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Today Expert Voices contributor Christopher M. Schroeder looks at why the Middle East is attractive to Uber and other U.S. tech companies.
Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios
Cars are smarter than ever, but their giant screens can be dangerously distracting. Vastly improved voice controls could improve safety in the near-term and potentially govern how we interact with automated vehicles in the future, too.
The big picture: Removing eyes from the road for just two seconds doubles the risk for a crash, according to AAA research.
Context: Voice controls have always made the most sense but using them can be laughable. Drivers sometimes have to use stilted commands like "navigate" or "telephone" instead of speaking naturally — and still the systems don't always get it right.
What's new: Advances in natural language processing technology mean drivers can now converse with their car in a way that is both safe and helpful.
Of note: Consumers want their cars to mimic their smartphones so most carmakers have already incorporated Apple Carplay and Android Auto into their infotainment systems.
Soundhound offers an alternative. "We've architected a platform that enables major companies to harness best in class technology, but still own their own brand, and not be disintermediated by the giants," says VP and general manager Katie McMahon.
Mercedes Benz set a new industry benchmark for voice controls in the 2019 A-class sedan and GLE utility with its MBUX infotainment system.
What to watch: Natural language AI voice systems could become one of the most effective driver-assistance technologies available. But they're still potentially a form of cognitive distraction even though your eyes don't leave the road. We'll be watching to see how they impact safety.
Careem's cab service 'Bakra on wheels' operating in Pakistan. Photo: Rizwan Tabassum/AFP/Getty Images
Uber's $3.1 billion acquisition of Dubai-based Careem is its largest to date, and the second tech acquisition over $500 million in the Middle East by a U.S. tech giant, Christopher M. Schroeder writes for Axios Expert Voices.
Why it matters: U.S. tech leaders are eyeing investments in the Middle Eastern startup community as a way to achieve rapid scale in a large, young and increasingly affluent market.
The impact: There is rising customer demand for safe, clean, and reliable mobility and delivery. The Uber-Careem deal follows Amazon's purchase of local e-commerce rival, Souq, in 2017.
The bottom line: For tech giants, betting on local players can be the relatively safe strategy, compared to broaching each country's market on their own. With Uber's impending IPO, the Careem acquisition confirms that it is pursuing aggressive international growth, unlike Lyft’s domestic focus.
Schroeder is a tech investor, consultant, and author of "Startup Rising: The Entrepreneurial Revolution Remaking the Middle East." He advised two venture capital firms who invested in Careem.
Clarence Anthony, CEO of the National League of Cities. Photo: Chuck Kennedy/Axios
Promising experiments with autonomous vehicles won’t go anywhere unless the U.S. figures out how to repair today’s broken infrastructure.
The big picture: Roads, bridges, tunnels and other infrastructure in the U.S. received a D+ grade from the American Society of Civil Engineers in 2017. The Trump administration and both parties in Congress agree infrastructure is a bipartisan issue, but they've made no progress in passing legislation.
What they're saying: At an Axios event I moderated yesterday in D.C., all four panelists — two members of Congress and two lobbyists — said roads and bridges need repair, but no one seemed sure how to pay for it.
“Policymakers need to take a step back and look at our funding structure ... we can't just rely on a gas tax. That's like funding your 401k with one stock that you know is going to go down.”— Congressman Rodney Davis (R-Ill.)
Meanwhile, urban planners just want them to get on with it so they can keep up with changing technology.
What to watch: After more than a year of inaction, President Trump and members of Congress on both sides of the aisle appear willing to start working together on a bipartisan infrastructure bill, which could be considered by House committees as early as May.
Teleops: The war to remotely control self-driving cars heats up (Alex Davies — Wired)
Payday: Here's who will get rich from the Lyft IPO (Paul R. LaMonica — CNN)
Lidar funding: Innoviz, Ouster raise millions for self-driving lidar sensors (Paul Lienert — Reuters)
Monitor: Eyes on the road! (Your car is watching) (John R. Quain — The New York Times)
Driver assistance features in Lincoln's 2019 Nautilus. Photo: Lincoln
This week I'm driving a 2019 Lincoln Nautilus, which is the reinvented and much improved version of the former Lincoln MKX.
Why it matters: We should first applaud Lincoln's decision to ditch those alphabet-soup model names that every other luxury maker seems to favor. Next month at the New York auto show, it will introduce the compact Corsair — adding to its lineup of properly named crossovers: Aviator, Nautilus and Navigator.
What's new: Besides its name and two new turbocharged engine choices, every Nautilus comes with standard Lincoln Co-Pilot360, which bundles popular, advanced driver-assist features that were previously available only as separate options.
My thought bubble: Lincoln's lane-centering technology is not a hands-off highway system, though. Every time I tried to relax with the system engaged, I got various warnings to make sure my hands were on the wheel.
The bottom line: The Nautilus is a luxurious and capable competitor in a crowded midsize luxury crossover market.