Uber and Lyft agree to stop forcing driver sexual assault victims into arbitration, confidentiality agreements

Ride-sharing services Uber and Lyft have now both stated that they will no longer force victims of sexual assault into non-binding arbitration, as has been the practice of both firms until today. Read the rest

Realtor claims Uber and Lyft erode the premium homebuyers pay for good public transit links

Leonard Steinberg, a longstanding New York City luxury property broker, claims that the existence of Uber and Lyft has blunted the premium that buyers were willing to pay to live in neighborhoods with good transit links, because they can afford rideshare cars and use the commute time to work, meaning that commutes are less of a factor in calculating the quality of life (because your day starts when you get into the car, not when you get to your desk). Read the rest

The world is no longer willing to tolerate the plague of bullshit "agreements"

Mark Zuckerberg says it doesn't matter how creepy and terrible his company is, because you agreed to let him comprehensively fuck you over from asshole to appetite by clicking "I agree" to a tens of thousands of words' worth of "agreements" spread out across multiple webpages; when questioned about this in Congress, Zuck grudgingly admitted that "I don’t think the average person likely reads that whole document." But as far as Zuck is concerned, it doesn't matter whether you've read it, whether you understand it, whether it can be understood -- you still "agreed." Read the rest

Uber's autonomous vehicles require frequent human intervention

The New York Times reports that Uber's autonomous vehicles require human intervention every 13 miles, on average, while Google's go 5,600: they were "not living up to expectations months before a self-driving car operated by the company struck and killed a woman in Tempe, Ariz."

When Mr. Khosrowshahi took over as Uber’s chief executive, he had considered shutting down the self-driving car operations, according to two other people familiar with Mr. Khosrowshahi’s thinking.

But he became convinced that it was important to Uber’s long-term prospects. His visit to Phoenix was seen by the Arizona team as a critical opportunity to demonstrate their progress, according to the people familiar with the company’s operations in the Phoenix area. They wanted to take him on a ride without human interventions to demonstrate that the cars could handle so-called edge cases, tricky road situations that are hard to predict.

“With autonomy, the edge cases kill you, so you’ve got to build out for all the edge cases,” Mr. Khosrowshahi said at a conference in November.

They sure do.

It's almost as if Uber's whole autonomous vehicle program was a sham to get money out of the Saudis. Read the rest

The future legal shenanigans that will shift liability for pedestrian fatalities involving self-driving Ubers

This week, a self-driving Uber killed a pedestrian in Arizona, the first pedestrian fatality involving an autonomous vehicle; in his analysis of the event, Charlie Stross notes that Arizona's laws treat corporations that kill people with considerably more forbearance than humans who do so, and proposes that in the near future, every self-driving car will be owned by a special-purpose corporation that insulates its owner from liability. Read the rest

First pedestrian killed by autonomous vehicle

KNXV in Arizona reports that a pedestrian died last night after being hit by an autonomous vehicle.

The Uber had a human safety driver but was self-driving when it collided with the victim, according to KNXV. Early reports identified the victim as a bicyclist, but the latest updates say she walked into the street. It appears to be the first pedestrian killed by an autonomous vehicle.

10 pedestrians were killed in the last week by cars driven by humans in Phoenix in what local officials described as a "major crisis."

Read the rest

Drunk man accidentally takes $1600 Uber ride from West Virginia to New Jersey

An inebriated gentleman at a party in West Virginia thought he was ordering an Uber to take him to West Virginia University's campus. But in his drunken state he messed up his order, blacked out in the Uber, and ended up at his house in Gloucester County, N.J. The fare came to a mere $1,635.93.

According to USA Today:

The report states that [Kenny] Bachman woke up two hours into the trip, but didn't want to just be dropped off in the middle of no where, so he stuck it out all the way home. 300 miles from where he was partying and staying.

"Afterwards I had it fully sink in," Bachman told NJ Advance Media. "Once the ride ended and I saw how much it was when I was like 'Alright, this is insane, that's just crazy.'"

Uber confirmed the ride occurred, the report states, and the driver took Bachman to the destination he requested.

Let's hope the party was fun.

Image: Mark Warner/Flickr Read the rest

Surge-taxing Uber as a way relieve urban congestion

Every city where Uber and Lyft have found a foothold has also faced impossible congestion in the city center; Felix Salmon says this is because drivers are incentivized to come to the city-center despite the traffic (because that's where the fares are) and riders are incentivized to skip public transit when there are a lot of cars around to hail with their apps. Read the rest

Debullshitifying Uber's financial statement reveals a hemorrhaging fountain of red ink with no path to profitability

Uber trumpeted its Q4/2017 financial statements as evidence of the company's progress towards CEO Dara Khosrowshahi's goal of profitability and IPO by 2019; the company argued that despite losing $4.5 billion in 2017, its cust-cutting in the final quarter of the year was proof that they would eventually go from losing money on each ride to actually earning money. Read the rest

The elite belief in Uberized, Muskized cities is at odds with fundamental, irrefutable facts of geometry

The appropriately named Jarrett Walker is the author of Human Transit, a seminal text on transportation and cities that draws on his decades of experience in urban planning; he has the distinction of being called "an idiot" by Elon Musk on Twitter, when he pointed out that Musk's Boring Company tunnel proposals could not possibly work due to their low capacity. Read the rest

How depending on a platform is a ticket to financial ruin, and what to do about it

UC Berkeley economist J Bradford DeLong's wide-ranging Reinvent interview covers a lot of ground, but is especially fascinating on the long-term trajectory of small businesspeople who bet their commercial futures on platforms -- he uses Uber drivers as an example, but this has implications in lots of sectors. Read the rest

Uber's major shareholders just dumped a ton of stock for a lowball offer 30% under the current share price

Softbank's bid to buy Uber shares based on a valuation 30% lower than the company rated in its last round has been largely successful, with about 15-20% of shares changing hands at that price. Read the rest

Democratic Senators propose federal breach disclosure law with 5-year prison sentences for covering up data-loss

The Data Security and Breach Notification Act (S2179) was introduced by three Senate Commerce Committee Democrats, Bill Nelson [D-FL], Richard Blumenthal [D-CT] and Tammy Baldwin [D-WI] in the wake of the revelation that Uber hid a breach involving 50,000,000 riders and 7,000,000 drivers for over a year after paying hush-money to the criminals who stole the data. Read the rest

Major investors offer to buy a big stake in Uber -- at a 30% discount

A group of investors led by Softbank have put in a bid to buy $6B worth of Uber stock -- at a valuation of $48B, 30% lower than the company's valuation at its last finance round, which was followed by string of ghastly scandals including the removal of its founder, Travis Kalanick, from the CEO's office. The company has 20 days to respond. Read the rest

Uber admits it breached 57,000,000 accounts, then bribed the hackers to cover it up, now they're paying a top ex-NSA lawyer to teach them transparency

Uber's Chief Security Officer Joe Sullivan and his top aide have both been forced out of the company in an act of penance for the revelation that the company suffered a breach in October 2016 in which hackers stole personal data from 50,000,000 riders and 7,000,000 drivers, including 600,000 drivers' US driving license numbers; Uber says the disgraced employees acted alone when they then paid the hackers who stole the data $100,000 to hush it up. Read the rest

Unsealed evidence: former Uber execs covered up evidence in stolen self-driving tech case

The court battle between Waymo and Uber took a revealing turn this week, after unsealed court documents exposed "damning evidence" of efforts to hide what is now obvious.

At this point it’s not terribly surprising that the summary report of the investigation — apparently codenamed “Project Unicorn” by Stroz Friedberg — casts Levandowski and Uber’s then-CEO Travis Kalanick in a particularly bad light. ... The report describes, for instance, employees caught in lies in their interviews with Stroz investigators, an elaborate saga around the surreptitious destruction of five disks of confidential information belonging to Google, furtive text messages advising each other to delete message logs, and search engine queries regarding “how to secretly delete files mac” or “can a MacBook be recovered after formatting the OS.”

Today's beautiful sunrise is tech executives thinking they can hide what they do by googling how to hide what they do.

On that note, it's always a surprise how computer-illiterate many successful "tech" executives are. They're representatives of something bigger than themselves, you might say, and their understanding is immaterial to their undertaking. Read the rest

Tim O'Reilly explains how self-driving cars will bankrupt Uber

Tim O'Reilly (previously) is my kind of technologist: someone who goes past the "is technology good or bad for us?" question and dives into the really meaty, important question, namely: "how can we make technology better for us?" Read the rest

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