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.