Also: NYC’s “health care for all,” explained. And where low-income renters face eviction thanks to the shutdown.
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What We’re Following
Bruise cruise: Shared e-scooter companies embody the “move fast and break things” spirit that could double as Silicon Valley’s motto. That slogan isn’t supposed to include their customers, but scooter-related injuries have given rise to new safety fears—and the blame isn’t so simple to assign when the vehicle itself fails. Rider agreements waive liability, vandals break scooters, and some independent contractors fix the vehicles via instructional videos on YouTube. So when something breaks, there’s no obvious answer for who, exactly, is responsible.
After her own mishap on a malfunctioning scooter, CityLab’s Sarah Holder talked with personal injury lawyers and scooter mechanics to find out how scooters present new challenges on liability and safety, and how it could shape cities’ legal systems going forward. “It isn’t just that new technologies face laws,” one attorney said. “New technologies actually change laws.” Today on CityLab: The Anatomy of a Scooter Crash
More on CityLab
What Happens at CES
The self-driving car industry is dominating the 2019 Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas. But what’s telling is that many car and software companies are flouting tech that’s less about vehicles driving themselves and more about what people could do when they aren’t the pilots.
A few examples of note: Mercedes and Japanese parts maker Denso rolled out two ride-hailing concepts with passenger seating that looks like a living room. French automaker Valeo offered a VR experience of its self-driving rental car concept, where customers can pay extra for air quality scans, privacy screens on their windows, superior lighting schemes, and other upgrades. Kia displayed vehicle simulation pods capable of detecting passenger emotions and programming en-route entertainment accordingly.
Problem is, the industry is a long way from showing that self-driving cars themselves will work well enough to support all this. In 2018, the self-driving car industry hit the brakes after the death of a pedestrian by an autonomous Uber with a distracted human backup driver, a fatal Tesla Autopilot crash, and poll after poll revealing consumer distrust. So are carmakers getting ahead of themselves? As the market fills with semi-autonomous vehicles that still require human intervention, could all these extra doo-dads threaten to distract drivers even further? Watch for my story later today.
What We’re Reading
Elected officials cannot silence critics on social media, appeals court rules (Washington Post)
Chicago’s new 311 system is a big win for public works (Wired)
Tenants get right to counsel in Newark, New Jersey (Next City)
Crowded cities are looking to turn water into land (Slate)
Elwood, Illinois (Pop. 2,200), has become a vital hub of America’s consumer economy. And it’s hell (New Republic)