Uber and Lyft Haven’t Revolutionized the American City—Yet – AARIAN MARSHALL 10.14.17 07:00 AM

Dong Wenjie/Getty Images

Last month, the ride-hailing company Lyft released its vision for the future of Los Angeles. In a meticulous rendering depicting Angelenos of all ages and races and species (some are dogs), Lyft shows off a city that’s greener, healthier, and more walkable. The 10-lane Wilshire Boulevard, one of LA’s clogged east-west arterials, now has separate space for cyclists. Driverless buses operated by LA Metro pilot down their own, traffic-free lanes. And shared driverless cars—operated by a futuristic Lyft Line service, probably—ease on down the road.

For these city-dwellers, there’s no need to buy (or maintain) their own vehicles. Shared rides mean fewer cars mean less traffic mean less pollution mean—finally, in the end—a happier American city. There’s a lot to love about this Lyft picture.

But this is not the way these ride-hailing services have played out, not yet. According to a new, multi-city study by researchers at the University of California, Davis, ride-hailing companies like Uber and Lyft might not be taking cars off the road at all. The work is based on 4,100 online surveys distributed to a sample of Americans in seven big metros: Boston, Chicago, New York, Seattle, San Francisco, Los Angeles, and Washington, DC. The respondents are a mix of urbanites and suburbanites, and they answered the surveys between 2014 and 2016. Through their responses, the shifty picture of the modern, ride-hailing-packed city is beginning to snap into place. It might have more cars, not fewer.

First, ride-hailing service users aren’t necessarily getting rid of their personal vehicles. This has been some matter of controversy for researchers, because it’s hard to figure out whether the services’ more enthusiastic users sold their cars or never had cars at all. According to this self-reported data set, it’s more often the latter: 91 percent haven’t ditched their vehicles.

That lines up with prior research, mostly. According to a small Reuters/Ipsos poll, a quarter of Americans got rid of their old cars last year, and 9 percent of them decided to forgo a new one in favor of ride-hailing services.

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Lyft’s Goal: Gain From Uber’s Stumbles Without Gloating – Patience Haggin Updated June 22, 2017 12:10 p.m. ET

Uber’s much smaller rival has built market share, expanded aggressively, even as founders counsel humility

Lyft told its employees Uber’s troubles “don’t do anything to deliver a better experience for our customers.”

Lyft told its employees Uber’s troubles “don’t do anything to deliver a better experience for our customers.” Photo: Getty Images

As Uber Technologies Inc. was grappling with leadership turmoil that ultimately led to its chief executive’s resignation, the founders of rival ride-hailing company Lyft Inc. sent a companywide email.

“This isn’t a time to gloat,” they said.

Schadenfreude might have been understandable at Lyft, which has been locked in a bitter, cash-burning battle with Uber for years. The San Francisco-based companies have slugged it out with competing fare cuts to woo customers, and dueling subsidies to poach drivers—each quickly matching new features when the other rolls them out on its app.

Lyft, which is by far the smaller of the two, has long tried to build a reputation as the better-behaved ride-sharing company, with a playful pink logo that stands in contrast to Uber’s austere black-and-white emblem. In November, well before Uber’s string of scandals started, Lyft started running a series of TV commercials portraying executives at a fictitious competitor—a thinly veiled sendup of Uber—scheming against Lyft and ridiculing its practice of letting riders tip drivers.

That left Lyft’s brand extraordinarily well-positioned when Uber’s travails began in February with a blog post by a female former engineer alleging sexual harassment and discrimination at Uber. That was followed by problems including a legal battle with Alphabet Inc.’s Waymo unit over autonomous-driving technology and an exodus of high-level executives, culminating in CEO and co-founder Travis Kalanick’s resignation on Tuesday.

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Lyft spent years preparing for Uber’s cultural crisis – Ezra Klein Jun 21, 2017, 10:15am EDT

The ride-hailing wars hold a lesson for today’s political parties.

Photo by Noam Galai/Getty Images for TechCrunch

In 2015, my wife, Annie Lowrey, profiled the ride-hailing company Lyft. I remember being surprised by the debate she outlined in her story. The activist investor Carl Icahn had just invested $100 million with Lyft, and he was being forced to defend the proposition that investing in the second-biggest player in a massive new market made business sense. “There’s room for two, maybe three competitors in the area,” he said.

This was not, to say the least, a consensus view. “If you really look at this thing, it’s not gonna be a two-horse race. Lyft doesn’t survive. And Travis is never gonna buy it,” Chris Sacca, an early Uber investor, had said. “This is a winner-take-all game. And Travis will take all.”

At 1:30 am Wednesday, news broke that Travis Kalanick, the CEO of Uber, was resigning amid mounting scandal. “I have accepted a group of investors’ request to step aside, so that Uber can go back to building rather than be distracted with another fight,” he said in an email to the company. Icahn’s investment looks pretty good now. It turns out Kalanick will not, in fact, take all.

Uber is the most valuable private company in the world, and Kalanick’s bullheaded aggression is a big part of the reason. Both the ride-hailing giant’s extraordinary successes and its deep cultural failures reflect Kalanick’s personality and influence. It is very difficult to imagine the company in his absence. “This is shocking,” wrotetechnology journalist Dan Primack. “It’s this generation’s version of Steve Jobs being kicked out of Apple.”

The commentary today will focus on Uber, and properly so. But I’ve been thinking a lot about Lyft lately. Like many others, I’ve switched from Uber to Lyft over the past year. The decision was driven by discomfort with Uber’s obviously toxic culture. In the New York Times, Farhad Manjoo put it well:

Ride-sharing, as an industry and a civic utility, is too big an idea to be left to a company like the one Uber is now. The company that wins this industry is bound to become one of the world’s most powerful corporations. Its executives and culture will indirectly shape how we build cities, how we use energy, how we employ and pay people. We will entrust it with the safety and the security of our families, our streets, our private data and even, conceivably, the national infrastructure.

There was nothing inevitable about discomfort with Uber’s scandals driving a rush to Lyft. But Lyft, consciously or not, had correctly identified Uber’s weakness years ago. Uber was unfriendly, so Lyft would be friendly. Uber’s logo was sleek and silver and black, and so Lyft’s would be a bright pink mustache. Uber’s vision of driverless cars sounded like Skynet. Lyft painted a picture of a world with wider sidewalks and more parks.

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Uber shortchanged New York drivers by an average of $900. It will cost them millions. Timothy B. Lee May 23, 2017, 5:00pm EDT

Uber CEO Travis Kalanick
Photo by Mike Windle/Getty Images for Vanity Fair

Uber admitted on Tuesday that it has shortchanged drivers in New York by an average of about $900 per driver. The calculation error could wind up costing Uber more than $45 million in payments to drivers in the New York area.

“We made a mistake and we are committed to making it right by paying every driver every penny they are owed, plus interest, as quickly as possible,” Rachel Holt, regional general manager of Uber in the US and Canada, told the Wall Street Journal. “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.”

It’s the latest embarrassing admission for a company that has long had a testy relationship with its drivers. The company admitted to a similar mistake in the Philadelphia area. Back in January, Uber agreed to pay $20 million to settle claims that it had exaggerated how much people could earn as Uber drivers.

Then in February, Uber CEO Travis Kalanick was caught on tape lecturing an Uber driver who complained that fare cuts were harming his ability to earn a living.

Simmering driver dissatisfaction is a big problem for a company that needs hundreds of thousands of drivers to provide service in dozens of cities. With so many mistakes, it’s going to be hard for Uber to rebuild driver trust.


How Uber lost its way in the Steel City – Ashley Gold 05/01/17 05:13 AM EDT

The relationship between Uber and city mayor sours.

PITTSBURGH — This city was supposed to be a bright spot for Uber — a tech-friendly oasis from its snowballing worldwide travails over taxi rules, labor relations, sexual harassment and an exodus of executives.

Instead, the ride-hailing company’s sharp-elbowed tactics have alienated political leaders in Pittsburgh too, less than eight months after Uber launched a pilot project that uses self-driving Volvos to ferry passengers through the Steel City’s hilly streets.

One of the company’s most vocal critics, Democratic Mayor Bill Peduto, says he originally envisioned Uber’s much-lauded Advanced Technologies Center as a partnership that would bolster the city’s high-tech evolution. Instead, he’s grown frustrated as the company declined to help Pittsburgh obtain a $50 million federal “Smart Cities” grant, rebuffed his suggestions for providing senior citizens with free rides to doctors’ appointments, and lobbied state lawmakers to alter his vision for how self-driving vehicles should be rolled out to the public.

Then came the late January weekend when Uber appeared to side with the Trump administration by undermining a taxi boycott at New York’s JFK International Airport during a protest against the president’s immigration policies.

Peduto, who opposed Uber continuing service during the boycotts, sent a long, blistering text message that evening to Uber founder and CEO Travis Kalanick, who didn’t respond. (Uber later publicly apologized for “any confusion” it caused.)

It adds up to a “constant drumbeat of Uber not being a good partner, and that’s not the Pittsburgh way,” Peduto said in a sit-down interview with POLITICO. “Uber wanted to use our public right-of-ways and didn’t want to be engaged with the city when it needed something.”

Companies that care only about profit and not societal benefit will see their business models hurt eventfully, the mayor predicted. “Because eventually someone is going to create a better app,” he said. “And when that app also has somebody driving the vehicle have health care to take care of their family, it’s not going to be cooler to roll up in an Uber.”

Uber disputes Peduto’s characterization, saying the company and the city maintain a great relationship.

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Facing a Self-Driving Smackdown, Uber Opts for Damage Control – Advertisement. Skip Article Header. Skip to: Start of Article. ALEX DAVIES 04.07.17. 10:14 PM

Pilot models of the Uber self-driving car is displayed at the Uber Advanced Technologies Center.Angelo Merendino/AFP/Getty Images`

Google’s lawsuit alleging that Uber straight-up stole its autonomous vehicle technology won’t go before a jury until October, but Uber already finds itself on dangerous ground.

This week, the judge presiding over the civil case said he might just grant Google’s request for a preliminary injunction, which could force Uber to rein in or even stop testing its robocar technology testing until the case is resolved. Eager to avoid the worst, Uber issued a response designed to limit the damage.

All of this started in February when Waymo, Google’s autonomous vehicle division, filed a lawsuit claiming former employee Anthony Levandowski downloaded 14,000 technical files from a company server and used the info to launch his autonomous truck startup  Otto. Uber acquired Otto a few months later and put Levandowski in charge of its autonomous vehicle program. Uber calls the suit “a baseless attempt to slow down a competitor.”

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Can Uber Survive Without Self-Driving Cars? – Adrienne LaFrance Mar 26, 2017

A self-driven Uber-owned Volvo flipped on its side after a collision in Tempe, Arizona. Police say Uber’s car did not cause the crash. | Mark Beach / Fresco News / Reuters

After a high-speed crash in Arizona, the ride-hailing giant grounds its autonomous fleet.

In the era of self-driving cars, a scary but otherwise uneventful car crash can be huge news. This was the case in Tempe, Arizona, on Friday, when an Uber self-driving car was hit so hard that it rolled onto its side. There were no serious injuries reported.

Uber has grounded its fleet of self-driving cars in Arizona as a result, a spokeswoman for the company told me. “We are continuing to look into this incident, and can confirm we had no backseat passengers in the vehicle,” an Uber spokesperson said in a statement provided to The Atlantic. Uber also suspended testing of its self-driving vehicles in Pittsburgh and San Francisco “for the day, and possibly longer,” The New York Times reported. In addition to its global ride-hailing service, Uber has been testing its self-driving car technology on public roads in Arizona, Pennsylvania, and California for several months.

The vehicle involved in the Arizona crash was in autonomous mode at the time of the collision—meaning the car was driving itself with a human riding behind the wheel—but police in Tempe say Uber wasn’t to blame for what happened. A human-driven vehicle failed to yield at a traffic signal, and collided with the Uber SUV, police said in local news reports.

The incident is a reminder of the need for this technology in the first place: Humans are abysmally bad drivers. But it’s also a reminder of how much Uber has riding on the success of self-driving cars.

And how much is that? Everything, basically.

If self-driving cars are adopted on a mass scale and Uber isn’t leading the way, its current business—which revolves around humans driving cars—is made obsolete. But if Uber finds a way to dominate in the development of self-driving cars, it can remove those costly human drivers from its business model—a scenario that could mean a windfall for Uber. Succeeding on this front “is basically existential for us,” Uber’s CEO, Travis Kalanick, told Bloomberg Businessweek in August.

China’s Uber-slaying ride hailer is now Apple’s new neighbor – by Zoey Chong March 10, 2017 1:13 AM PST

Didi Chuxing last year toppled Uber in China, and now it’s setting up an office in Silicon Valley.

Didi Chuxing

After last year’s Uber acquisition and Apple‘s $1 billion investment, Didi Chuxing has journeyed to the mecca of tech, Silicon Valley.

The Chinese ride hailer officially opened its first US-based research and development lab in Mountain View, California this week, according to a statementreleased on Wednesday.

Helmed by Dr Fengmin Gong, Didi Labs will scour for engineering talents and focus on developing “AI-based security and intelligent driving technologies.” Charlie Miller, an automobile security expert perhaps best known for remotely hacking and controlling a journalist’s car, is also on board as part of the team.


Google’s Lawsuit Against Uber Revolves Around Frickin’ Lasers – Alex Davies 02.25.17. 7:00 am.



Uber CEO Apologizes for Company Culture After Harassment Claims – by  Eric Newcomer February 21, 2017, 2:03 PM PST

Employees asked tough questions about a former colleague’s blog post saying she was harassed at the company.screen-shot-2017-02-22-at-feb-22-2017-12-38

Photographer: Chris Ratcliffe/Bloomberg

At a meeting open to all Uber Technologies Inc. employees on Tuesday, Travis Kalanick apologized for cultural failings at his company after a former employee alleged she was harassed and discriminated against while working there.

Alongside board member Arianna Huffington and Uber’s head of human resources, Kalanick spoke at his ride-hailing company’s San Francisco headquarters in a meeting that lasted for more than a hour, according to people who watched the event. Uber’s chief executive officer, at times with tears in his eyes, apologized for a lack of diversity in the company’s workforce and for not properly responding to employee complaints, while those in attendance lobbed tough, pointed questions, said the people, who asked not to be identified discussing internal matters. After a rough start to the year, employee morale is bleak, one of the people said.

“Travis spoke very honestly about the mistakes he’s made—and about how he wants to take the events of the last 48-hours to build a better Uber,” Huffington wrote in a company blog post. “Change doesn’t usually happen without a catalyst. I hope that by taking the time to understand what’s gone wrong and fixing it we can not only make Uber better but also contribute to improvements for women across the industry.”

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