Uber's VAT-avoidance means it owes millions to EU states and will face huge cuts to future EU profits

The 2015 UK Employment Tribunal case that determined that Uber drivers were employees means that Uber will have to give the UK government 16.67% of its drivers' earnings for Value-Added Tax, going back four or more years (that would be £20M for 2015 alone); and the ruling will likely apply to Uber's EU-wide rules (because VAT rules are harmonized across the EU) -- so not only does Uber owe hundreds of millions to EU governments for the past 4+ years' earnings, but it will face a 16.67% (or more) reduction to all future earnings. Read the rest

Excellent, deep series on Uber's Ponzi-scheme economics

For the past week, Naked Capitalism has run a series of articles by transportation industry expert Hubert Horan on the economic shenanigans of Uber, which cooks the numbers it shows investors, drivers and the press to make it seem like something other than a black box that uses arrogance and lawlessness to make a bet on establishing a monopoly on transport in the world's major cities. Read the rest

Uber is running scared of Juno, a NYC competitor that's kicking its ass

Juno is a "driver-friendly" rideshare service that competes with Uber by paying its drivers more and giving drivers the ability to pick up a fare, get them to install the Juno app, and give them a discount. Read the rest

AOL "You've Got Mail" guy is now an Uber driver

When you logged into AOL in the 1990s, you were greeted with the voice of Elwood Edwards. Last night, Brandee Barker was headed to one of Hillary Clinton's Ohio campaign headquarters for canvassing when she happened to meet Edwards. He was her Uber driver!

From CNN:

Edwards, a longtime voice actor, recorded the famous famous phrase -- along with others like "Welcome," "File's Done" and "Goodbye" -- because of his wife. Back in the late 80s she worked for Quantum Computer Services, the company that would later become AOL, and she overheard the company's CEO saying he wanted a voice to notify people when they receive email.

She told them about her husband, he recorded the phrases on a cassette tape and became the internet's voice. He was paid $200 for the voice over, he told Barker.

In addition to his voice over work, Edwards worked for several years as a news editor at a TV station in Cleveland before recently retiring.

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Uber promises flying cars within 10 years

“Just as skyscrapers allowed cities to use limited land more efficiently, urban air transportation will use three-dimensional airspace to alleviate transportation congestion on the ground.”

Ride-sharing service Uber released a 97-page white paper today that describes a network of “on-demand, fully electric aircraft that take off and land vertically.” The Vertical Takeoff and Landing aircraft are referred to as VTOLs. Uber's proprietary network of VTOL service will be called “Elevate.”

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US endorses self-driving cars, with a catch: Feds want to control tech approval, not states

Federal auto safety regulators today said that self-driving cars “will save time, money and lives,” but also sent a clear signal that they want the power to inspect and approve technology before it hits the highways, rather than each U.S. state setting its own safety standards.

U.S. Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx said on a press call today that a new federal premarket approval system "would require a lot more upfront discussion, dialogue and staffing on our part."

The government's statement today is big news for Uber, Google, Apple, and other Silicon Valley firms pouring millions of R&D dollars into figuring out how to swap human drivers for smart machines, or at least allow us to share control in “semiautonomous” setups.

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Uber lost $1.27 billion or more in the first half of 2016

Uber lost at least $1.27 billion before interest, taxes, depreciation and amortization in the first six months of 2016, Bloomberg reports today.

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Profile of People's Ride: a co-operative, driver-owned alternative to Uber

People's Ride is a co-op ride-hailing company in Grand Rapids, Michigan: drivers own the service in common and collectively decide how to spend its profits (for example, on deploying an app to go with its website); for-profit competitors like Uber take 30% commissions from their drivers and deliver them to investors, while People's Ride spends all the revenue paying drivers and improving the service. Read the rest

Web companies can track you -- and price-gouge you -- based on your battery life

In Online tracking: A 1-million-site measurement and analysis, eminent Princeton security researchers Steven Englehardt and Arvind Narayanan document the use of device battery levels -- accessible both through mobile platform APIs and HTML5 calls -- to track and identify users who are blocking cookies and other methods of tracking. Read the rest

How and why to short Uber

Uber's $62.5B valuation is an utterly speculative bet on a company that can only pay out if many sub-bets pay off: the timely arrival of self-driving cars, widespread adoption of car-sharing (rather than private self-driving car ownership), no effective competition from other hailing companies (including those backed by the car manufactuers), regulatory reform to legalize its practices, and smooth sailing for its massive subprime lending program for its drivers. Read the rest

Uber loves competition, when it's the one doing the competing

Uber terminated access to its API for Urbanhail, a startup that compared pricing and availability among ride-hailing apps and taxi companies, after chastising the company's founders for violating its terms of service, which forbid creating competitive uses. Read the rest

Uber gets $3.5 Billion from Saudi investors

A Middle East investor is now Uber's single largest source of cash. On Wednesday, the global ride-sharing startup said it had raised $3.5 billion from Saudi Arabia’s Public Investment Fund, the main investment fund of the kingdom.

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Watch the trailer for Drive 2: The Uber Years

Yes, I know that isn't really Ryan Gosling.

(Joey Thompson/YouTube)

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El Paso taxi companies upset that city council loosened taxi regulations

Taxi companies and Uber are both awful, so it's fun to watch them fight each other. On Tuesday, El Paso's City Council voted to reduce regulations imposed on taxi companies, instead of increasing regulations imposed on Uber, as the taxi companies had hoped for.

From KVIA:

Joe Olivar, the owner of a local cab company Border Taxi, was disappointed with Tuesday's developments. He was pushing for stricter regulation of Uber drivers, including fingerprinting-based background checks.

"You guys are making a big mistake, no one operates with the same integrity. I hope the city council is accountable when something horrible happens," Olivar said, as he repeatedly brought up the issue of public safety.

"You wanted a level playing field, that's what we're doing," El Paso Mayor Oscar Leeser replied. Most of the council agreed that adding regulations was not the answer. "How many blockbuster stores do we have left" asked City Rep. Peter Svarzbein. "Could you imagine regulating Netflix? How you do you regulate a technology," he said.

Olivar said the council's approach was "fullhardy."

Read the rest

Uber and Lyft don't cover their cost of capital and rely on desperate workers

Uber and Lyft are only economically viable because they offload their cost of capital -- the investment and depreciation on cars and the cost of keeping a driver fed and healthy -- onto the drivers, who are only willing to accept such a bad deal because the labor market sucks. Read the rest

New rideshare service bets women are ready to leave Uber's sleazy, rape-friendly service

Chariot for Women is a new woman-only rideshare service launched by a former Uber driver who had a bad run-in with a hulking drunk dude that made him realize how scary things must be for woman riders and drivers both. Read the rest

Uber uses customer service reps to push anti-union message to drivers

Once Seattle became the first city where Uber drivers were allowed to unionize, the drivers started getting "customer service" calls that polled them on their satisfaction with the company, while ham-handedly pushing anti-union messages. Read the rest

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