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  1. Lyft implemented a similar measure months ago. Uber drivers in NYC may find themselves unable to access the app during lull periods. According to Reuters, the ridesharing giant will start locking drivers out of its app at times and in areas with low demand to comply with the city's new regulations. The new rules put a cap on the number of newly licensed app-based ride-hailing vehicles on the road and establish a minimum pay for rideshare drivers. Reuters says Lyft began locking drivers out of its app in June in response to the new regulations, which also caused both companies to stop accepting new drivers in the city. As you can imagine, both Uber and Lyft oppose the new rules and even sued the city in an effort to reverse the cap. "Time and again we've seen Mayor (Bill) de Blasio's TLC (Taxi and Limousine Commission) pass arbitrary and politically-driven rules that have unintended consequences for drivers and riders," Uber said in a statement. Uber also argues that there's no evidence that the rules would ease traffic congestion in Manhattan like local authorities claim. The New York Taxi Workers Alliance, however, says the company is merely "spreading fear and disinformation to New York drivers" to convince them that the regulations protecting their livelihoods are to blame for [its] greedy policies." In addition to putting a cap on new rideshare vehicles and establishing a minimum wage, the new regulations also limit the amount of time drivers can "cruise," or drive around to look for passengers. Starting in February, companies will have to reduce their drivers' cruise rates by 5 percent and then by 10 percent. At the moment, rideshare drivers apparently cruise the city 41 percent of the time. Source
  2. California passes bill that threatens Uber and Lyft’s business model Governor Gavin Newsom is expected to sign the overhaul of California labor law. Enlarge / California Governor Gavin Newsom. Ray Chavez/The Mercury News via Getty Images Both houses of California's legislature have passed sweeping legislation requiring businesses to treat more of their workers as employees rather than independent contractors. As a result, more workers will enjoy protections like the minimum wage and benefits such as unemployment insurance. The bill is now on its way to Governor Gavin Newsom, who is expected to sign it. The law will apply across the California economy, but it could have particularly stark consequences for Uber and Lyft—both of which are based in the Golden State. The companies currently treat their drivers as independent contractors, and their entire business model is built around that assumption. In the hours after the legislation cleared the California legislature, Uber and Lyft both blasted the law and vowed to seek changes. "California is missing a real opportunity to lead the nation by improving the quality, security and dignity of independent work," Uber's Tony West said. In an emailed statement, Lyft argued that the "overwhelming majority of rideshare drivers" want "a thoughtful solution that balances flexibility with an earnings standard and benefits"—a standard Lyft argues that the new legislation doesn't meet. Uber and Lyft are still hoping that Governor Newsom will push through follow-up legislation specifically for "gig economy" workers. If that doesn't happen, Uber, Lyft, and Doordash have also vowed to spend $30 million backing a ballot initiative to overturn the law. But if those efforts fail, then "gig economy" companies could be forced to rethink their business models. And the results may not be entirely positive for Uber and Lyft drivers. More workers will be employees in California Enlarge terra24 / Getty Labor law draws a basic distinction between employees and independent contractors. If you're an employee, you have a boss who sets your schedule, tells you what kind of work to do, and pays you at least minimum wage. Independent contractors, on the other hand, are people who—at least theoretically—run their own, separate businesses. Think about a plumber you hire once to fix a leaky pipe, for example. In recent years, employers have pushed the legal envelope, trying to classify as many workers as possible as independent contractors. Worker rights advocates have objected, arguing that these workers were being wrongfully denied protections they were entitled to under labor law. One of those conflicts reached the California Supreme Court last year. A same-day delivery company called Dynamex once treated its drivers as employees, but it re-classified them as independent contractors in 2004. Some of those drivers sued, arguing that they should still be considered employees under California law. Last year the California Supreme Court sided with the drivers, and in the process it established new, broader criteria for determining who was an employee. Under the test, a worker must be treated as an employee unless three conditions are met: (a) The worker is free from control and direction over performance of the work; (b) the work provided is outside the usual course of the business for which the work is performed; and (c) the worker is customarily engaged in an independently established trade, occupation, or business This simpler test means that a lot more workers will be classified as employees. But critics worried it could go too far, upending the businesses of professionals who have long operated as independent contractors. So the California legislature passed legislation to ratify the Dynamex ruling while also limiting its scope. It carves out a number of exemptions—largely for high-earning professionals like lawyers, architects, engineers and accountants. People in these skilled occupations often operate their own independent firms and have significant bargaining power. Under the new law, photographers, writers, and cartoonists can more easily be independent contractors if they sell fewer than 35 pieces to a single client in a year. If they sell more than that then they're likely to be classified as employees. Uber, Lyft, Doordash, and other "gig economy" companies lobbied hard for a similar exemption covering their workers, but they came up short. So Uber and Lyft drivers—as well as delivery drivers for other on-demand services—may soon be legally considered employees of these companies. Uber disputes that. In a Wednesday conference call, Uber chief legal officer Tony West argued that driving a car is "outside the usual course" of Uber's business. "Several previous rulings have found that drivers’ work is outside the usual course of Uber’s business, which is serving as a technology platform for several different types of digital marketplaces," West said. For example, a Vermont official accepted that reasoning in a 2017 ruling using a legal standard similar to the one that now applies in California. But it's widely expected that courts in California won't see the issue the same way. The new law could mean changes for Uber and Lyft drivers Enlarge / An Uber car. nycshooter / Getty A big reason Uber and Lyft have been opposing this bill so ferociously is that their current business model doesn't fit well into conventional labor law categories. Conventional labor law assumes that a worker goes to a job, clocks in, works, for a few hours, and then clocks out. In this model, the employer decides what work the worker should do; in exchange the worker is guaranteed to make at least minimum wage. Employers set worker schedules; to protect them, California law guarantees workers overtime pay and mandatory breaks. By contrast, Uber and Lyft drivers have complete control over where and when they work. In this model, it's not clear that mandatory overtime pay helps workers, since workers never face pressure from the platforms to work longer hours. If platforms are forced to pay time-and-a-half for overtime hours, they may just ban drivers from working overtime. A minimum wage guarantee is likely to trigger significant changes to the ride-sharing model. It's helpful here to look at New York City, where a $17.22 minimum wage for ride-hail drivers went into effect earlier this year. To make a profit, Lyft needs to make sure drivers bring in at least $17.22 per hour in fares. To accomplish this, Lyft has imposed a new policy that (in the words of Harry Campbell) "prevents drivers from logging on to the company’s app during periods of low demand." Under the new rules, Lyft drivers in New York "have to wait until ride requests pick up, or drive to a busier neighborhood." Whether these changes ultimately benefit drivers is an open question. Probably it will benefit some drivers and harm others. Full-time drivers may not be affected very much, as Lyft exempts its most active drivers from these restrictions. On the other hand, the changes may be bad for part-time drivers who care more about flexible schedules than maximizing earnings. We can expect similar changes in California if the new legislation ultimately causes drivers to be classified as employees. Companies will likely restrict how many people drive for them and where and when they can work. Workers who are able to get work may enjoy higher earnings, but they'll lose a bit of autonomy over their schedules. Meanwhile, with fewer drivers on the road, customers may see higher fares and longer wait times. But the full implications won't be clear until the new rules make their way through the courts. Uber and Lyft aren't going to give up their current business model without a fight. Source: California passes bill that threatens Uber and Lyft’s business model (Ars Technica)
  3. Uber lays off another 435 people to stem big losses New layoffs come on top of 400 marketing workers let go in July. Enlarge / An Uber car. nycshooter / Getty Uber has laid off 435 people in engineering and product roles in the company's latest effort to stem growing losses. Uber laid off around 400 people in its marketing department in July. "Previously, to meet the demands of a hyper-growth startup, we hired rapidly and in a decentralized way," Uber said in an email to employees. "While this worked for Uber in the past, now that we have over 27,000 full-time employees in cities around the world, we need to shift how we design our organizations." Uber says that the layoffs represent about 8% of the engineering and product workforce. The two rounds of layoffs, put together, amount to about 3% of the company's workforce. Techcrunch reports that 85% of the layoffs were in the United States. At the same time, Uber is lifting the hiring freeze that was established last month. The cuts were necessary because Uber continues to lose money at an astonishing rate. Uber reported a $5 billion loss in the second quarter of 2019. That figure exaggerates the scale of Uber's burn rate because the bulk of it reflects one-time expenses connected to the Uber IPO. But even if you ignore those expenses, Uber is still burning cash at a rate of more than $1 billion per quarter. Luckily, Uber still has plenty of cash in the bank. The company added $8 billion to its cash pile in its May IPO and as a result had $13.7 billion in the bank at the end of the second quarter. Source: Uber lays off another 435 people to stem big losses (Ars Technica)
  4. Uber and Lyft prepare $60 million fight against worker classification bill Apparently they can't afford to pay their workers more, but they can afford a legislative fight. ASSOCIATED PRESS The fight over whether rideshare drivers should be classified as employees and therefore be eligible for benefits continues. The latest battleground is California, where a worker classification bill is currently being debated by lawmakers. Uber and Lyft say that classifying their drivers as employees and not independent contractors would endanger their businesses, and have threatened to spend a combined $60 million on a ballot measure to exempt them from the bill. The companies know that a drawn out ballot fight will cause headaches and financial strain for the legislators, and they say they won't push the ballot measure if they can come to an agreement with the governor and unions. This is just their latest tactic against the legislation as previously, the companies were found to have paid drivers to demonstrate against the bill. Lorena Gonzalez, California's 80th District Assemblywoman who sponsored the bill, suggested the companies were being hypocritical by threatening to spend so much money fighting against workers' rights. Billionaires who say they can't pay minimum wages to their workers say they will spend tens of millions to avoid labor laws. Just pay your damn workers! https://t.co/PtyP4JZ7W0 — Lorena (@LorenaSGonzalez) August 29, 2019 The bill has already passed through the California Assembly. The next step is for a Senate committee to vote on the legislation this week. Source: Uber and Lyft prepare $60 million fight against worker classification bill
  5. The company raked in an estimated $500 million from the bogus surcharge Uber imposed a $1-per-ride surcharge it called a “Safe Rides Fee” in 2014, but it was a just a play for profit. The money collected by the company from the fee — estimated at around $500 million — was never earmarked specifically for safety and was “devised primarily to add $1 of pure margin to each trip,” according to an excerpt from New York Times reporter Mike Isaac’s new book Super Pumped: The Battle for Uber. At the time, Uber was facing rising costs from insurance and background checks, so the company came up with the idea of imposing a safety fee to help boost its margins. Meanwhile, its actual safety program consisted of little more than a short video course for drivers. It wasn’t until years later that Uber began adding safety features to its app, such as an emergency button to call 911. Safe ride fees varied from market to market, but they generally amounted to a buck and some change. In San Francisco, riders were charged $1.35 per trip. Philadelphians paid $1.25, while riders in Los Angeles paid $1.65. Uber said the fee was meant to pay for operational costs associated with safety, such as marketing, driver screening, incident response, and technology upgrades. The company claimed it needed to charge riders a separate fee to prevent it from being affected by surge pricing. But according to Isaac’s book, that was all hokum. “We boosted our margins saying our rides were safer,” one former employee told him. “It was obscene.” (A spokesperson for Uber did not immediately respond to a request for comment.) Riders quickly caught on. In 2016, two class action lawsuits were filed against Uber alleging the ride-hail company improperly marketed its safety record to passengers. The suits were eventually settled for $28.5 million — a fraction of the amount that The New York Times estimates Uber was able to rake in. As part of the settlement, Uber agreed to avoid using certain language when marketing itself, such as “safest ride on the road” and “gold standard in safety.” It also was required to change the name of the surcharge from “safe ride fee” to “booking fee.” That fee remains on every passenger’s bill today. Source
  6. Uber’s no-good, terrible-rotten bad Q2 loses more than $5 billion Trips were up 35%, revenue was up 14%, and that just makes it worse. Enlarge / Headquarters of ride-sharing technology company Uber in the South of Market (SoMa) neighborhood of San Francisco on October 13, 2017. Smith Collection/Gado/Getty Images Uber lost more than $5 billion dollars in the second quarter of the year. This is the latest in a long series of bad quarters for the ride-hailing company, which also lost over a billion dollars during the first three months of this year. That brings 2019's losses to over $6.2 billion, for those keeping score. Despite losing so much money between April and June, Uber's investor report is upbeat about an increase in bookings (up 31%), active users (up 30%), trips (up 35%), and revenue (up 14%). These figures do make one wonder if an uptick in business will just exacerbate the bleeding, however. There's yet to be any real evidence that Uber's business model will ever do anything other than burn investors' money to make traffic worse. Uber says that its cash and cash equivalents for Q2 were a healthy $13.7 billion, $8 billion of which came from its IPO in May. Source: Uber’s no-good, terrible-rotten bad Q2 loses more than $5 billion (Ars Technica)
  7. Uber is laying off about one third of its 1,200-person strong marketing department in an effort to slash costs and make operations more efficient following its public debut and first quarter losses of $1 billion. The layoffs were first reported by The New York Times. About 400 people in Uber’s marketing department were laid off across its 75 offices globally, according to the company. Uber’s latest public global headcount was 24,494 global employees as of March 31, 2019. Jill Hazelbaker, who leads marketing and public affairs at Uber, and CEO Dara Khosrowshahi told employees Monday that the marketing team would have a more centralized structure, according to an internal email viewed by TechCrunch. The reorganized marketing team will be under the leadership of Mike Strickman, vice president of performance marketing, who joined from TripAdvisor a month ago, and another soon-to-be-hired head of global marketing. Strickman will oversee performance marketing, CRM and analytics, while the global marketing executive will manage the heads of product marketing, brand, Eats, B2B, research, planning and creative. The layoffs are the latest cost-driven changes to occur at the company since it went public in May. Many of Uber’s teams are “too big, which creates overlapping work, makes for unclear decision owners, and can lead to mediocre results,” Khosrowshahi said in an email sent to employees and shared with TechCrunch. “As a company, we can do more to keep the bar high, and expect more of ourselves and each other.” Khosrowshahi said the restructuring aims to put the marketing team, and the company, back on track. “Today, there’s a general sense that while we’ve grown fast, we’ve slowed down. You can see it in Pulse Survey feedback and All Hands questions, and you can feel it in much of our day-to-day work. This happens naturally as companies get bigger, but it is something we need to address, and quickly,” he wrote. Uber’s first quarterly earnings report as a publicly traded company gave a snapshot of a growing business with stunning operational losses. Uber’s revenue grew 20%, to $3.1 billion, compared to $2.5 billion in the same period last year. And its gross bookings rose 34%, to $14.6 billion, in the first quarter, with Uber Eats driving much of that growth. But its loss from operations exploded 116%, to $1 billion, in the first quarter compared to the same year-ago period. In June, chief operating officer Barney Harford and chief marketing officer Rebecca Messina stepped down as part of an organizational shakeup put into motion just a month after the ride-hailing company went public. At the time, Khosrowshahi explained in an email to employees that the changes were prompted by his decision to more directly control core parts of the business. Khosrowshahi told employees that he wants to be even more involved in the day-to-day operations of its biggest businesses, the core platform of Rides and Eats, and has decided they should report directly to him. Source
  8. DUBAI (Reuters) - Uber and Middle East ride-hailing business Careem will remain separate entities until at least the first quarter of 2020, when Uber’s acquisition is expected to close, Careem’s CFO said on Tuesday. FILE PHOTO: An employee shows the logo of ride-hailing company Careem on his mobile in his office in the West Bank city of Ramallah The $3.1 billion dollar acquisition will make Careem a wholly owned subsidiary of Uber, but the Careem brand and app will remain intact, at least initially. Maintaining two separate brands in the same market is better for competition, Ankur Shah said at a financial conference in Dubai. Source
  9. Uber reports $1 billion loss in first post-IPO quarterly results Uber has lost money almost every quarter since its founding. Enlarge / Uber CEO Dara Khosrowshahi. George Grinsted Uber lost slightly more than $1 billion in the first three months of 2019, the company announced on Thursday. It's Uber's first quarterly earnings release since the company went public earlier this month. Uber's loss wasn't a surprise—indeed, it was right in line with expectations. Wall Street shrugged off the news, with the stock rising around one percent in the hours after the results were announced. Uber's stock price is now slightly below Thursday's closing price at $39.60. Uber has lost money almost every quarter since its founding a decade ago. Uber lost $4.46 billion in calendar year 2017 on a GAAP basis. Uber suffered a relatively modest $370 million GAAP loss in 2018, largely thanks to a one-time boost from a multi-billion dollar deal with Yandex. Uber's revenue last quarter was $3.1 billion, up 20 percent from the first quarter of 2018. That primarily reflects rapid growth of Uber Eats, which has been growing much more quickly than Uber's core taxi service. Uber raised $8.1 billion in its initial public offering earlier this year, so the company can sustain losses like this for several more quarters at least. But investors are presumably expecting to earn a positive return on their investments at some point—and the path to profitability isn't obvious. One possibility is that the arrival of self-driving cars will dramatically lower Uber's cost of doing business. However, the technology seems several years away—at least—from widespread availability. And Uber's own self-driving project has struggled in the last year. Another possibility is that Uber and Lyft (and Uber's other rivals overseas) will simply get tired of fighting an intractable price war and raise their prices to more sustainable levels. The problem with that is a more expensive service might attract fewer paying customers. And a shrinking customer base might call into question Uber's $66 billion market capitalization. Source: Uber reports $1 billion loss in first post-IPO quarterly results (Ars Technica)
  10. Uber's stock has fallen 17 percent since Friday morning. Enlarge / Uber CEO Dara Khosrowshahi. Michele Tantussi/Getty Images Uber's stock fell 7.6 percent on Friday, its first day as a publicly traded firm. The bloodbath continued on Monday, with Uber's stock price falling by an additional 10.7 percent. It's a sobering moment for the ride-hailing company. As recently as last October, some Wall Street banks were estimating that the company could be valued as high as $120 billion. At Monday's closing price of $37.10, Uber is worth barely half that, at $62 billion. (The company is worth around $68 billion on a "fully diluted" basis, which counts stock options and other assets that could eventually be converted into shares.) Monday wasn't a good day for the broader stock market either, but the Standard & Poor's 500 fell a comparatively modest 2.4 percent. Uber's top American competitor, Lyft, fell 5.7 percent, valuing the company as a whole at $13.8 billion. The company's stock has lost a third of its value since its March IPO. Uber has never made an annual profit, and in recent quarters, the company has been losing more than $1 billion per quarter. The company has justified those losses by pointing to its rapid growth. Some of those losses have reflected efforts to expand into new markets as well as aggressive research and development spending. Until recently, investors seemed to be happy to continue covering Uber's losses in hopes of owning what they hoped would be a hugely profitable technology company. Indeed, Uber raised $8.1 billion in extra cash in its initial public offering—a sum that will last the company about two years at its current burn rate. But Wall Street's patience won't last forever. Uber CEO Dara Khosrowshahi is going to face growing pressure to make good on Uber's long-promised path to profitability. Lyft is in a similar predicament. It's a significantly smaller company, so its market capitalization, losses, and cash cushion are all proportionately smaller. But like Uber, Lyft has seen mounting losses along with rapidly expanding revenue. And before too long, the company needs to demonstrate that it can turn a profit. Source: Uber’s stock plunges for a second straight day (Ars Technica)
  11. Uber is worth $76 billion—far below previous estimates as high as $120 billion. Enlarge / Uber CEO Dara Khosrowshahi. Michael Nagle/Bloomberg via Getty Images Uber's long-anticipated debut on public stock markets failed to live up to expectations on Friday, with the company's stock falling 7.6 percent during its first day of trading. As the closing bell rang, Uber's stock was worth $41.57, valuing the entire firm at $76 billion. Uber has suffered from steadily diminishing expectations in recent months. When Uber solicited proposals from banks to handle the massive stock offering, some banks reportedly estimated that the company could be worth as much as $120 billion. By the time Uber's shares actually went on sale, the company was seeking a more modest $82 billion. Now the company isn't worth even that much. Still, Uber raised $8.1 billion in the initial public offering, replenishing the company's warchest. That's important because Uber has yet to turn a profit. In fact, Uber reportedly lost more than $1 billion in each of the last three quarters. Uber's new valuation makes Travis Kalanick, Uber's founder and former CEO, worth $4.9 billion. At least two other Uber insiders, Garrett Camp and Ryan Graves, have become billionaires from their Uber holdings. Uber's $76 billion valuation also provides something of a vindication for those who invested in Uber during previous years. A lot of observers scoffed when investors valued Uber at $17 billion during a 2014 fundraising round. They scoffed even more when the company was valued at $62.5 billion in 2015. Yet despite a series of setbacks over the last three years—and despite a steady string of money-losing quarters—Wall Street now believes the company is worth around $76 billion. Perennial price war Uber's IPO comes weeks after its leading US rival, Lyft, debuted its stock in late March. On paper, Lyft lost $1.1 billion in the first quarter of 2019—though the company says that mostly reflects a one-time cost from employees cashing in their stock options. Ignoring those and other one-time losses, Lyft says it lost $211 million in the first quarter of 2019. That's still a lot of red ink for a company whose revenues are a lot smaller than Uber's. Lyft's shares have been battered since the company debuted on public markets in late March. The company was valued at more than $22 billion on its first day of trading. But the stock has since fallen 34 percent to $14 billion. That includes a 7% decline on Friday, as the poor performance of Uber's stock seems to have spooked Lyft shareholders. The two companies keep losing money because they're locked in a bitter, years-long price war. Each company has been under-charging for rides in an effort to gain market share from its rival. Yet with both companies slashing prices, the result has been a lot of red ink but little change in relative market position. Uber remains a much bigger company, but Lyft controls a significant share of the market in the cities where it operates. Presumably at some point growth will level off, investors will get tired of red ink, and the companies will have to charge more money for their services. Investors hope that at this point, they'll settle into a comfortable—and highly profitable—duopoly. But given the rapid pace of technological change—including the expected introduction of self-driving cars over the next decade—that seems like a fairly risky bet. Source: Uber suffers disappointing stock market debut (Ars Technica)
  12. The Uber Tax? Stock-Based Compensation Faces New Local Levy Proposed initiative hits as IPOs coming from Uber, Airbnb, Slack Majority of supervisors backing initiative with tax retroactive to May 7 San Francisco voters could get a shot at taxing stock-based compensation as the city prepares for initial public offerings to bring in billions to hometown companies like Uber, Airbnb, and Slack. The proposed initiative, introduced May 9, has six co-sponsors, meaning a majority of the 11-member Board of Supervisors backs it. The announcement comes the day before the trading debut of Uber Technologies Inc. Uber said it has raised $8.1 billion in its IPO, giving the company a market value of $75.5 billion. The initiative would place an additional 1.12% payroll expense tax on the current 0.38% of taxable expense on stock-based compensation, retroactive to May 7. Stock-based compensation means any compensation involving equity interests—including stock, stock options, restricted stock, stock acquired as a result of employee stock purchase plans, stock appreciation rights, and phantom stock. The initiative would effectively ensure any subsequent companies expected to file for IPOs couldn’t escape the tax unless they leave the city. Tax revenue would be deposited in a “shared prosperity fund” dedicated to affordable housing, programs for families, education, and youth, support for the low- and moderate-income workforce, and small business stabilization. An advisory oversight committee would be established to monitor and make recommendations to ensure that the fund is administered in a manner accountable to the community, the initiative said. “With the restoration of the IPO Tax, we will invest hundreds of millions of dollars in critical services for the most vulnerable, in small businesses, in affordable housing, and in workers across the City,” sponsor Supervisor Gordon Mar said in formally announcing the filing of the initiative. Stock-based compensation for employees of San Francisco-based companies going public this year is estimated to be between $4 million and $11.5 million, the San Francisco Controller’s Office said in an April presentation to supervisors. Potential candidates for IPO include home-sharing platform Airbnb Inc., workplace messaging software maker Slack Technologies Inc., cybersecurity firm Cloudflare Inc., and delivery service Postmates Inc. Lyft Inc. and Pinterest Inc. became public companies this spring, the controller said. “San Francisco can no longer afford to give these corporations a tax cut,” said co-sponsor Supervisor Sandra Lee Fewer. “If they consider themselves to be a part of the fabric of San Francisco, they must pay their fair share.” The tax applies to all stock-based compensation extending far beyond the tech industry,said Juliana Bunim, San Francisco Chamber of Commerce spokeswoman. “We are shocked and disappointed that this tax proposal is radically more expansive that what Supervisor Mar claimed it was for weeks. Fifteen years ago companies were leaving San Francisco because they were told to pay a 1.5% payroll tax on stock options. Voters overwhelmingly voted to get rid of the payroll tax and replace it with the gross receipts in 2012. If you want to drive San Francisco companies out of the city when they go public, you only have to look at the history of stock based payroll tax to see that it’s an ineffective solution,” Bunim said. Two Thirds Versus Majority Fight The initiative also comes as the issue of how many votes an initiative needs to pass is hotly contested and litigated. The two-thirds majority vote requirements for special taxes, those that go to specified purposes rather than into a general fund, were established by Propositions 13, 218, and 26. But San Francisco used a California Supreme Court decision for a City Attorney opinion that concluded “it seems very likely that voters may now propose special taxes by initiative subject only to majority vote.” San Francisco was the only city in California to tax payroll until voters in 2012 approved phasing out the 1.5% payroll tax for a gross receipts tax. A small persistent gap between what the city would have reaped from payroll tax receipts, now 0.38% of taxable expense, and what it is getting from gross receipts has San Francisco economic watchers warning that the city might have to go back to voters for a fix for true revenue neutrality. The stock-based tax initiative’s author, Mar, is joined by co-sponsors Board President Norman Yee and supervisors Matt Haney, Hillary Ronen, Shamann Walton, and Sandra Lee Fewer. The introduction starts the legislative process, with the measure being referred to the Rules Committee where it can be amended before heading to the fall ballot. No mayoral signature is required. Small business enterprises, those entities with less than $2,500 in tax liability or less than $250,000 of taxable payroll, would remain exempt from the tax. The proposed initiative would join on San Francisco’s Nov. 5 ballot a 3.25% proposed tax on transportation network companies. The tax is a compromise measure worked out with Uber and Lyft. Source
  13. Uber faces class action from over 6,000 taxi and hire car drivers It will cover drivers, operators, and licence owners across Victoria, New South Wales, Queensland, and Western Australia. A class action lawsuit has been filed against Uber, on behalf of thousands of Australian taxi and hire car drivers, for allegedly operating illegally which provided the company with an unfair competitive advantage. The lawsuit was filed on Friday morning at the Victorian Supreme Court by law firm Maurice Blackburn Lawyers, and will cover more than 6,000 drivers, operators, and licence owners across Victoria, New South Wales, Queensland, and Western Australia, making it one of the biggest class actions in Australian history. The claimants allege Uber knew that its operations in Australia were illegal as its drivers did not have the proper licences or accreditations. Uber also allegedly adopted a program to avoid the use of licences and accreditation, as well as "a policy to operate in any market where the regulator had tacitly approved doing so by failing to take direct enforcement action". "Make no mistake, this will be a landmark case regarding the alleged illegal operations of Uber in Australia and the devastating impact that has had on the lives of hard-working and law-abiding citizens here," Maurice Blackburn head of class actions Andrew Watson said. The class action's lead plaintiff is Nick Andrianakis, a taxi driver, operator, and licence owner from Brunswick, Victoria. The class action will seek compensation for the loss of driver income for Uber's conduct between April 1, 2014, and July 31, 2017, which covers when Uber first entered the market to when the taxi industry was deregulated. There will be no out-of-pocket costs or liability risks for the claimants, Maurice Blackburn senior associate Elizabeth O'Shea said, with the lawsuit to be funded by litigation funder Harbour. Since Uber entered the Australian market, state governments around the country have made various attempts to address the activity of the world's largest ride-hailing company. The Western Australian and Queenslandgovernments regulated Uber in 2016, requiring Uber drivers to have special licences while also reducing the cost of fees paid by taxi drivers. In NSW, the state government set up a AU$1 levy on all taxi and ride-sharing trips, which aimed to contribute AU$100 million to pay for a compensation scheme. Meanwhile, in Victoria, Uber received the green light to operate in August 2017, after a decisionpassed by a Victorian County Court judge in favour of a Melbourne Uber driver in early 2016 effectively deemed the service as legal. The lawsuit follows Uber's announcement to go public in April, with the IPO set to happen sometime this month. The IPO is expected to sell about $10 billion worth of stock, which would make it one of the largest US tech IPOs ever, coming in at an anticipated $100 billion to $120 billion. Source
  14. The AchieVer

    Uber and Facebook: Partners in crime

    Uber and Facebook: Partners in crime Uber's IPO will probably be the biggest since Facebook's. It's remarkable how similar the companies are. He made the world a better place. For himself. I'm experiencing a bubbling sensation just below my throat. No, not acid reflux. It's the sheer vicarious, stomach-churning excitement I have for all those who'll make a vast fortune out of Uber's IPO. You see, it's rumored to be the biggest tech IPO since Facebook's. How can one not feel delighted that one of tech's other fine sages and authoritarians, Travis Kalanick, may be another $9 billion richer? No, he's not quite a Zuckerberg. Financially, that is. Yet the two have so much the same fine young entrepreneurial spirit that I can't help but see their similarities. One painted a picture of a world that would be so open and connected that you could make friends with strangers in St. Petersburg. The one in Florida, or even the one in Russia. The other offered rhapsodies about a world where cars would be shared among many, the roads would be miraculously decongested, and drivers would discover fine, new jobs that freed them from penury and pain. You see, that's the way to make billions. Paint the world as a better, warmer, lovelier place. Then go about ruthlessly exerting control over everything you can and treat everyone in your path as just so very, oh, backward. Or non-existent. The headlines make for rapturous reading. Sample: "Uber faces criminal investigation over Greyball spying program." Another sample: "How Uber deceives the authorities worldwide." These merely echo such joys as: "Facebook is breaking law in how it collects your personal data, court rules." Or how about: "Facebook could face $1.63 billion fine under GDPR over latest data breach." I can't help thinking that the rules for entrepreneurial success in the tech world consisted -- and perhaps still consist -- of routinely breaking regulations, laws, and anything else that smacks of maintaining vague social order and justice and replacing it with whatever will make your company bigger and richer right now. I wonder if anyone ever whispered such things as they were training the great young things at America's finest business schools. They surely don't teach it, though I'm moved that Stanford only recently discovered something precious: Ethics. Perhaps, you'll mutter, all great companies have to shave a few corners and break a few laws just because they need to be great quickly. Yet famed tech columnist Walt Mossberg surely isn't alone when he looks at Facebook latest admission that it's setting aside billions to pay a likely Federal Trade Commission fineand muses: "I suggest calculating it in years of revenues. And, after we get a real DOJ back, jail time." I can't help thinking that these companies are a classic and painful example of how the few can make untold, uncontrolled piles, while everyone else has to deal with the consequences. Where one company is now implicated in allegedly being the repository of disgraceful election manipulation and being the prime driver in flouting personal privacy, the other peddled a new vision of misogyny, cheap labor, and complete disregard for municipalities worldwide. Some of Facebook's own former executives now wonder how badly it's affecting children's minds. As for Uber, it seems that in cities -- where it's making a killing -- there are more cars, not fewer. You'll tell me both companies are very different now. These young founders learned from their mistakes. After all, one even got ousted. His company's business hasn't changed that much, however. These are the two most valuable tech IPOs of our time. This is the very best we could do. Of course it's humanity's fault that it was suckered. We have a habit of choosing ease over everything else. We delight in the idea that technology gives us an extra split-second here and a cheery ability to get things through our phones anywhere. And not for a moment do we consider what we're losing. Source
  15. This is the third time in three years that Toyota has invested in Uber. Enlarge / Uber has been using Volvo XC90 hybrid SUVs as R&D platforms. Soon, we can expect these to be joined by Toyota Siennas. Uber On Thursday, news broke that Toyota, Denso, and the SoftBank Vision Fund are investing heavily in Uber's autonomous driving operation. Together, the three companies will put $1 billion into Uber's Advanced Technologies Group: $667 million from Toyota and Denso, with an additional $333 million coming from SoftBank. "Leveraging the strengths of Uber ATG’s autonomous vehicle technology and service network and the Toyota Group’s vehicle control system technology, mass-production capability, and advanced safety support systems, such as Toyota Guardian™, will enable us to commercialize safer, lower cost automated ridesharing vehicles and services," said Shigeki Tomoyama, Toyota executive vice president and president of Toyota’s in-house Connected Company, in a statement sent to Ars. It's actually not the first time Toyota has opened its wallet for Uber. In August 2018, the Japanese OEM signed a $500 million deal to integrate Uber's autonomous tech into Toyota Sienna minivans, which will operate through Uber's ride-hailing network at some future date. That followed an earlier investment of $300 million in 2016. The involvement of Denso, a tier 1 supplier, suggests there's a greater plan in store than a small pilot deployment of self-driving Siennas. After all, it's one thing to build an R&D fleet that receives 24/7 support, it's quite another to develop the technology to the point where it's robust enough to send it off to live with the general public. "Among the biggest challenges facing automated driving, most lie in how to implement both the hardware and the software at scale," said Hiroyuki Wakabayashi, executive vice president at Denso. This will all no doubt be welcome news at Uber ATG, which has faced heavy criticism—if not criminal prosecution—for the death of Elaine Herzberg, who was killed in March 2018 by an autonomous Uber R&D vehicle in Tempe, Arizona. Source: Toyota leads $1B investment in Uber’s self-driving tech (Ars Technica)
  16. Uber vs. Lyft: How the rivals approach cloud, AI, machine learning Uber has filed for an IPO and Lyft is already public. Here's a look at how they approach technology, infrastructure and development. Uber, Lyft Uber and Lyft are roughly in the same business and aiming to reinvent transportation, but their technology approaches have more differences than similarities. Sure the technology strategies rhyme in places, but Uber's approach is broader as it eyes multiple businesses. When comparing the regulatory filings of Uberand Lyft some technology differences become clear. First, Uber sees itself as building a marketplace and technology platform that can extend into multiple areas (Uber Eats and Uber Freight for instance) while Lyft sees itself as primarily a transportation as a service provider. Uber also touts that it has "a team of more than 3,000 highly skilled engineers and computer scientists whose expertise spans a broad range of technical areas" and an automated infrastructure. Uber has 22,263 global employees. Lyft said 36 percent of its 4,791 employees work in its product management, engineering and design organizations. Meanwhile, Uber reported 2018 net income of $987 million on revenue of $11.27 billion. Lyft reported a 2018 net loss of $911.3 million on revenue of $2.16 billion. Here's a look at the approaches on key technologies by Uber and Lyft. CLOUD Uber appears to have a classic hybrid cloud approach. Uber has co-located facilities and multiple cloud vendors. Uber said: We have developed ourinfrastructure to be highly automated, enabling us to improve our platform and add new features with rapid velocity. We built our platform to handle spikes in usage, such as those we experience during holidays. We currently use multiple third-party cloud computing services and have co-located data centers located in the United States and abroad. These partnerships allow us to quickly and efficiently scale up our services to meet spikes in usage without upfront infrastructure costs, allowing us to maintain our focus on building great products. Uber also said that it has commitments for network and cloud services as well as background checks with varying expiration terms through 2020. Uber's filing also includes order forms for upgrading access to Google Maps APIs. Lyft has bet on Amazon Web Services for its architecture and has agreed to spend at least $300 million between January 2019 and December 2021. Lyft said the AWS partnership allows it to be more resilient to surges, but said if it fails to hit its minimum purchase requirement with AWS it may be required to pay the difference. "We pay AWS monthly, and we may pay more than the minimum purchase commitment to AWS based on usage," said Lyft. AWS may only terminate its Lyft agreement for convenience after March 31, 2022 with advance notice. ARTIFICIAL INTELLIGENCE AND MACHINE LEARNING Uber mentions the term artificial intelligence six times in its IPO filing, highlights machine learning 11 times and the word algorithm 16 times. Those mentions aren't by accident. Uber makes it clear that its data science and algorithms are the key to its marketplace technologies. The company said: We have made substantial investments in AI and machine learning. We have created and grown a world-class research team that has produced numerous original publications, patented technologies, and widely-used open source software. Managing the complexity of our massive network and harnessing the data from over 10 billion trips exceeds human capability, so we use machine learning and artificial intelligence, trained on historical transactions, to help automate marketplace decisions. Uber said it has built a machine learning platform as well as natural language and dialog system technologies. Computer vision "automatically processes and verifies millions of business-critical images and documents such as drivers' licenses and restaurant menus, among other items, per year." In addition, Uber said it uses algorithms for sensor processing for location accuracy, crash detection as well as matching drivers and passengers. Routing technologies are also based on algorithms that handle thousands ETA requests per second. Lyft makes no mention of artificial intelligence in its IPO filings, but does note miles traveled and rides "inform our machine learning algorithms and data science engines." The company also said: We leverage insights from this data to improve the product experience for riders by presenting them with personalized transportation options. The more rides we facilitate, the better we are able to improve our matching efficiency between drivers and riders in our ridesharing marketplace, which reduces arrival times and maximizes availability to riders. Our data insights also allow us to anticipate market-specific demand, enabling us to create customized incentives for drivers in local markets. We enable riders to optimize routes across multiple modes of transportation which we believe provides us with a significant advantage over single modality providers. Algorithms also inform driver incentives, dispatching and availability and pricing. MARKETPLACE TECHNOLOGY Uber has built its own proprietary marketing, routing and payment technologies. The bridge between Uber's various ventures its marketplace technologies. Uber said: Our marketplace technologies comprise the real-time algorithmic decision engine that matches supply and demand for our Personal Mobility, Uber Eats, and Uber Freight offerings. The marketplace tools include: A demand prediction engine to predict volume, supply and demand and location dynamics with current and historical trends. Data visualizations are available for zones with unique pricing characteristics. Matching and dispatching algorithms that review and consider variables such as distance, time, traffic, weather and even meal preparation times for Uber Eats. Pricing tools that set real time prices at the local level based on demand. Lyft said that its platform leverages historical data, supply and demand as well as driver availability. "Utilizing machine learning capabilities to predict future behavior based on many years of historical data and use cases, we employ various levers to balance supply and demand in the marketplace, creating increased driver earnings while maintaining strong service levels for riders. We also leverage our data science and algorithms to inform our product development, such as the introduction of our current subscription product," the company said. Marketplace efficiency is powered by Lyft's dispatch platform and data such as distance, route, traffic and travel. Lyft prods drivers to go in areas based on sustainable prices so they can increase earnings. DEVELOPMENT Uber said its development approach revolves around agile and DevOps. Uber said: We are constantly prototyping, experimenting, launching, and refining our products to deliver the best experience to tens of millions of platform users. We conduct staged rollouts when testing new products and features, often initially deploying to a small portion of platform users, such as a single neighborhood or city district, to gather feedback, monitor performance, and course correct as necessary. The size of our network enables us to introduce new features and observe performance at a speed, efficiency, and scale that we believe our competitors cannot match. We then gradually scale these products and features to reach additional platform users, while continuously optimizing performance throughout. Uber also said its plan is to integrate its key technologies. For instance, Uber's payment platform is integrated into its technology stack and is enhanced by payment partners. Lyft's model revolves around organizing product teams with a development model that integrates product, engineering, analytics, data science and design. Lyft also relies on third party open source software. According to Lyft, it follows a continuous deployment strategy. "We rely heavily on a software engineering practice known as "continuous deployment," which refers to the frequent release of our software code, sometimes multiple times per day," the company said. AUTONOMOUS VEHICLES Transportation is about to get a technology-driven reboot. The details are still taking shape, but future transport systems will certainly be connected, data-driven and highly automated. Read More Both companies are betting that autonomous vehicles will power their transportation networks over time. The Uber and Lyft approaches, however, differ by approach. Uber noted that its Advanced Technologies Group is focused on autonomous and has more than 1,000 employees dedicated to next gen transportation. The company in its IPO filing said that it thinks there will be "a long period of hybrid autonomy" where duties are split by the vehicle and drivers. As a result Uber is partnering with the likes of Toyota and Volvo to integrate technologies. The company is also exploring autonomous technologies via aerial ride sharing through Uber Elevate between suburbs and cities. Lyft touted its open autonomous vehicle platform to connect its network with partners. The company said: Through our Open Platform, we enable partners to connect with our network and offer their autonomous vehicles on the Lyft network. For example, our Open Platform partnership with Aptiv has enabled the commercial deployment of a fleet of autonomous vehicles on our platform in Las Vegas. We have facilitated over 35,000 rides in Aptiv autonomous vehicles with a safety driver since January 2018. Partnerships are one prong of the autonomous strategy. While it has an open platform, Lyft also said it is "building our own world-class autonomous vehicle system at our Level 5 Engineering Center." The bet is that the combination of autonomous partnerships and its own intellectual property will be an advantage. Source
  17. For Uber and Lyft, reality is arriving soon Ride-sharing company Lyft begins trading on the stock market on Friday. Soon, they will be joined by rival Uber. Both companies will be worth tens of billions of dollars. But, with neither of the firms ever coming close to turning a profit, the flotations are being seen as a reckoning - not just Uber and Lyft, but for the so-called “gig economy” itself, the business model that does away with traditional employment in favour of dishing out small jobs via an app. Uber and Lyft have, until now, been funded entirely by unprecedented amounts of venture capital. Uber in particular has made eyes water: it attracted almost $25bn, earning the company the title of “most valuable start-up in history”. Lyft, which has not (yet) expanded globally, raised $5bn. Yet for both firms, reality is arriving soon. Once public, "there's no more hype - it's just results”, said Alex Wilhelm, editor-in-chief of Crunchbase, a site which tracks the financial health of technology firms around the world. “It's going to be tough." Removing the most costly ingredient In 2018, Uber suffered a staggering net loss of $1.8bn. Lyft lost $911m. Those losses are narrowing, and revenues are increasing, but there are clearly massive hills to climb. And so, for the millions of people around the world that use ride-sharing, efforts to balance these very unbalanced books may quickly become apparent. “Eventually they’re going to have to raise prices on passengers to be profitable,” suggested Dara Kerr, a reporter who covers the gig economy for technology news site CNET. “They're also trying to make bets on other types of transportation, like the scooters and bicycles and self-driving cars. Because all three of those don't have the most costly ingredient, which is the drivers.” Image copyrightGETTY IMAGES Image captionRide-sharing firms have been turning to other ideas, such as bikes, in an attempt to make more money While there are small-scale tests with self-driving cars happening in a handful of cities, we are - by most estimates - perhaps a decade away from that being a reality. Uber and Lyft will need to make up that difference somehow. In preparation for their flotations, and in an effort to boost the number of customers they have, Lyft and Uber have aggressively discounted rides, at levels most consider to be wholly unsustainable. Yet, if Silicon Valley’s history tells us much, it’s that profits often don’t matter all that much. "Facebook, Snap, Twitter… none of them came into an IPO with a profit,” Ms Kerr added. "So I don't know how much that will scare investors or not.” A driver’s $1,000 decision What could be more important, at least on the first day’s trading, is the degree to which the "fear of missing out" on a hot new technology stock sends share prices sky high. Jay Cradeur certainly hopes that’s the case. He’s driven an incredible 23,000 rides for Uber and Lyft combined, experience that he shares regularly with other drivers on a blog and podcast. Drivers with 10,000 rides on either platform have been offered a $1,000 bonus that can be taken either in cash or in stock (those with over 20,000 on either platform are being given $10,000). Mr Cradeur is going to take the offer of stock. "I don't have a lot of confidence they're going to, you know, turn a profit anytime soon. "But there does seem to be just a lot of a lot of cultural and social support. So I think there's gonna be a lot of people wanting to buy the stock, which is going to drive the price up - at least initially.” He too predicts the firms might have to bump up prices for riders in order to turn a profit. “They're going to be between a rock and a hard place, right? They're going to have to satisfy shareholders. "These artificially low prices are great for right now. But when they go up, I still think people will use the service because it's so convenient.” Image copyrightJAY CRADEUR Image captionJay Cradeur has driven 23,000 rides with Uber and Lyft Hordes of millionaires These flotations don't occur in a vacuum. What happens Lyft and Uber will reverberate around the technology industry - and its overwhelmed epicenter, San Francisco. The companies are just the first of several tech firms expected to go public this year, creating thousands of new millionaires in the process. It’s a grim prospect for the region's “normal” residents, for whom the prospect of home ownership is now mostly an impossibility. This is an area where rents have been driven so high, teachers must take up second jobs in order to scrape together money to live within the communities they teach. Of course, that second job is often as a ride-share driver. However - if these companies can’t make it work, and fail to live up to the hype we’re likely about to see over the next 12 months, it will be major wake-up call for tech’s apparently best and brightest. “There's a lot of the ‘smartest' tech money, and a lot of the big tech money inside his company,” Mr Wilhelm notes, citing investments in ride-sharing from firms such as Andreessen Horowitz, and Google parent company Alphabet. “If they don't do well, I'm curious what that says about the theoretical savvy at these firms.” Source
  18. Uber Deployed ‘Surfcam Spyware’ in Australia to Crush the Competition – Report Until a report this week, Uber’s Surfcam’s use was thought to be limited to incidents uncovered in Singapore in 2017. For its part, Uber denies that it’s a “spyware.” A rogue employee at rideshare behemoth Uber created and deployed a piece of information-gathering software in order to help his company get a leg up on the local competition in Australia, according to a report. The so-called “secret spyware program” was dubbed Surfcam, and was developed by the employee in 2015, according to an unnamed source who said he or she was a former senior Uber employee. The person told the Australian Broadcasting Corp.’s Four Corners team that the purpose of the malware was to allow Uber drivers to poach drivers from a ride-share competitor called GoCatch. GoCatch launched as a homegrown start-up in 2012, with backers that included international hedge-fund manager Alex Turnbull (who is also the son of former Australia Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull). “Surfcam when used in Australia was able to put fledgling Australian competitors onto the ropes,” the former employee said in the report. “Surfcam allowed Uber Australia to see in real time all of the competitor cars online and to scrape data, such as the driver’s name, car registration and so on.” The source alleged that Uber used the intel to give competitive employment offers to GoCatch drivers to lure them away from working for the startup. “GoCatch would lose customers due to poaching of its drivers, draining their supply. With fewer and fewer drivers, [the idea was that] GoCatch would eventually fold,” the purported former Uber employee said. GoCatch in fact did not go out of business, but “the fact that Uber used hacking technologies to steal our data and our drivers is appalling,” GoCatch’s co-founder and chief executive, Andrew Campbell, told the outlet. “It had a massive impact on our business.” Meanwhile, an Uber spokesperson told Threatpost that the allegation that Surfcam was or is a “spyware” is far overstating its capabilities. “This employee didn’t even know how to code,” she said, disputing the notion that Surfcam is a sophisticated hacking tool that tracked the personal information of drivers. “He pulled a script off the internet and modified it to simply crawl publicly available information from websites. That’s not spyware. Unless those sites were leaking personal data, I don’t see how Surfcam could have obtained it.” It should be noted that this isn’t the first time that Uber and Surfcam have been in the headlines; in 2017, Bloomberg reported that the code was deployed in Singapore, against Grab, the local ride-share competitor there. “Surfcam, which hasn’t been previously reported, was named after the popular webcams in Australia and elsewhere that are pointed at beaches to help surfers monitor swells and identify the best times to ride them,” Bloomberg said in that report. It added that it “scraped data published online by competitors to figure out how many drivers were on their systems in real-time and where they were.” Until the ABC report, it was thought that the effort to undermine Grab — which became more popular in the city-state than its multinational rival and last year bought Uber’s assets in the region — was Surfcam’s only outing. For its part, Uber is unaware that Surfcam was ever used in Australia, according to the spokesperson, who thus did not confirm the ABC source’s claim that it was deployed against GoCatch. Rogue Developer Interestingly, ABC’s source said that at the time Surfcam was in use in Singapore, Uber’s management back in California was also unaware that the software had been developed or used. An employee in the Sydney office took it upon himself to modify off-the-shelf code (no word on which web-crawling kit he used) for Uber-specific purposes. That same developer then moved to Southeast Asia, where he apparently brought Surfcam with him in order to put the squeeze on Grab in Singapore. Once Uber found out about Surfcam’s existence, its use was prohibited, according to the source, according to an Uber Australia spokeswoman speaking to ABC and according to the Uber spokesperson contacted by Threatpost. Bloomberg meanwhile said in the 2017 report that the employee eventually moved to Uber’s European headquarters in Amsterdam and is still employed by the company. Uber’s alleged use of Surfcam happened at a time when the company was fighting several legal battles and had landed in privacy turmoil more than once. In 2017 for instance, it agreed to 20 years of privacy audits as part of a settlement with the FTC over its “God View” function, which allowed the company to monitor and log the real-time locations of customers and drivers without their consent. “It’s fair to say that there were some questionable tactics back in the day that were used to convince drivers of rival services to join Uber,” the spokesperson told Threatpost, citing one practice where Uber employees would book rides with other services and then spend their time in the car trying to convince the driver to switch. “But that was the past, and Uber as a company never created or deployed so-called ‘spyware.'” Source
  19. The AchieVer

    Uber sues NYC to contest cap on drivers

    Uber sues NYC to contest cap on drivers Uber filed a lawsuit against New York City, The Verge reported. The company wants to overturn New York City’s rule that caps the number of new ride-hailing drivers. Last summer, the city approved legislation that halts the issuing of new licenses to drivers for 12 months. It has been a multi-year fight between Uber and New York City. NYC mayor Bill de Blasio has been in favor of new legislation to regulate ride-hailing companies for years. And the NYC Council finally voted in favor of such a new rule back in August 2018. Uber has had a strong stance against the new regulatory framework. Before the vote, the company even called loyal customers to ask them to call local council members and support Uber. There are a few reasons why policymakers have been in favor of the halt. First, taxi medallion holders have been suffering from the sudden market changes caused by Uber, Lyft and other ride-hailing companies. The value of their licenses have dropped significanyly, which created some financial issues for drivers who got a credit to acquire those licenses. Second, ride-hailing services have fostered congestion across the city. It seems a bit counterintuitive as some Uber users have given up on their personal cars to switch to Uber. But Uber also replaces a lot of other transportation methods, such as subways, buses, bikes, etc. In addition to that usage pattern switch, many drivers are still driving around New York City, waiting for the next ride. Those idle cars clog the streets. Third, there are also economical reasons for this change. Uber is a marketplace that matches drivers with riders. The company is leveraging the fact that rules aren’t as strict for ride-hailing drivers as for taxi drivers. This way, Uber can accept a ton of drivers even though demand doesn’t necessarily match. Uber can then leverage this market imbalance to drive down wages. As part of the vote, New York City has also agreed on a minimum wage for ride-hailing drivers. Eventually, it could lead to an increase in price for customers. But so many customers have turned their back on public transportation that it is now generating too many issues when it comes to infrastructure investments and traffic congesting. It’s a chicken-and-egg situation. You can’t expect a better subway system if nobody is interested in taking the subway anymore. And you can’t expect customers to rely on the subway if there hasn’t been enough investment to make it reliable. Source
  20. LONDON (Reuters) - Uber [UBER.UL] has lost its latest court bid to stop its British drivers being classified as workers, entitling them to rights such as the minimum wage, in a decision which jeopardizes the taxi app’s business model. Two drivers successfully argued at a tribunal in 2016 that the Silicon Valley firm exerted significant control over them to provide an on-demand service, and that they should cease to be considered as self-employed, which gives few protections in law. An employment appeal tribunal upheld that decision last year, prompting Uber to go to the Court of Appeal. On Wednesday, a majority of judges there said they agreed with the previous verdicts and rejected Uber’s arguments. “They approve the reasoning of the Employment Tribunal, which relied on a number of features of Uber’s working arrangements as being inconsistent with the driver having a direct contractual relationship with the passenger,” the Court of Appeal said in a summary. Uber said it would appeal the verdict, meaning the legal process will continue. “This decision was not unanimous and does not reflect the reasons why the vast majority of drivers choose to use the Uber app,” said a spokeswoman. “We have been granted permission to appeal to the Supreme Court and will do so.” Uber, which could be valued at $120 billion in a flotation, has faced protests, regulatory crackdowns and license losses around the world as it challenges existing competitors and rapidly expands. In Britain, the self-employed are entitled to only basic protections such as health and safety, but workers receive the minimum wage, paid holidays and rest breaks. Uber has introduced a number of benefits for drivers this year. Unions argue that the gig economy - where people often work for various firms at the same time without fixed contracts - is exploitative, whilst Uber says its drivers enjoy the flexibility and on average earn much more than the minimum wage. Uber says its practices have been widely used for decades in Britain by minicabs, private hire vehicles which cannot be hailed in the street like traditional black taxis. The Independent Workers Union of Great Britain, which backed the two drivers in the case, attacked Uber for appealing court decisions which have gone against the firm. “It is becoming increasingly ridiculous for so-called ‘gig economy’ companies to argue that the law is unclear when they lose virtually every tribunal and court case,” said General Secretary Jason Moyer-Lee. Source
  21. Nathan Ingraham/Engadget Uber has edged closer to resuming self-driving car tests following the fatal crash in Arizona. The Information has learned that Pennsylvania's Department of Transportation approved the ridesharing company's request to start testing autonomous vehicles in the state. This doesn't mean you'll see vehicles back on the road in the immediate future, though. Uber has confirmed the approval to Engadget, but cautioned that it has nothing to share about when it will return to the road -- that won't happen until sometime in the weeks ahead, when Uber begins very limited tests. The firm technically resumed driving in July, but only in a human-operated mode. That same month, Pennsylvania's DOT also issued driverless car testing guidance that both requires testing notifications and collects driving data from companies twice a year. Uber wasn't in a rush, however, and only asked for permission to resume tests in November. At this stage, the questions revolve primarily around safety. Uber has promised more safeguards for the next time around, including the presence of two human observers, better training, closer monitoring and limits on working hours. It also recently hired an NHTSA veteran to help its autonomy efforts. However, it's not clear how much the technology itself has improved since the Arizona crash. Officials will likely keep a close eye on Uber's tests to make sure the chances of a second tragedy are very low. source
  22. US tech companies monopolize mapping data, locking out new services, says report Tech companies like Google, Apple, and Uber should be forced to share mapping data with rivals firms and the public sector, the UK government has been advised by a data advocacy group. In a report published today, the Open Data Institute (ODI) said that “data monopolies” were stifling innovation in the UK. These companies duplicate one another’s efforts, said the report, while using their large financial clout to gain insurmountable leads over would-be rivals. If they shared data, they said, then many services and new technologies — like drone delivery services and self-driving cars — would benefit. The ODI is an influential group in the UK, co-founded by Tim Berners-Lee, the inventor of the World Wide Web, and Nigel Shadbolt, a professor of artificial intelligence at the University of Oxford. The report was published ahead of the UK government’s forthcoming review of national geospatial strategy, which will guide any mooted changes to legislation. Still, it’s not clear what laws the UK could introduce to force such data sharing, or if there is any widespread political report for such changes. In the ODI’s report, the authors note that geospatial data is a vital resource in the digital age, used to guide decisions in “almost all aspects of life and across all sectors of our economy.” The UK government has previously estimated that if such data was widely shared, it could generate between $7 billion and $14 billion additional revenue for the country. Jeni Tennison, chief executive of the Open Data Institute, said that while big tech companies are simply trying to deliver a good service to customers, “the status quo is not optimal.” Tennison told the Financial Times: “The large companies are becoming more like data monopolies and that doesn’t give us the best value from our data.” The ODI’s report makes for interesting reading in a climate of growing distrust of tech monopolies. In the US, monopoly-busting cases are being made against Facebook, Amazon, Google, and others. Geospatial data is not the most talked-about aspect of this debate, but as the ODI notes, this information is too important to be forgotten about. Source
  23. SAN FRANCISCO (Reuters) - Uber Technologies Inc will pay $148 million for failing to disclose a massive data breach in 2016, marking a costly resolution to one of the biggest embarrassments and legal tangles the ride-hailing company has suffered. The settlement with 50 U.S. states and Washington, D.C. brings closure to one of several high-stakes legal battles Uber is seeking to resolve before an initial public offering next year, while also delivering a national rebuke against Uber’s history of flouting laws and basic business ethics. The amount is the largest among attorneys general settlements in privacy cases. By comparison, the multi-state settlement with Target Corp in 2017, over a breach in which 41 million people had their data stolen, was $18.5 million. The settlement follows a 10-month investigation into a data breach that exposed personal data from 57 million Uber accounts, including 600,000 driver’s license numbers. Uber’s new Chief Executive Dara Khosrowshahi disclosed the breach in November, more than a year after the company was hacked under the previous CEO. Khosrowshahi has said the incident should have been disclosed to regulators at the time it was discovered in 2016. The cover-up, widely seen by states as violating data breach reporting and data security laws, drew the ire of authorities across the United States and also in the United Kingdom, Australia and the Philippines. About half of the data breach victims lived in the United States. The settlement terms include changes to Uber’s business practices aimed at preventing future breaches and reforming its corporate culture. Uber will be required to report any data security incidents to states on a quarterly basis for the next two years, and implement a comprehensive information security program overseen by an executive officer who advises executive staff and Uber’s board of directors. “We know that earning the trust of our customers and the regulators we work with globally is no easy feat,” said Uber Chief Legal Officer Tony West. “We’ll continue to invest in protections to keep our customers and their data safe and secure, and we’re committed to maintaining a constructive and collaborative relationship with governments around the world.” In November 2016, Uber paid the hackers - who included a 20-year-old Florida man and a hacker in Canada - $100,000 to destroy the stolen data, using its “bug bounty” program, which is designed to reward security researchers who report flaws in a company’s software. Uber then chose not to report the matter to victims or authorities. “Uber’s decision to cover up this breach was a blatant violation of the public’s trust,” said California Attorney General Xavier Becerra. “Consistent with its corporate culture at the time, Uber swept the breach under the rug in deliberate disregard of the law.” California, one of lead states in the settlement effort, will keep $26 million, to be split between the state Attorney General’s Office and the San Francisco District Attorney’s Office, a spokeswoman for Becerra’s office said. Khosrowshahi fired two of Uber’s top security officials when he announced the breach, and other members of that team have since departed. The company recently hired a chief privacy officer and chief security officer. It still faces lawsuits from riders, drivers and the cities of Chicago and Los Angeles over the data breach. Source
  24. Uber has no plans to fix a critical security flaw in its two-factor authentication (2FA) protocol reported by an IT security researcher. An Indian IT security researcher Karan Saini has discovered a critical security flaw in the two-factor authentication protocol used by the ride-hailing giant Uber to protect user accounts from hijacking and prevent their data from hackers. The flaw, on the other hand, allows attackers to bypass 2FA that could apparently lead them to perform a number of malicious acts including hacking a targeted account, change its username and password and book expensive rides etc. Simply put, 2FA is an extra layer of security that is known as “multi-factor authentication” that requires not only a password and username but also something that only that user has on them, i.e. a piece of information only they should know or have immediately to hand – such as a physical token or a code. Uber not serious about fixing the bug In Uber’s case, Siani reported his findings to Uber’s bug bounty program on HackerOne, who acknowledged that there is indeed a bug in its two-factor authentication but at the same time the company downplayed the severity of it and stated that his findings were informative but “this report contained useful information but did not warrant an immediate action or a fix.” Uber uses two-factor authentication in case of suspicious login activity and sends the second code to the user’s device in order to verify their identity. Uber has been testing the 2FA feature since 2015 however, Siani’s findings highlighted how a hacker can bypass 2FA security without even entering the correct code. According to a statement to ZDNet, Uber spokesperson Melanie Ensign said that the bug was not a bypass but could be caused by ongoing security testing the company is conducting on the app. “We’ve been testing different solutions since we received a lot of user complaints about requiring 2FA on [an Uber web address which we are redacting per our decision to not reveal specifics of the bug] when people are trying to report a lost or stolen phone and can’t receive a code on that device, Ensign told ZDNet. “We believe those tests are causing both the existence and inconsistency of this issue.” Not for the first time If you are a hacker or security researcher keen to report vulnerabilities to Uber you have to be sure about the severeness of it as you never know what is serious for the company and what not. However, this is not the first time that Uber has rejected someone’s findings regarding the presence of critical security flaws in its online infrastructure. In December 2017, a security researcher Gregory Perry reported his findings to Uber bug bounty program on HackerOne but in return, the company rejected his findings. In his blog post “How I Got Paid $0 From the Uber Security Bug Bounty” Perry described his experience with Uber and labeled its bug bounty program as “completely bogus.” Uber pays to cybercriminals but not to the good guys Last time when Uber was in news regarding its security was in November 2017 when Bloomberg reported that the ride-hailing giant suffered a massive security breach in October 2016 in which hackers stole private details of around 75 million Uber users. In return, the company paid $100,000 to hackers to hide the breach. In the breach, two hackers stole files containing names and license numbers of 600,000 drivers from the US and personal data such as names, email IDs and mobile phone numbers of 57 million Uber users from across the globe. More: Uber users beware; Faketoken Android malware hits ride-sharing apps If Uber keeps on treating the good guys like Saini and Perry in such a negative manner, it is quite possible that reluctant security researchers might simply stop reporting their findings to Uber which could be disastrous for the company. Remember, companies like Google and Microsoft have their own security teams yet they depend on independent security researchers and firms to report the existence of vulnerabilities and malware in the system and it has been quite successful for both. source
  25. Unroll.me isn't really sorry for selling off users' data Unroll.me, a service that scans your emails to help you unsubscribe from all those annoying newsletters you're getting, was caught red-handed selling off data of its users to Uber. Following the reveal, the company apologized for upsetting people when they found out, not for what they were doing. "Our users are the heart of our company and service. So it was heartbreaking to see that some of our users were upset to learn about how we monetize our free service. And while we try our best to be open about our business model, recent customer feedback tells me we weren't explicit enough," writes Jojo Hedaya, CEO of Unroll.me. Clearly, he didn't really understand why people were upset. The site has been around since 2011 and has plenty of users. The service goes through your inbox, notices which services and alerts you've signed up for and allows you a quick way to unsubscribe from the things you don't want. Over the weekend, it was revealed that a few years back Uber was caught infringing on people's privacy by tracking even the people who had deleted their app. Furthermore, the company had been buying anonymized summaries of people's emails from Unroll.me, which would allow the ride-hailing app to figure out how many of its customers had switched to Lyft based on the emails they got. It's all there in the files no one reads Hedaya notes in his blog post that the fact that they sell people's data off is in the terms and conditions and the privacy policy, so everything is legal. This would explain why he doesn't feel the need to apologize to users from a legal standpoint, but it certainly won't do the company any favors from a PR standpoint. Users are, understandably, upset and ready to revoke the app access to their inboxes. Even if an actual apology were to come now, the company's public image is officially ruined. Source
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