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

Andrew Small


More on CityLab

Low-Income Renters Face Eviction, Thanks to the Government Shutdown

Contracts for federal housing assistance are expiring, and thousands of low-income seniors and disabled renters could face eviction.

Kriston Capps

New York City’s New ‘Universal’ Health Care Plan, Explained

Bill de Blasio’s new “health care for all” plan targets in the national fight over universal coverage and immigration. But what is the plan, exactly?

Sarah Holder

The Hidden Women Behind London’s Beloved Modernist Transit Posters

Poster Girls, the London Transport Museum exhibit, recalls a London where female artists were quietly shaping the way the city saw itself, its pleasures, and its future.

Feargus O'Sullivan

America’s Housing Crisis Could Imperil Trump’s Presidency

Many of the administration’s most famous policies are impediments to affordable construction.

Derek Thompson

Can Tel Aviv's Iconic Trees and Its New Light Rail Coexist?

Construction of a new light-rail system could uproot trees that activists say help define the Israeli city.

Naomi Zeveloff


What Happens at CES

An entertainment display inside a concept autonomous car.
(John Locher/AP)

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.

Laura Bliss


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)


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