Tag Archives: uber

Thanks to a dashcam, crafty Uber drivers are boosting their pay

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.

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“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.

Source:

https://www.theverge.com/2017/7/19/16000272/lvl5-self-driving-car-tesla-map-lidar

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Uber Fires 20 Amid Investigation Into Workplace Culture

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.

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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.

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Lyft drivers call for investigation into alleged ‘wage theft’

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.

Source:

https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/tripping/wp/2017/05/31/lyft-drivers-call-for-investigation-into-alleged-wage-theft/?utm_term=.da3a80767275

Drivers For Ride-Hailing App Juno Claim Company Misled Them With Promises Of Stock

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.

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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.

Source:

Drivers For Ride-Hailing App Juno Claim Company Misled Them With Promises Of Stock

This New App Wants to Be the Uber of Camping

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.”

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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.

Source:

https://www.bloomberg.com/news/articles/2017-05-17/instantly-book-luxury-campsites-with-tentrr-the-uber-of-camping

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Uber raises PA rates 5 cents per mile to help drivers afford new protections

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.

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Uber faces criminal probe over the secret ‘Greyball’ tool it used to stymie regulators

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.

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Source:

http://www.latimes.com/business/technology/la-fi-tn-uber-greyball-20170505-story.html

McDonald’s and Uber Just Made a Huge Announcement, and It’s Going to Be a Game-Changer

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:

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Source:

https://www.inc.com/justin-bariso/mcdonalds-just-made-a-huge-announcement-and-its-going-to-be-a-game-changer.html

Startup ChargePoint Will Provide the Juice for Uber’s Electric Flying Cars

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.

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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.

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Source:

https://fortune.com/2017/04/25/uber-flying-cars-chargepoint/