Humans drink and drive.

Uber halts self-driving tests after pedestrian killed in Arizona:

A female pedestrian was killed after being struck by an autonomous Uber vehicle in Arizona, according to ABC 15. In response, Uber has pulled all of its self-driving cars from public roads in the state as well as in the cities of San Francisco, Toronto, and Pittsburgh.

The crash occurred near Mill Avenue and Curry Road early Monday morning in Tempe, Arizona, police confirm. The Uber vehicle was headed northbound when a woman walking across the street. The woman was taken to the hospital, where she later died from her injuries. Early reports suggested that she may have been a bicyclist, but that was not the case. Police have identified her as 49-year-old Elaine Herzberg.

Uber confirms that the vehicle was traveling in autonomous mode with a safety driver behind the wheel during the crash. That would make the pedestrian one of the first known victims of a crash involving a self-driving car.

It’s horrible that someone was killed from a self-driving car, but everyone needs to chill. In the long run autonomous vehicles are going to be way better drivers than humans.

Humans text their girlfriends and boyfriends while they drive. Humans drink and drive. Humans drive angry. Humans fall asleep at the wheel. Humans don’t pay attention. Robots do none of these things. I can’t wait until stupid humans aren’t in front of the wheel anymore.

We’ve had 100 years of practice driving. Self-driving cars? Not quite as much time, so let’s give the technology a chance to get better (and eventually surpass our skills).

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Technology, Vehicle

A Price Worth Paying

A product manager and Kalanick apologist is leaving Uber:

Chris Saad, a product manager of Uber’s developer platform, is leaving the company after close to two years, sources tell Recode.

Saad, who worked on creating technology tools for developers looking to integrate Uber services, has been vocal about his disappointment with former Uber CEO Travis Kalanick’s forced resignation.

“Travis embodied (and in some cases taught) me these things,” he wrote in a Facebook post in the hours after Kalanick’s resignation. “There wasn’t a moment or a minuscule detail that he noticed that he didn’t immediately spring into action to help me solve — with that wry smile and enthusiastic glint in his eye. The cost of losing him as Uber’s CEO will be incalculable.”

If there’s a huge cost because of Kalanick’s ouster, so be it.

When Kalanick was CEO of Uber they used their technology to evade law enforcement, maintained a hostile, sexist work environment filled with sexual harassment cases, and didn’t (and still don’t) want to pay their drivers as employees.

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Career

Uber’s Chief Douchebag is Out

Uber Founder Travis Kalanick Resigns as C.E.O.

Travis Kalanick stepped down Tuesday as chief executive of Uber, the ride-hailing service that he helped found in 2009 and built into a transportation colossus, after a shareholder revolt made it untenable for him to stay on at the company.

Mr. Kalanick’s exit came under pressure after hours of drama involving Uber’s investors, according to two people with knowledge of the situation, who asked to remain anonymous because the details were confidential.

Shareholder revolt. Sheesh. So dramatic.

Now that the Chief Douchebag is out, I’m curious if they’ll be replacing him with a less douchey one.

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Business

Uber, Context Is Everything

David Bonderman Resigns From Uber Board After Sexist Remark:

David Bonderman, an Uber board member and partner at private equity firm TPG, resigned from the board of the ride-hailing company after he made a disparaging remark about women at an Uber meeting on Tuesday.

Earlier in the day at an Uber staff meeting to discuss the company’s culture, Arianna Huffington, another board member, talked about how one woman on a board often leads to more women joining a board.

“Actually, what it shows is that it’s much more likely to be more talking,” Mr. Bonderman responded.

The bullshit coming out of Uber doesn’t stop.

That being said, what Bonderman said wasn’t that bad. I’ve been out at a bar with other guy friends and said way worse, and all in good humor. On the other side, I’ve heard women say equally sexist — and equally funny — comments when they’re out having a good time.

The main point to take from this is context matters. The context is everything.

I’ve listened to Howard Stern play ‘Anal Ring Toss’ on his satellite radio show one day, and the next day see him talk to little kids on America’s Got Talent.

There’s a time and a place for everything. Uber executives don’t seem to understand this.

Or care.

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Business

“Behind every great fortune, is a great crime.”

Uber’s Top Secret “Hell” Program Exploited Lyft’s Vulnerability (paywall):

As the ride-sharing market was exploding in the U.S. between 2014 and the early part 2016, Uber had an advantage over Lyft that helped Uber maintain its lead, The Information has learned. Thanks to a secret software-based effort within Uber called “Hell,” Uber could track how many Lyft drivers were available for new rides and where they were, according to a person who was involved in the program and a person who was briefed about it.

As the philosopher Chris Rock said in his great standup act, Never Scared (channelling Honoré de Balzac), Behind every great fortune, is a crime.”

Uber is chock full of ’em.

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Law, Technology

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Uber’s Psychological Tricks

The New York Times has a fascinating look into all the psychological tricks Uber (and Lyft) uses to get drivers to to keep driving:

Uber even published a study last year, using its vast pile of data on drivers’ rides and hours, finding that a “substantial, although not most, fraction of partners” practice an extreme form of income targeting when they start on the platform, though they abandon it as they gain more experience. Strict income targeting is highly inefficient because it leads drivers to work long hours on days when business is slow and their hourly take is low, and to knock off early on days when business is brisk.

The beauty of the messages that Uber sent Mr. Streeter and his fellow drivers is that the drivers need not have even had a specific income goal in mind in order for the messages to work. Some of the most addictive games ever made, like the 1980s and ’90s hit Tetris, rely on a feeling of progress toward a goal that is always just beyond the player’s grasp. As the psychologist Adam Alter writes in his book “Irresistible,” video game designers even have a name for this mental state: the “ludic loop.”

Uber, for its part, appears to be aware of the ludic loop. In its messages to drivers, it included a graphic of an engine gauge with a needle that came tantalizingly close to, but was still short of, a dollar sign.

And the ludic loop is far from the only video game feature that Uber has adapted as a way of keeping drivers on the road.

If taken in isolation, this article isn’t all that crazy, but it’s part of a bigger picture revealing a company whose executives visit karaoke-escort bars in Korea, evades law enforcement with their technology, has a hostile, sexist work environment filed with sexual harassment cases, and give the actual drivers rather shitty compensation considering they’re valued at over 60 billion dollars.

The ultimate goal of a corporation is 100% efficiency and after reading this piece, it’s clear humans are but a stopgap solution until robots start driving (and doing everything else).

Greyball

How Uber Deceives the Authorities Worldwide:

At the time, Uber had just started its ride-hailing service in Portland without seeking permission from the city, which later declared the service illegal. To build a case against the company, officers like Mr. England posed as riders, opening the Uber app to hail a car and watching as miniature vehicles on the screen made their way toward the potential fares.

But unknown to Mr. England and other authorities, some of the digital cars they saw in the app did not represent actual vehicles. And the Uber drivers they were able to hail also quickly canceled. That was because Uber had tagged Mr. England and his colleagues — essentially Greyballing them as city officials — based on data collected from the app and in other ways. The company then served up a fake version of the app, populated with ghost cars, to evade capture.

It seems every aspect of Uber is shady as hell. From Greyball, to their toxic work culture filled with cases of sexual harassment, to not wanting to pay drivers as employees with benefits.

In 2015, I linked up to an interesting story of a journalist who went undercover as an Uber driver to find out if it was possible, as Uber claimed, to earn $90K a year driving for them. Spoiler: it is not possible.

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Business, Law

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Lyft or Uber. Pick your poison.

Boycotting Uber is boosting the fortunes of billionaire Trump advisor Carl Icahn:

But the #DeleteUber crew seems to have missed Lyft’s own ties to the Trump administration.

In 2015, financier Carl Icahn made a $100 million investment into Lyft. His interests are represented on its board of directors through John Christodoro of Icahn Capital.

Icahn did a lot more than Kalanick to help get Trump elected. He was an early and vocal supporter of Trump during the campaign, claiming that the businessman would be much better for the economy than Hillary Clinton, and Trump appointed Icahn as a special advisor on regulation in December.

I was just as disappointed in Uber’s actions last week but it seems we’re damned either way.

Pick your poison.

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Finance

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You don’t negotiate with a terrorist

Uber C.E.O. to Leave Trump Advisory Council After Criticism:

“What would it take for you to quit the economic council?” at least two employees asked at the Tuesday meeting.

On Thursday, Mr. Kalanick gave his answer, stepping down from Mr. Trump’s economic advisory council. “There are many ways we will continue to advocate for just change on immigration, but staying on the council was going to get in the way of that,” Mr. Kalanick wrote in an email to employees obtained by The New York Times.

Mr. Kalanick’s exit from the advisory council underscores the tricky calculus facing many Silicon Valley corporate chieftains who try to work with the new administration. On one hand, many tech executives have openly tried to engage with the president, a path that is typically good for business. Yet Mr. Trump’s immigration order has been so unpopular with so many tech workers — many of whom are immigrants themselves and who advocate globalization — that they are now exerting pressure on their chief executives to push back forcefully against the administration.

I feel like trying to negotiate with Donald Trump is like trying to negotiate with a terrorist: you don’t do it.

Trump cares about himself. He is not a man of the people, looking out for our best interests. This is becoming clearer and clearer as each day that passes with him as president.

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Tromp

It’s Already Here

You can hail a self-driving Uber in San Francisco starting today:

Starting today, anyone in San Francisco who hails an UberX could find themselves in the backseat of a luxury, self-driving Volvo XC90, complete with leather interior, spinning LIDAR sensor, and a trunk full of computing power. It’s where I found myself last week, after being invited out to the Bay Area for a sneak peak before the official launch.

“The future is already here — it’s just not very evenly distributed.”

Categories:

Technology, Vehicle

Über-Average Income

Uber data reveals drivers earn less than $13.25 an hour:

Uber is always droning on about how drivers are able to make money by driving their own vehicle, while having the freedom to choose their own schedules. A few years ago, Uber told The Wall Street Journal that a typical driver earns more than $100,000 a year in gross fares. However, new data and calculations based off a million trips reveals a different picture. In three major US markets – Denver, CO, Detroit, MI, and Houston, TX – Uber drivers earned less than $13.25 an hour.

It’s important to note Uber drivers are paid per ride, not by the hour, but $13.25 hourly average is still not much income for a company “valued” at over $60 billion (as of December 2015) and one that classifies its drivers as contractors, not employees.

It would paint a more complete picture if we also knew how many hours a week Uber drivers work.

Categories:

Business, Career

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Healthy Competition

Uber enables global e-hailing through Alipay to fend against Lyft/Didi alliance:

Now, riders will be able to pay for and hail a ride in the Alipay app in the more than 400 cities in which Uber operates. It’s an extension of Uber’s existing partnership with the company, which initially only allowed passengers in China to pay for their rides using Alipay.

The move comes just a few weeks after Lyft and China’s Didi launched a similar integration that allows Didi riders to hail a Lyft in the U.S. using the Didi Chuxing (formerly Didi Kuaidi) app, and vice versa. That partnership is part of a larger global ride-hail alliance that also includes South East Asia’s Grab and India’s Ola.

The goal of big business is constant growth. This is why there are laws against monopolies, because it’s the natural end state of any capitalist business.

Despite this, I grew up being told competition is healthy and keeps a business on it’s toes. But with Uber, it seems theres no room for competiton and any competition is an extreme threat that must be destroyed.

I continue use, and many times rely on, Uber, but I also continue disapprove of their record of shady business practices.

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Business

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Uber’s New Identity

Eli Schiff on Uber’s new identiy:

The iconic U icon is not something trivial to be discarded on a whim. When used as a sticker on the outside of an Uber vehicle, it needs to be totally visible in all lighting conditions. Unlike a marked taxi cab where there is a sense of safety, getting into a stranger’s car requires users to have some sort of overtly legible marking that indicates security. This oversight is a massive failure that affects Uber’s customers. But it also affects the drivers. If a passenger cannot find the car, that is lost gas, money and time for the driver.

For Amin, none of this mattered. When asked why the Uber U on the icon was abstracted, he made the following argument:

This should be a wake up call to all international companies: ignore that English is the lingua franca of the world. Accordingly, banish all references to the Roman alphabet in your branding.

The problems with the logo for The Metropolitan Museum of Art pale in comparison to the problems with Uber’s logo.

I love how Uber CEO Travis Kalanick got involved. This reminds me of when Marisa Mayer helped fuck up Yahoo’s iconic logo.

Sigh

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Identity

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