The Anita Borg Institute, a diversity nonprofit that aims to advance women in the technology sector, sent Uber a letter announcing it was severing ties with the company, Recode reports. According to the letter, the ABI is concerned about the continuing allegation of the treatment of women in Uber's workplace. The move is a blow to Uber as it's a vote of no confidence in the company's ability to clean up its act, despite the fact that Uber has launched an internal investigation (conducted by former Attorney General Eric Holder, no less) into sexism at the company. MG
Uber is working on a system for controlling your autonomous ride. Here’s a glimpse into its design process:
In a patent published today, Uber details a system that would allow passengers to control some aspects of an autonomous Uber experience from a mobile phone. It's essentially a communication system which would let the rider send directions to an autonomous car by answering questions Uber displayed on their phone. The document highlights the different elements Uber is thinking about as it designs autonomous rides. Do all locks on the door need to be unlocked for the rider, or just one? Do passengers need extra time to exit the vehicle? Should the car pop the trunk for luggage? See below for a glimpse into Uber's design process as it imagines your phone as a direct portal to the driverless ride experience.
Uber’s general counsel for EMEA just bailed
Jim Callaghan, who was Uber's general counsel for Europe, the Middle East, and Africa, has departed the company, Recode reports. His departure is just the latest in an exodus of execs from the company in recent months, including its president, senior vice president of engineering, vice president of global vehicle programs, head of communications, vice president of growth, and head of AI Labs. Callaghan's departure comes after the company was deemed a transportation service—and not just a digital service—by a European court, and thus will have to comply with safety laws that apply to the taxi industry. MG
Uber underpaid drivers tens of millions of dollars
Uber has admitted to underpaying New York City drivers and says it will make it up to them with interest. In 2014, Uber agreed to charge drivers 25% of fares after fees and taxes were taken out. Instead it took its cut out of the full fare. The company says the problem affected tens of thousands of drivers and it plans to pay out an average of $900 per driver. This isn't the first time Uber has been accused of misleading drivers on wages. In January, the company agreed to pay drivers $20 million to settle a Federal Trade Commission complaint that Uber was overpromising on potential earnings to lure drivers onto its platform.
"We are committed to paying every driver every penny they are owed—plus interest—as quickly as possible," said Rachel Holt, regional general manager, U.S. & Canada, in a statement. "We are working hard to regain driver trust, and that means being transparent, sticking to our word, and making the Uber experience better from end to end." RR
Hong Kong has arrested 21 Uber drivers
The arrests are the latest in a clampdown by the city on illegal car-hiring, reports Reuters. The 21 drivers were arrested for "illegally driving a car for hire and driving without third-party risk insurance." In a pointed message to Uber, Hong Kong's chief inspector of police for the Kowloon West district said:
"I would like to stress that our law enforcement action is ongoing and we do not rule out further arrests. We would like to say to the operator of the mobile phone application, as a responsible organization, you need to ensure cars for hire are equipped with a permit as required by Hong Kong laws. This is a basic responsibility to passengers and (shows) respect for Hong Kong laws."
You can now get your Mickey D’s from an Uber
Uber has teamed up with McDonald's to deliver your morning Egg McMuffin through UberEats. You can now order from 1,000 McDonald's locations in select cities including Chicago, Los Angeles, Phoenix, Columbus, and parts of Florida. The catch? Uber attaches a $5 fee to each order—more than the price of a Big Mac. This is a part of Uber's big push into meal delivery. The McDonald's deal will give the UberEats menu some more affordable options. Yet to be seen is whether people want to pay the extra cash to have their Mickey D's delivered.
Uber just warned its top self-driving car exec to play nice with the courts or risk getting fired
Uber could lose its top autonomous car engineer. The company delivered a four-page letter to Anthony Levandowski telling him to turn over any documents he took with him when he left Google, his former employer, or risk being fired, according to the Wall Street Journal. Levandowski must also must also detail if any of his colleagues at Uber knew about the files or came into contact with them. A week before, judge William Alsup ruled Uber could fire Levandowski for not cooperating with a court order to bring forward these documents. Levandowski's lawyers have countered that the judge effectively told Uber it could fire him for invoking his fifth amendment rights. Levandowski has already been removed from overseeing all of Uber's self-driving efforts. RR
Uber Freight launches for freelancing truck drivers, but it won’t delay the coming job apocalypse
Uber has launched a new app to connect freelance truck drivers with freight loads. Based on the commercial below, it looks just like the taxi app, but for truck drivers. The app's debut comes as the ride-sharing behemoth is embroiled in litigation with Google's self-driving car lab Waymo over the technology it acquired from driverless truck company Otto. The move shows that Uber is relentless in its push to own the logistics of ferrying people and things, and eventually the systems that drive them there. Before it can hope to be a powerful provider of autonomous car and truck tech, it stands to pull in additional revenue connecting drivers and shipments. This isn't quite the first step towards eradicating drivers—Uber is still putting on its shoes. But it's further evidence that the company is heading in that direction.
Uber and Lyft may be back in Austin soon
Today, the Texas Senate passed a ride-sharing bill detailing the provisions under which companies like Uber and Lyft can operate. The new bill, if signed into law by Governor Greg Abbott, could override an Austin rule that requires ride-hailing apps to fingerprint its drivers. Both companies left Austin a year ago after they were unable to come to an agreement with local officials. RR
Trump does Uber and Lyft a favor with law that lets federal workers expense ride-sharing
The ride-hailing industry is getting a boost today. The U.S. government has passed into law the Modernizing Government Travel Act, which allows federal employees on official business to expense rides from Uber and Lyft. The government has been tight-fisted about covering employee travel since 2012, when hundreds of government employees were treated to a swanky conference in Las Vegas. It's yet to be seen what official travel budgets will look like under Trump. RR
D.C. taxis are ditching clunky mechanical meters in favor of Square
Taxi passengers in Washington, D.C., will pay via Square starting this summer, the city's Department of For-Hire Vehicles announced today. As part of the change, taxis will also transition to app-based meters, which the department will review, certify, and make available to licensed drivers.
The changes are designed to help traditional taxi drivers compete with Lyft and Uber by offering passengers features like carpooling, digital receipts, and dynamic pricing. Drivers will also benefit from Square's lower transaction fees— 2.65%, versus the 3.5% to 5% commission they pay for mechanical meters.
Waymo’s lawsuit against Uber is headed to the courtroom
A judge has ordered that the lawsuit Waymo brought against Uber involving the theft of trade secrets could not be settled in private arbitration, reports Business Insider. This means the two companies will be headed to a public courtroom trial, which will most likely be another PR nightmare for Uber. The case has also been referred by a federal judge to a U.S. attorney for a possible criminal investigation. MG