Amazon To Expand From Stealing From Drivers To Spying On Them, Too

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Amazon’s working conditions are notoriously horrible, but the company thinks its drivers are the problem. All that and more in The Morning Shift for February 4, 2021.

1st Gear: It’s Just A Giant Dashcam For Spying On Drivers

In an unlisted video on Vimeo embedded below, Amazon claimed it’s “setting its drivers up for success” with what appears to be a combination of a four-way dashcam and OnStar.


It watches drivers and starts an alert if it detects what it considers distracted driving or any other unsafe behavior, as The Verge reports from news broken by The Information:

An unlisted, week-old video hosted on the website Vimeo details the partnership. It’s narrated by Karolina Haraldsdottir, Amazon’s senior manager for last-mile safety, and outlines the company’s goals as reducing collisions and holding drivers more accountable for mistakes on the road. The initiative mirrors one Amazon has taken with its long-haul trucking fleet, in which SmartDrive cameras monitor freight drivers for signs of fatigue and distracted driving, according to a separate report from The Information.

The marketing video showcases how the cameras record “100% of the time” (though without audio and not viewable live) and upload footage to a dedicated safety team for review if any one of 16 signals is triggered through an incident happening on the road or an action the driver takes. The driver is able to manually disable the camera, but only when the ignition is off. Drivers are also allowed to manually upload footage when they choose to.


The root problem here is that drivers get overworked and underpaid, and treating them like children speaks to Amazon’s rooted disrespect for the people who make it its money.

That this is being presented as a safety aid is a joke, as Edward Ongweso Jr of Vice lays out:


This all tracks with a company that was already surveilling its Flex drivers, as The Verge notes, and stealing millions from them, too.

2nd Gear: Chip Shortage Hits GM Hard

The global semiconductor chip shortage has struck GM, with three plants closing here in the U.S., as Bloomberg reports:

General Motors Co. warned that a global semiconductor shortage will reduce production this year as the carmaker plans downtime at three plants, becoming the latest in a string of automotive companies impacted by limited chip availability.

The company said Wednesday that three North American plants, including one in Kansas and others in Mexico and Canada, would shut down the week of Feb. 8. It will also operate a factory in South Korea at half-capacity that week, it said.


3rd Gear: Ford Cuts Chinese EV Joint Venture

As Ford ramps up the Mach E in China, it shuts down its joint venture making EVs with Chinese company Zotye, as Reuters reports:

Ford Motor has decided to terminate plans to launch electric vehicle joint ventures with China’s Zotye Automobile, the U.S. auto giant said on Thursday.

It said that China’s electric vehicle industry and government policies had undergone major changes since the agreements were signed in 2017 and 2018, prompting Ford’s decision. Ford didn’t specify which changes triggered its move.


I’m sure this has nothing to do with Mach E production! Could be anything, really.

4th Gear: The Federal Government Could Give Billions To Tear Down Our Worst Highways

America’s sweeping elevated highways were often built cutting through historic minority neighborhoods, cutting communities apart. There has been recent activism to encourage tearing these highways down, and now there may be Federal Government money to do so, as Bloomberg reports:

A new Senate bill includes a $10 billion program aimed at cities that are considering removing urban freeways and repairing the damage these projects inflicted on vulnerable communities decades ago.


This bill isn’t brand new, as Streetsblog reported on it back on January 11:

Shortly before the holiday recess, then-Senate minority leader Chuck Schumer and a coalition of 25 Democratic senators introduced a $435 billion economic justice bill called S5065 that included a $10-billion pilot program aimed at helping communities tear down urban highways, and rebuild the surrounding neighborhoods with the needs of underserved communities in mind. The Restoring Neighborhoods and Strengthening Communities Program — known among advocates as the “Highways to Boulevards” initiative — would only be available for projects located in regions with a high concentration of low income residents or residents of color.


What’s new is that Buttigieg was confirmed this week and we might see some more serious action on it.

If you live in Syracuse, you may want to say goodbye to I-81.


5th Gear: Researchers Working On Universal Docking For Wheelchairs In Autonomous Vehicles

As the car industry winds down touting autonomous vehicles as the next big thing for everyone, the mobility sector continues to discuss them in terms of wheelchair users and the “grey wave” of boomers becoming elderly.


One piece of tech being discussed is a universal docking interface for people in wheelchairs getting into autonomous vehicles. Here’s a great thread on the work going on at the University of Michigan:


I can’t say that the idea of autonomous vehicles coming first to retirement communities as being the coolest development in terms of autonomy, but it’s the one I’m most optimistic about.

Reverse: I Always Forget The Same Guy Started Cadillac And Lincoln


Neutral: What Horrible Plan Will Amazon Cook Up Next?

An electroshock punishment system? Autopilot robo arms workers can’t entirely control? The sky is the limit!