Archives October 3, 2018

Half of US Uber drivers make less than $10 an hour after vehicle expenses

Uber lures drivers with the idea of being your own boss and “making great money with your car.” The “great money” part is up for debate.

The median hourly pay with tip for Uber drivers in the U.S. is $14.73, according to a new study conducted by Ridester, a publication that focuses on the ride-hail industry. That figure includes tips but doesn’t account for expenses like insurance, gas and car depreciation incurred while working. Using Ridester’s low-end estimate of $5 per hour in vehicle costs, drivers would bring in $9.73 per hour and potentially much less.

That implies a driver working 40 hours per week would make an annual salary of almost $31,000 before vehicle expenses, and about $20,000 after expenses (but still before taxes). That’s below the poverty threshold for a family of three.

This is important because online “gig economy” jobs, including driving for Uber, are a growing part of the U.S. workforce: About 5 percent of the working population has worked in the gig economy in the past year, up from 2 percent in 2013. So their labor is increasingly tied to overall prosperity. Additionally, these workers are still typically considered contractors, meaning that they aren’t required to receive employer healthcare or other employee benefits.

Proposed Toronto development from Google’s Sidewalk Labs sparks concerns over data

Heated streets will melt ice and snow on contact. Sensors will monitor traffic and protect pedestrians. Driverless shuttles will carry people to their doors.

A unit of Google’s parent company Alphabet is proposing to turn a rundown part of Toronto’s waterfront into what may be the most wired community in history — to “fundamentally refine what urban life can be.”

Dan Doctoroff, the CEO of Sidewalk Labs, envisions features like pavement that lights up to warn pedestrians of approaching streetcars. Flexible heated enclosures — described as “raincoats” for buildings — will be deployed based on weather data during Toronto’s bitter winters. Robotic waste-sorting systems will detect when a garbage bin is full and remove it before raccoons descend.

“Those are great uses of data that can improve the quality of life of people,′ he said. “That’s what we want to do.”

But some Canadians are rethinking the privacy implications of giving one of the most data-hungry companies on the planet the means to wire up everything from street lights to pavement.

The concerns have intensified following a series of privacy scandals at Facebook and Google. A recent Associated Press investigation found that many Google services on iPhones and Android devices store location-tracking data even if you use privacy settings that are supposed to turn them off.

Adam Vaughan, the federal lawmaker whose district includes the development, said debate about big data and urban infrastructure is coming to cities across the world and he would rather have Toronto at the forefront of discussion.

“Google is ahead of governments globally and locally. That’s a cause for concern but it’s also an opportunity,” Vaughan said.

The Internet is not ethereal, it uses a lot of energy, resources and materials

Every website and product connected to the internet would not be able to exist without a vast network of wireless routers, fiber optic cables running underground and underwater, and data centers that house the servers which bring the internet to life. Data centers in the U.S. alone eat up 70 billion kilowatts of energy per year, according to a 2016 estimate from the Department of Energy — that’s 1.8 percent of all energy use across the country.

The internet is not ethereal, and a new project from the blog Low-Tech Magazine aims to make that issue more tangible. Low-Tech Magazine — a blog operated by Kris De Decker that has run on WordPress since 2007 — launched a “Low-Tech,” solar version of the site that’s designed from the ground-up to use as little energy as possible. In a Skype call with Motherboard, De Decker said that he doesn’t think people don’t care about how much energy it takes they use the internet, they just don’t understand the extent of the problem. “There’s this idea that the internet is immaterial, it’s somewhere floating in clouds,” he said. “Of course, it’s a very material thing that uses resources, materials, energy — and quite a lot actually.”