After sexual harassment account, Uber exposé shows aggressive, unrestrained work culture

After a former Uber engineer detailed her account of sexual harassment while working there for about a year, New York Times reporter Mike Isaac dug into the story and got the goods. His exposé describes an amoral Ayn Randian meritocracy filled with aggressive jerks, in which one could absolutely imagine impunity for sexual harassment being an accepted norm.

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Ex-Uber engineer describes her year of being sexually harassed at Uber

Susan J. Fowler joined Uber as a site reliability engineer in November 2015. She was sexually harassed at work and Uber's human resources punished her for reporting it. She says other women at Uber have had similar experiences and that many have quit in disgust.

After the first couple of weeks of training, I chose to join the team that worked on my area of expertise, and this is where things started getting weird. On my first official day rotating on the team, my new manager sent me a string of messages over company chat. He was in an open relationship, he said, and his girlfriend was having an easy time finding new partners but he wasn't. He was trying to stay out of trouble at work, he said, but he couldn't help getting in trouble, because he was looking for women to have sex with. It was clear that he was trying to get me to have sex with him, and it was so clearly out of line that I immediately took screenshots of these chat messages and reported him to HR.

Uber was a pretty good-sized company at that time, and I had pretty standard expectations of how they would handle situations like this. I expected that I would report him to HR, they would handle the situation appropriately, and then life would go on - unfortunately, things played out quite a bit differently. When I reported the situation, I was told by both HR and upper management that even though this was clearly sexual harassment and he was propositioning me, it was this man's first offense, and that they wouldn't feel comfortable giving him anything other than a warning and a stern talking-to.

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Former Uber engineer alleges sexist abuse in workplace, CEO Travis Kalanick responds

Updated with response from Uber CEO Travis Kalanick, below.

Susan Fowler Rigetti, a former engineer at Uber, describes in a blog post her experience in a workplace where sexual harassment takes place with impunity, and people who are abused at work are further abused by the organization for which they work.

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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."

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