Uber has added some updates to its rider app designed to make the pickup process easier in time for the busy holiday travel season. The biggest change is probably that you can now do live location sharing within the app, letting you temporarily share with your driver exactly where you are – all within your control from the main Uber screen. This should help avoid those moments when your driver isn’t sure exactly where to meet you to start the ride.
To use this feature, you simply turn on the “live location” feature via the tappable icon in the bottom right corner of the map display. A blue icon indicates it’s active, and the grey version means you’re not sharing this extra-granular info. You can tap the icon at any time to switch between the two modes.
Uber is also broadening its beacon program, which uses a hardware device in the driver’s windshield to display a corresponding door to riders to help them find the car more easily. It’s not rolling out in NYC, SF and Chicago after an initial limited pilot, so it’ll be available to more riders and drivers during the busiest ride hailing time of the year. Uber first started rolling out Beacon last year in December, beginning in Miami, Denver, Nashville and Newcastle.
Other rider changes include a streamlined process for requesting a ride for another rider (it no longer requires you to first specific a different pickup location from your own to request a ride for someone else) and a new in-app gifting flow for easily giving Uber credit to another person directly from the app itself.
Uber and Volvo are taking the next step in their self-driving relationship.
Volvo, which first began working with the ride-hail player in August 2016, has agreed to sell 24,000 SUVs to Uber between 2019 and 2021, the automaker announced on Monday.
An Uber spokesperson confirmed that Volvo has agreed to sell the ride-hail player 24,000 cars but said that it is a general framework. The company could buy fewer or more cars from Volvo.
The Volvo XC90s will have the “core” technology — like redundant processors — needed to enable autonomous driving, to which the ride-hail company will add some of its own technology after the fact.
It’s unclear whether Uber intends to work with Volvo in the future on producing these cars with the software integrated. For now, Uber and Volvo work together on some parts of the technology before it’s produced and then Uber adds its own sensor kit. We’ve asked if Uber adds its own software before or after and will update when we hear back.
So far, this is the largest number of cars that any two companies have agreed to develop that will serve in a commercial driverless fleet. Alphabet’s self-driving arm Waymo only recently announced that it would begin testing 600 Chrysler Pacificas on the road.
It’s also unclear if Uber will continue this ownership model wherein the company simply buys cars from an automaker. While self-driving cars will likely increase profitability — given Uber will take home the entire fare instead of divvying up around 75 percent of it to drivers — but the costs of owning and maintaining the cars are lofty. With autonomous vehicles, there’s also a likelihood that these cars will rack up more miles quickly since there’s little reason to stop and have to be replaced sooner.
For a company that is in the middle of cutting its losses as it prepares to go public, having tens of thousands of cars on its balance sheet isn’t exactly ideal. That’s why Uber has also struck a separate relationship with Daimler that is easier on its purse strings. Through that relationship, Daimler will simply plug its own driverless cars into Uber’s network when it’s ready.
While Uber’s U.S. rival Lyft certainly has struck more automaker relationships, Uber’s partnership with Volvo at least appears to have progressed far more.
The $69 billion ride-hail company has also been developing its own autonomous tech at least two years longer than Lyft has. That said, Uber’s self-driving tech has been slow to progress. As of March 2017, the company’s safety drivers had to take over the autonomous system once every .8 miles.
They say the best revenge is living well, and so in the midst of its ongoing and messy breakup with London, Uber has proven it’s doing just fine thank you very much by signing an agreement with NASA to develop software for its proposed flying taxi project, Elevate.
At a speech at the Web Summit in Lisbon, Uber’s head of product Jeff Holden revealed the company has signed a Space Act Agreement with NASA to create the air traffic control system that will manage its low-flying taxi fleet, which it aims to have in the air by 2020. The company also announced that a third test city, Los Angeles, has been added to the program, joining Dallas-Fort Worth and Dubai. According to Uber, its UberAIR service could compress a one and a half hour journey from LAX to the Staples Center during rush hour to under 30 minutes.
Uber released a slick video, seen above, alongside its announcement, illustrating just how it envisions the Elevate service being used. It closes with the line “closer than you think”. With NASA’s clout behind the project, the idea of a flying taxi service is not only closer, but a whole lot more credible, too.
Ordering a taxi by app has just become even cheaper.
Taxify, an Estonian competitor to Uber, will launch in the city on Tuesday with a 50% discount on fares during September to get people downloading its app.
Like Uber, passengers download the Taxify app, register their number, and order a cab to their location. Unlike Uber, passengers can pay by cash or through the app with a pre-registered bank card.
When Business Insider compared the same journey across the two apps, Taxify came out almost three times cheaper than Uber. A journey from Aldgate East to Angel station would cost around £4.35 on Taxify. Uber estimates that the same journey would cost £16 on Uber X. (Note: Uber was showing surge pricing at the time, meaning it was more expensive than usual.)
Despite a bold promise to take on Uber in London, Taxify is still relatively unknown.
Its founder is 23-year-old university dropout Markus Villig, who started Taxify at home before expanding to 19 markets in Africa and eastern Europe. It’s avoided most Western European markets so far partly because of the tougher regulatory environment.
With a new pile of funding from Chinese ride-hailing giant Didi Chuxingin its back pocket, Taxify is now taking on Uber in one of its biggest markets. Villig said the firm had raised around €2 million from outside investors, prior to Didi. After London, Villig told Business Insider, Taxify could launch in Paris.
What’s to say Taxify won’t join the growing pile of startups which tried and failed to take on Uber, like Karhoo and Hailo? Uber is the most valuable private company in the world, and has raised around $15 billion in equity and debt to fuel an aggressive global expansion. It’s dominant in London, with 40,000 registered drivers. There are an estimated 22,500 black cabs operating in the city by comparison. Taxify has 10,000 drivers in London either registered or waiting to register.
Villig told Business Insider that Taxify has two advantages. Firstly, it hasn’t raised billions in outside investment and therefore has comparatively little pressure to turn a profit and repay its investors, except for Didi Chuxing.
Uber is making additional changes to its driver-side app by allowing drivers to set more destinations and offering “long trip notifications” to tell a driver when a rider is requesting a ride that’s 45 minutes or longer.
The company will also stop penalizing drivers who turn down trips. Previously, when a driver turned down potential trips, it could affect promotions and account standing.
The changes are part of a process the company is calling “180 Days of Change,” which it says will transform the driver experience for the 2 million people who drive for Uber each week. It began about two months ago with the notable addition of tipping to the app. Uber US and Canada manager Rachel Holt told several press outlets that the company’s drivers have earned $50 million in tips since that feature was added. In-app tipping became available nationwide in mid-July.
In addition to tipping, the changes increased driver pay for wait time and reduced the “cancellation window” from five minutes to two minutes.
Before the changes were implemented, drivers were able to set destinations twice per day, which allowed them to get ride-hailing work while also heading in a direction they wanted to go anyhow. Now they can do that six times per day.
The long trip notifications still won’t tell drivers where a rider is going until that rider is picked up. It will just be a simple alert letting the driver know that the ride is estimated to take longer than 45 minutes. Holt told TechCrunch that most drivers like longer rides, since they earn more money. But they also want to be able to plan for breaks, and the notifications will help with that.
The “180 Days of Change” campaign came a week after Uber put into effect changes recommended by an internal investigation. That included the firing of some executives and the resignation of then-CEO Travis Kalanick.
The company is still waiting for a new CEO. The Associated Press reported Monday that former GE CEO Jeffrey Immelt is among the finalists for the position.
Uber driver Steve Fleck wasn’t expecting to drive to Cincinnati when he picked up a passenger at the MGM Grand Detroit a few minutes after 5:30am on Aug. 2. The ride-hailing company doesn’t reveal rider destinations to its drivers until after they accept a trip, a feature designed to keep drivers from discriminating against customers headed to poorer and less accessible neighborhoods historically underserved by taxis. But that Wednesday morning it also meant Fleck didn’t learn his rider had booked a four-hour trip across state lines until the passenger was already climbing into his car.
“I was a little in shock,” Fleck, 37, said.
Uber is now testing a feature to avoid precisely these situations. “Long Trip” warns drivers when a ride is likely to last over an hour before they accept the fare. The feature was spotted by Harry Campbell, author of the popular driver blog The Rideshare Guy, as well as on Reddit, where one driver recently shared a screenshot of the alert. “Long: This trip likely to take 60+ minutes,” it reads. A spokesman for Uber confirmed to Quartz the company is testing this feature. He declined to say whether refusing a long trip would count toward a driver’s overall ride acceptance rate.
Fleck’s 265-mile trip took a little over four hours and 10 minutes. The rider slept most of the way, then chatted with Fleck for the last hour. Fleck said the rider asked for his contact information, in case he wanted to make the Detroit to Cincinnati trip by Uber again. The rider left a small tip, which Fleck took to a cafe down the street after completing the trip. He took a short break to eat a curry chicken sandwich, then turned around and drove back to Detroit.
In all, Fleck drove more than 500 miles over nearly nine hours that day. But he only got paid for the first half of the trip, when there was an Uber passenger in his car. Fleck earned $260.10 for the ride. Uber paid him 64 cents a mile and 12 cents a minute, plus a base fare of 40 cents and $60 for a demand-based incentive called “boost.” Depending on how you look at it, he either made about $62 an hour, or just under $30 an hour before gas and other expenses. Uber charged the rider $593.82, of which it kept $333.72, or 56%.
“I believe this negates everything uber has said about us not working for them and us being self-employed,” Fleck wrote in an email to Quartz on Aug. 9, in which he shared the details of his trip. “Because if I am self-employed I just got fucking robbed, because I just made uber a shit ton of money.”
Long trips have always been a gamble for Uber drivers. Kevin Jones hit the jackpot when he drove a woman 550 miles from Omaha to Denver last October. Jones made $702.09 for the seven-and-a-half hour trip, 80% of the total $877.61 fare. Others, like Janis Rogers, do less well. Rogers earned $294.09 in December taking a woman 400 miles from Virginia to New York City. That trip lasted just under eight hours in one direction. There and back, Rogers estimated she made just over $9 an hour after expenses. “This was not lucrative,” Rogers, 64, told the New York Post at the time. “I did it because it was an adventure.”
Benchmark, the Silicon Valley venture firm and early investor in Uber, has sued former CEO Travis Kalanick.
In a Delaware Chancery Court filing, originally identified by Axios’ Dan Primack, the suit alleges that Kalanick committed fraud, breach of contract and breach of fiduciary duty. Both Kalanick and Benchmark hold Uber board seats.
Accusing Kalanick of being “selfish” by packing Uber’s board with “loyal allies,” Benchmark alleges that the ousted CEO broke the law by trying to pave the way for his own return. Reports have suggested that Kalanick has been telling people that he’s “Steve Jobs-In it” and will be back at the helm.
If successful, the Benchmark lawsuit could kick Kalanick off the board of directors, making his return impossible.
Much of the complaint revolves around a June 2016 decision that expanded the size of Uber’s board from eight to 11. Kalanick was given the right to choose those seats. Kalanick eventually gave one of those to himself when he lost his CEO seat. The other two are still unfilled.
Benchmark is claiming that it would never have given Kalanick the power to choose those seats if the team had been aware of the gender discrimination, sexual harassment and other misconduct.
Uber has had a tumultuous 2017. After a former Uber employee wrote a story detailing sexual harassment and an environment that discriminated against women, former U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder oversaw an investigation into the company’s culture. This ultimately led to a series of executive departures and Kalanick’s resignation.
Uber has also been embroiled in a patent lawsuit with Waymo, the self-driving car division owned by the Google parent. Unsurprisingly, it’s another major point of contention in the new lawsuit. In a long list of items that Benchmark characterizes as “gross mismanagement” by Kalanick is his “personal involvement in causing Uber to acquire a self-driving vehicle start-up that, according to a confidential report not disclosed to Benchmark at the time (the ‘Stroz Report’), allegedly harbored trade secrets stolen from a competitor.”
The stakes are high because Uber is the most valuable private company at $70 billion. Benchmark and Kalanick are amongst the largest shareholders.
Uber is starting to roll out a new in-app chat feature globally today, which will allow riders to send text messages directly to their driver once they book a ride, and vice versa. The new feature replaces the somewhat clunky mechanism of SMS for text communication between rider and driver, helping to preserve privacy for both sides in all markets, and cutting down on potential confusion.
Now, when you book a ride, a chat option appears that lets you message your driver directly. It’ll show your driver’s name, vehicle type and plate number at the top of the messaging window, and you can see read/received receipts for messages sent. On the driver side, received messages will be read aloud to help minimize distraction, and drivers can acknowledge a message with one tap to send a ‘thumbs up’ emoji response. Drivers can also initiate chat, but the Uber driver app cautions directly in the messaging window that drivers should only do so when stopped and not actually driving.
The in-app messaging feature arose because the SMS method had a number of areas where it was lacking from a user experience perspective, according to Uber Product Manager Jeremy Lermitte. He explained in an interview that in some markets, there is cost sensitivity associated with using limited SMS plans for getting in touch (and in some cases, drivers don’t have voice plans on their devices at all for calls), and that’s just one among many reasons to bring messaging in-app.
“In many of our markets, SMS isn’t actually available for us, we don’t have the technology in place,” Lermitte said. “That’s especially true in some of our key markets like Brazil and India. And then in other emerging markets where we do offer SMS, we don’t have the technology in place to anonymize the personal contact info, so the rider and driver are actually sharing their personal contact information in some of those markets.”
For Uber and Lyft drivers, installing a dashboard camera can boost their earnings by 5% to 15%.
Drivers are starting to place cameras behind their windshields to record the road ahead of them. Startups chasing the gold mine of car data are paying them to install these cameras. The startups want these videos to do everything from build maps for self-driving cars to track pedestrian activity.
A San Francisco startup, lvl5, is crowdsourcing maps for autonomous vehicles from dashcam videos. Two of its founders previously worked on Tesla’s autopilot team.
In three months, they’ve mapped over 500,000 miles of U.S. roads with 2,000 drivers using their iPhone app, Payver. Drivers receive between two and five cents per mile. Lvl5 expects that with 50,000 U.S. drivers, it can gather enough data to build maps for self-driving cars.
Lvl5 was founded in December by Andrew Kouri and Erik Reed, who both worked on Tesla’s Autopilot team, and George Tall, a computer vision engineer from iRobot, has developed a way to take enormous amounts of video collected from a camera and turn it into high-definition 3D maps that are constantly refreshing. These maps will always reflect the latest road conditions, providing self-driving cars with the information they need to detect and plan their route safely.
“The thing that everyone is kind of ignoring silently is that self-driving cars won’t ship unless we have really good HD maps that update every single day,” Kouri said in an interview with The Verge. “And nobody has a system to do this yet. This is what we’re building.”
Kouri says self-driving cars don’t need LIDAR, light detection, and ranging radar used to see the world around it. That’s a departure from what many automakers and tech companies like Google’s Waymo say is needed for the safe deployment of autonomous vehicles.
Lvl5’s philosophy, in many ways, mirrors Tesla’s approach, which contends it can deploy fully autonomous vehicle technology without relying on LIDAR.
“We don’t really care if LIDAR wins out or computer vision wins out,” Kouri said. “Right now we know that if we want to make self-driving car en masse, cameras are ready and LIDAR is not.”
The company’s system uses consumer-grade cameras and a computer vision algorithm to turn all of the video it captures into useable, 3D maps. But it needed to scale it.
So they reached out to Uber and Lyft drivers who can crowdsource the video data via a dashcam app created by Lvl5 called Payver.
Drivers are paid to mount smartphones on the dashboard of their cars and run the app, which automatically collects video, accelerometer, and GPS data. Huge amounts of data are captured; video is taken every meter along a vehicle’s route. The compressed data is then sent to the cloud and then sent to lvl5’s central hub. From there, lvl5 uses its computer vision algorithm to translate all of this footage into high-definition 3D maps.
Uber has fired more than 20 employees in conjunction with an internal investigation into its workplace culture, according to a current Uber employee.
The company disclosed the move at an all-hands meeting at its San Francisco headquarters on Tuesday, said the person, who spoke anonymously because he or she was not authorized to speak publicly about the matter. Uber executives did not name the individuals who were terminated.
Uber is taking steps to correct what many in the ride-hailing company say are deep-seated management and culture issues, which have been brought to light over the last few months. In February, Susan Fowler, a former Uber engineer, said that she was sexually harassed by her supervisor during her time at Uber and that the human resources department ignored the claims. Other employees reported systemic issues within Uber, where a premium was placed on strong performance and growth, often at the expense of other workplace behavior.
Uber has hired former United States Attorney General Eric H. Holder Jr. and his law firm, Covington & Burling, to conduct an independent investigation of those claims and Uber’s overall culture. The findings are not yet out.
Uber’s terminations announced on Tuesday stem from a separate investigation conducted by Perkins Coie, another law firm hired by Uber. Lawyers from Perkins Coie consulted with Uber on the internal investigation, and Uber acted upon that firm’s recommendations.
Mr. Holder’s report has been delivered to Uber’s board, though it is unclear when it will be distributed more widely within the company.
A New York labor organization is calling for an investigation of Lyft and other ride-hailing services for allegedly cheating drivers on their fares.
The Independent Drivers Guild (IDG), which formed last year as an affiliate of an existing labor union, said Wednesday that Lyft has been engaged in “large-scale deception” by improperly deducting more than 11 percent from drivers’ fares on interstate trips. In effect, the ride-hailing company is stealing some of the drivers’ wages by collecting taxes and surcharges on trips out of state that should apply only to in-state trips, and then disguising those charges as administrative fees, the labor group says.
New York State Assembly member Robert Rodriguez backed the IDG’s request for a full investigation in a letter addressed to the state’s attorney general and the Department of Taxation and Finance.
Drivers have also accused Uber, Juno and other ride-hailing services of being less than upfront in their dealings with their citizen drivers.
“There is no merit to this allegation,” Lyft spokesman Adrian Durbin said Wednesday afternoon. “Our driver agreement lays out what commissions and fees apply to driving on the Lyft platform, and we’ve consistently abided by the agreement since entering the New York market in 2014.”
Ride-hailing drivers in New York have discovered that Lyft appears to be deducting a state sales tax on out-of-state trips that should be applied only to rides that begin and end in New York, the drivers guild says. The ride-hailing service also appears to be improperly collecting a surcharge for the Black Car Fund that shouldn’t apply to out-of-state trips.
When the drivers complained to Lyft, however, they were told that the charges were administrative fees. Those fees also happen to mimic the rates of the 8.875 percent state sales tax and the 2.5 percent surcharge for the Black Car Fund, which funds workers’ compensation for the drivers, according to the drivers group.
“This is an egregious and deliberate tax scam that amounts to wage theft affecting thousands of our members. By disguising these pay deductions as state taxes, Lyft willfully deceived drivers in order to rob them of their earnings and further enrich the company,” Ryan Price, executive director of the IDG, said in a written statement.
Last year, drivers for ride-hailing apps like Uber and Lyft were excited about a new competing app, Juno, which promised to grant drivers stock in the company along with lower commissions and in-app tipping. Juno was recently acquired by yet another service, Gett, and the drivers have seen their equity evaporate, leading them to file a complaint with federal regulators.
The plan for Juno was to share more revenue with its drivers than rivals do. Retaining drivers is important, as it cuts down on costly expenses associated with recruiting new drivers, like referral fees and sign-on bonuses.
A source familiar with the startup’s finances told Bloomberg Technology that Juno was profitable, but unable to convince investors to help it expand to more cities. Instead, the company decided to pursue a deal with Gett, a ride-hailing app out of Israel which operates in multiple cities, including New York.
Drivers acquired theoretical equity in Juno the more that they drove, and the plan was that drivers would own about half of the company by 2026. Gett, which paid $200 million to acquire Juno, has no such equity plan, which meant the end of the stock program.
Drivers learned in an email that they would receive a small cash payment, about 10% of what drivers had been told their accumulated stock was worth.
That’s where the Independent Drivers Guild, a group that’s not a union but represents New York City’s drivers with Uber, comes in. To maximize their time and income, drivers for ride-hailing apps often work for multiple services at once, accepting passengers as they come in. According to the group, 40% of its members also drive for Juno.
While the Independent Drivers Guild represents drivers for Uber in New York City, its members often drive for Juno as well. Yet Uber pays some of the group’s administrative expenses, which makes it a little awkward when the IDG is calling for the Federal Trade Commission to investigate one of Uber’s competitors.
Uber itself Uber paid $20 million to settle charges that it misled prospective drivers about what their pay would be.
In its letter to the FTC [PDF], the IDG says that it learned from mysterious “sources” that Juno had learned from the Securities and Exchange Commission that its stock plan may be illegal. Yet, the IDG alleges, that was a few months before the deal, and the company still used the idea of earning equity in the company to appeal to new drivers.
“Many IDG drivers have no access to traditional worker protections like retirement plans, group health insurance, or even paid time off,” the IDG notes in its letter. “The promise of a stake in the company attracted thousands of drivers seeking financial security for their families.”
The group also sent the letter to New York state’s attorney general, New York City’s Office of Labor Policy and Standards, Juno, and Gett.
According to a report by the Outdoor Foundation, Americans log 598 million nights a year under the stars. At an average of $40 in expenses and fees per night, that’s $24 billion spent on campsites alone. Add in all the related costs—gear, transportation, food—and the Outdoor Industry Association figures the industry generates closer to $167 billion annually.
But former investment banker Michael D’Agostino, who grew up camping on a farm in Litchfield, Conn., still calls the industry a broken business.
The tipping point came a few summers ago, when D’Agostino found himself on vacation “directly across from a campsite of 40 people at a Wiccan convention: robes and UFO spotters and streaking and all.” It wasn’t what he’d imagined as a quiet weekend with his wife—counting stars, listening to crickets, bellies full from prime steaks grilled over a man-made fire. “We definitely took them up on some mead,” he said of the Wiccans, “but we had to keep the dog in the tent—she was going bonkers—and it was kind of like camping in Times Square.”
The experience led him to create Tentrr, a free iPhone app that takes the guesswork out of camping. It lets users find and instantly book fully private campsites in vetted, bucolic settings, all within a few hours’ drive of major cities. The sites themselves are all custom-designed by D’Agostino and follow a standardized footprint: They consist of hand-sewn canvas expedition tents from Colorado, set on an elevated deck with Adirondack chairs. You’re also guaranteed to find Brazilian wood picnic tables and sun showers strewn around the campsites, as well as portable camping toilets, fire pits, cookware, and grills. As for the sleeping arrangements? Air mattresses with featherbed toppers, not sleeping bags, are the name of the game.
Tentrr beta-launched last summer with just 50 campsites in New York state, while D’Agostino figured out how to get liability insurers on board with his slice of the sharing economy. Despite the soft opening, the app has already logged $4 million in funding and 1,500 bookings—40 percent of them by people who’d never gone camping before.
In the days leading up to Memorial Day, Tentrr will move past its beta phase with a newly expanded collection of roughly 150 campsites spread across the U.S. Northeast. By July 4 an additional 100 sites will gradually come online, not including a 50-site expansion into the Pacific Northwest. Next year, D’Agostino plans to tackle the “San Francisco-Yosemite corridor, the American Southwest, and counterclockwise around the perimeter of the U.S., all within a few hours of major metropolitan cities, until all of the country’s top-50 hubs are served.” His ultimate vision, however, is global.
Ride-sharing service Uber today raised its Pennsylvania rates 5 cents per mile, a move it said would help drivers afford new protections.
Gus Fuldner, Uber’s head of safety & insurance, said a new partnership with OneBeacon and Aon gives drivers in Pennsylvania and seven other states the option of signing up for a plan that covers medical expenses resulting from a work-related accident with no deductible or co-pay and provides disability income replacement and survivor benefits.
The other states are Arizona, Delaware, Illinois, Massachusetts, Oklahoma, South Carolina and West Virginia.
Fuldner said the coverage applies the entire time a driver is logged onto the Uber app, but the premium of 3.75 cents a mile is charged only on miles traveled while on-trip and earning money carrying passengers. The maximum payout from a single accident is $1 million.
“This product is completely optional,” he said. “But in states where driver injury protection is available, we will raise fares across the board to help remove any financial barriers that may prevent drivers from choosing this option.”
Uber offers trip cost estimates but does not list its rate structure. However, the unaffiliated site uber-fare-estimator.com puts current Lancaster rates at $1.05 a mile for uberX and $1.80 a mile for uberXL. Base fares, booking fees and minimum charges also apply.
The Justice Department has launched a criminal investigation into Uber‘s use of a secret software that was used to evade authorities in places where its ride-hailing service was banned or restricted, according to a person familiar with the government’s probe.
The investigation, in its early stages, deepens the crisis for the embattled company and its chief executive and founder, Travis Kalanick, who has faced a barrage of negative press this year in the wake of high-profile sexual harassment complaints, a slew of executive departures and a consequential trade-secrets lawsuit from Google’s parent company.
The federal criminal probe, first reported by Reuters, focuses on software developed by Uber called “Greyball.” The program helped the company evade officials in cities where Uber was not yet approved. The software identified and blocked rides to transportation regulators who were posing as Uber customers in an effort to prove that the company was operating illegally.
Uber declined to comment on the criminal investigation. The Justice Department declined to comment, citing its practice of not confirming or denying possible investigations.
In a letter last week to Portland, Ore., authorities, who had requested information about the program as part of a civil probe, Uber said greyballing refers to the practice of showing some customers a different version of the app than most customers see. Uber’s attorneys said that the program was used “exceedingly sparingly” in Portland and that the company had not used it since April 2015, when Portland adopted preliminary rules allowing Uber to operate.
San Francisco-based Uber, valued privately by investors at close to $70 billion, has a reputation among Silicon Valley companies for a hard-charging workplace culture driven by Kalanick. The 40-year-old is known as a quick-tempered and combative manager who aims to win at all costs and inspires fierce loyalty in his inner circle.
Believe it or not, business is booming at McDonald’s.
The fast-food chain is currently riding a wave of success founded on several prosperous initiatives, including all-day breakfast, aggressive soft-drink promotions, and a makeover of its iconic Big Mac.
This killer combination (possible pun intended) has led to exceptionally strong first-quarter sales, shooting the stock up to an all-time high.
But none of these strategies can compare with McDonald’s’ next move.
As reported yesterday by Crain’s Chicago Business, which broke the story on its website:
McDonald’s plans to expand its relationship with Uber Technologies as it seeks to offer delivery of its food to customers in more U.S. cities.
The Oak Brook-based burger chain, which has been testing delivery through the UberEats mobile app in about 200 restaurants in Florida since December, said today it will launch delivery in several cities by the end of June.
“We’re encouraged about the start we’ve had,” CEO Steve Easterbrook said on a conference call with analysts and investors. “We are not in test mode, we are expanding.”
This announcement is huge, for several different reasons.
Why This Is So Huge
I know what you’re thinking:
Who in the world wants McDonald’s food delivered? It’s not even that great when it’s fresh.
But you’re underestimating the customer base of the fast-food king. Sure, there are a lot of McDonald’s haters out there, but there are also a lot of fans. This isn’t one of the most ubiquitous restaurants across the globe for nothing.
And it’s exactly that saturation that gives McDonald’s such a major advantage when it comes to delivery.
“One of our greatest competitive advantages is that we’re closer to more customers than any other restaurant company in the world, with nearly 75% of the population in our five largest markets living within three miles of a McDonald’s,” Easterbrook pointed out in a recent letter to shareholders.
“On top of that, we have 20+ years of delivery experience in Asia and the Middle East,” he continued. “We’re working aggressively to identify the right operating models for bringing delivery to more customers–whether we control all aspects of the delivery process from end to end or partner with third parties for ordering and fulfilment. We have a number of pilots underway and plan to scale quickly based on results.”
In addition, remember that most McDonald’s food is already consumed outside its stores.
“Some 70 percent of McDonald’s U.S. business goes through the drive-thru, and in urban areas, far more consumers take its food to-go versus eating inside,” reported Crain’s.
Despite a rough start, Easterbrook really seems to be hitting his stride as McDonald’s’ chief executive. His vision moving forward is remarkably clear, and no one can deny the results he’s achieved in a very short amount of time.
And with a variety of stock-option awards and performance-based bonuses, he’s certainly motivated: In 2016, his compensation almost doubled.
In the process, Easterbrook has us calling McDonald’s a word we haven’t associated with the brand for a very long time:
Before Uber can get its network of flying electric taxis off the ground, it will need the right infrastructure, including special chargers to keep the batteries full of energy.
So the ride-hailing service is partnering with startup ChargePoint to develop chargers that will fit any vertical take-off and landing aircraft, a.k.a. “flying cars,” the companies announced Tuesday at the Elevate Summit, a three-day conference in Dallas focused on this futuristic form of transportation.
Uber first announced its flying car plans in October when it released a white paper describing its vision of the future. The Uber Elevate program aims to build a network of small, electric aircraft that take off and land vertically. These vehicles, called VTOL (pronounced vee-tol), would theoretically help passengers leapfrog snarling traffic and speed up transportation between suburbs and cities. Ultimately, the program would target transportation within cities as well.
ChargePoint, which has built out an extensive network of public charging stations as well as a mobile app, will design, develop, and manufacture flying-car chargers at designated Uber Elevate Vertiports, which will serve as hubs for taking off, landing, and charging.
The ability to rapidly charge a battery on a VTOL is essential to Uber’s vision, according to Nikhil Goel, the company’s head of product for advanced programs.
The first stations are expected to be in place by 2020, but ChargePoint doesn’t have an estimate on how many will be installed by then. The company will base the vertiport chargers off its existing Express Plus system—ultra-fast DC chargers designed for electric cars, buses, and trucks—and they will incorporate modular design and liquid cooling technology that was developed to allow for thin, flexible charging cables.
The VTOLs will require about 300 kilowatts more energy than electric cars, so ChargePoint says it will need to develop new cooling technology to keep the battery and cords at an optimal temperature during ultra-fast charging. ChargePoint hasn’t determined what this infrastructure will cost. A spokesman said it will vary based on vertiport details and design.
“At ChargePoint, we are committed to getting everyone behind the wheel of an EV and keeping all types of EVs charged, no matter whether they roll, fly or float,” ChargePoint President and CEO Pasquale Romano said in a statement. “Partnering with Uber Elevate will take both transportation and charging to a new level.”
Under Uber’s vision first revealed last year, passengers would board a VTOL at fixed, designated spots like repurposed tops of parking garages, existing helipads, or unused land surrounding highway interchanges. The VTOL would lift vertically like a helicopter to a cruising altitude of a few thousand feet and then fly forward like a plane. Upon reaching its destination, the VTOL would descend vertically to a designated drop-off/pick-up point.
Uber has hired engineer Mark Moore, a 30-year veteran of NASA and the former chief technologist for on-demand mobility at Langley Research Center, to develop the technology.
Healthcare startup Cera is teaming up with Uber to deliver patient care on the NHS’ behalf. The service, launched in November, matches “hundreds” of carers in the UK with the people who need them most. Today, the company is announcing a partnership with the Barts Health NHS Trust — which runs Mile End Hospital, Newham University Hospital and others — so that doctors can effectively prescribe the platform and help their patients receive timely care at home. The hope is that such a service will improve patient care while freeing up hospital beds in London.
Cera has inked similar deals with three clinical commissioning groups (CCGs) in north-west London: Harrow, Brent and Hillingdon. To meet the needs of each community, Cera will be relying on Uber and its fleet of app-hailed drivers. They will help not only carers to make their usual house visits, but also patients as they attend hospital appointments. Cera says its services will also help people to get out of the house and remain independent. They can hail an UberAssist, which will help with walkers and scooters, or an UberWAV, which is fully wheelchair accessible.
To be clear, Uber doesn’t have a direct relationship with the NHS. It’s working with Cera, who holds the contract with the UK health service. “We do not have any contracts with Uber to provide non-emergency patient transport,” a spokesperson for the Barts Health NHS Trust emphasised. “When patients need assistance getting to and from our hospitals we provide ambulances and medi-cars, driven by trained experts.”
Uber has long positioned itself as an infrastructure company. We’ve seen hints of that vision before with services such as UberEats, which delivers restaurant food on demand. The new partnership with Cera, however, shows its potential as a larger transportation business. It can’t do everything — don’t expect Uber ambulances any time soon — but it could help other companies to shuffle their goods and staff around the country. The good publicity is timely too: the last seven days have been horrific for Uber, following CEO Travis Kalanick’s driver outburst, the company’s High Court defeat in London, and the reveal of a secretive tool called ‘Greyball’, which Uber reportedly uses to deceive authorities around the world.
A series of bills introduced in at least four U.S. states — Georgia, Maryland, Illinois and Tennessee — would restrict the deployment of autonomous car technology on public roads to automakers — that is, companies that make cars.
As written, the bills — modeled after the SAVE Act, Michigan’s pioneering self-driving car regulations— would only allow a network of self-driving cars to operate on public roads if the cars are owned by an automaker.
The draft bill being considered in Tennessee, for instance, says: “Only motor vehicle manufacturers are eligible to participate in a SAVE project, and each motor vehicle manufacturer is responsible for the safe operation of its participating fleet.”
This suggests companies like Uber or Alphabet — which owns Waymo, previously known as the Google car project — may not be able to roll out their own self-driving cars in these states. Both companies are developing self-driving car technology, but neither manufactures vehicles.
These bills mirror what was originally proposed in Michigan — home to the U.S. auto industry — where there are now comprehensive laws on the testing and deployment of self-driving cars. But when later passed, the Michigan law included new language that allows companies like Uber and Google to launch ride-hail networks of autonomous cars, as long as they either work with an automaker or get their prototype approved by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration.
So far, the bills being proposed in these four states don’t include that language.
Uber Technologies Inc. was in critics’ crosshairs while Lyft Inc. was winning support after the companies’ very different responses to President Donald Trump’s immigration order.
The backlash came as New York taxi drivers went on strike Saturday and joined a protest at New York’s John F. Kennedy International Airport against Trump’s order blocking entry to the U.S. by immigrants from select largely Muslim countries, while a tweet from Uber indicated the company had suspended surge pricing, causing some to view the company as seeking to undermine the strike.
Lyft largely stayed out of Saturday’s confrontation but sent an email to users Sunday saying that the company would be donating $1 million over the next four years to the American Civil Liberties Union.
President Trump signed an executive order Friday that banned the entry of immigrants and refugees from seven Muslim-majority countries for 90 days and bars Syrian refugees indefinitely. A federal judge stayed the order Saturday, which temporarily stopped the deportation of refugees and other immigrants detained at U.S. airports.
The New York Taxi Workers Alliance, with a membership of 19,000 people, had called on all drivers, including those with Uber and Lyft, not to pick up passengers from JFK and to instead join the protest. The group said its membership is largely Muslim and made up of immigrants, and that it was “in defense of the oppressed,” as well as its own drivers, that it was speaking out against the ban. During that time, Uber issued a tweet promoting its service.
“We’re sorry for any confusion about our earlier tweet—it was not meant to break up any strike. We wanted people to know they could use Uber to get to and from JFK at normal prices, especially tonight,” an Uber spokesperson said in a statement to MarketWatch.
Still, consumers were not pleased, and many turned toward Lyft, which had issued a statement against the ban as well as promising the donation.
“We stand firmly against these actions, and will not be silent on issues that threaten the values of our community,” John Zimmer and Logan Green, Lyft’s co-founders, wrote in the email.
Lyft and Uber are rivals in the ride-hailing space, but Uber has a higher valuation, at $68 billion, and more funding, compared with Lyft, which has a valuation of $5.5 billion, according to the Wall Street Journal.
In a blog post on Saturday, Uber CEO Travis Kalanick said his company was reaching out to drivers who would be affected and that he would bring up the policy’s implications on “innocent” people when he meets with Trump during the next White House business advisory group gathering. Kalanick is a member of a that group along with Elon Musk, chief executive of Tesla, and Ginni Rometty, CEO of IBM, among others.
Uber said it has begun reaching out to drivers affected by the ban, including drivers who are residents but not citizens and are currently outside the country. The company said it would work to “compensate them pro bono” for the missed wages with Uber.
Kalanick’s decision to join the White House council was recently met with protests at the Uber headquarters in San Francisco, according to several news outlets. Musk’s participation was also criticized. Kalanick explained in the blog post that he chose to be part of the council because he believes the company can be more effective by partnering with and speaking up to governments.
“Whatever your view please know that I’ve always believed in principled confrontation and just change; and have never shied away (maybe to my detriment) from fighting for what’s right,” Kalanick wrote.