photo)

Ernie Smith

By Ernie Smith

Ernie Smith is a former senior editor for Associations Now. MORE

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