Self-Driving Uber car knocks down pedestrian in Arizona

TEMPE, Ariz. – Tempe, Arizona police are investigating a deadly crash involving a self-driving Uber vehicle early Monday morning. The Uber vehicle was reportedly headed northbound when a woman walking outside of the crosswalk was struck.

The woman, identified as 49-year-old Elaine Herzberg, was taken to the hospital where she died from her injuries.
Tempe Police says the vehicle was in autonomous mode at the time of the crash and a vehicle operator was also behind the wheel. No passengers were in the vehicle at the time.
An Uber spokesperson said they are aware of the incident and are cooperating with authorities.
They released the following statement: “Our hearts go out to the victim’s family. We are fully cooperating with local authorities in their investigation of this incident.”
Uber’s CEO Dara Khosrowshahi also acknowledged the incident on Twitter:

Uber has paused self-driving operations in Phoenix, Pittsburgh, San Francisco and Toronto, which is a standard move, the company says.

The investigation is still active.

Uber began testing self-driving cars in Tempe in February 2017. The fleet of self-driving Volvos arrived in Arizona after they were banned from California roads over safety concerns. Gov. Doug Ducey touted Arizona as a testing ground, saying at the time in a written statement, “Arizona welcomes Uber self-driving cars with open arms and wide open roads.”

One of the self-driving cars was involved in a crash a month later, after a car failed to yield to the Uber vehicle and hit it, authorities said. The self-driving SUV rolled onto its side as a result crash.

There were no serious injuries were reported in that crash.

Greece wants to force Uber into hiring full-time taxi drivers

Greece, a country with a lot of debt and an angry taxi lobby, is the latest to ponder anti-ride-sharing legislation. The country reportedly plans to force ride-sharing firms like Uber and Taxibeat to ink three-year contracts with licensed drivers, effectively turning them into full-time employees. Operators would need to buy taxi licenses be subject to stricter rules than currently allowed, according to Reuters.

Greek’s taxi drivers have reportedly lobbied the government to make the changes, saying that drivers using the new services have lower barriers to entry. “You can’t have a group of professionals being normally taxed … and a few others not paying at all for the same job, because there [are no set rules],” taxi union head Thymios Lyberopoulos told Reuters.

As in France, Uber does not offer its UberPop service in Greece, but instead gives its app to professional taxi drivers and chauffeurs licensed for tourism-related activities. It’s not clear whether the new rules would affect one or both groups of drivers.

London is the most recent region to ban Uber, saying its service are not “fit and proper.” Uber’s new CEO, Dara Khosrowshahi, apologized to Londoners and told employees in a company letter that “there is a high cost to a bad reputation.”

However, in the recent past, Greek taxi licenses cost around $235,000, so it’s easy to understand why drivers might be upset. At the same time, letting Uber and other ride-sharing drivers off the hook for such fees might impact government revenue, and Greece really needs the money.

Photo by Amelia Holowaty Krales / The Verge

Uber launched a new tool yesterday to teach users how to sign simple phrases in American Sign Language for better communication with drivers who are deaf or hard of hearing. The website,, is an extension of an outreach effort launched by the company in 2015 to recruit more drivers from the deaf community.

Now when you get matched with a deaf driver, you are offered the option of learning a few ASL signs in the app. The tool teaches you how to sign basic phrases such as “hello,” “I am [your name],” and “thank you,” as well as navigational instructions like “turn left” and “turn right.”

Citing the fact that unemployment or underemployment in the deaf community is close to 70 percent, Uber says it is “proud to provide earning opportunities to Deaf and Hard of Hearing drivers across the world and in more than 200 US cities.”

Two years ago, Uber introduced a number of new features designed to better serve deaf drivers and their passengers. The app informs passengers when their driver is deaf, while also disabling voice-calling and instructing them to use text messaging for any questions. For deaf drivers, the app provides visual notifications rather than text messages when a new trip is requested.

Uber says it has “thousands” of deaf or hard of hearing drivers in the US, but wouldn’t provide a specific number. However, a spokesperson noted that collectively deaf drivers on the app have completed over a million trips.

And Bozoma Saint John’s going to help. Uber is announcing today a multi-year partnership with the nonprofit Girls Who Code. As part of the deal, Uber is donating $1.2 million to Girls Who Code over the next three years. The money will go towards growing more after school and immersion programs for young girls to learn tech at an earlier age and the organization estimates that 60,000 more girls will gain access to these programs as a result of the deal.

While this initiative and the timing reads as another attempt by Uber to try and get good press after a series of PR disasters, at least the money is going toward a good cause. Uber engineers are also going to volunteer at Girls Who Code local chapters to help set up coding workshops and mentorship programs. And Uber also has another $1.8 million left in its diversity fund for the next three years that it plans to spend on other organizations that are similar to Girls Who Code.

To ensure the deal goes smoothly, Uber’s Chief Branding Officer Bozoma Saint John is also joining Girls Who Code’s board of directors. Saint John, who was hired by Uber away from Apple only a month before Uber’s CEO Travis Kalanick stepped down, has been perceived by many as someone who might be able to help address Uber’s diversity problem, a problem that the entire tech industry faces as well. “Now more than ever it’s important to see strong female leadership in the tech industry,” Reshma Saujani, CEO & Founder of Girls Who Code, said. “Bozoma exemplifies this.”

Uber has come under fire more than once for failing to protect privacy, and now it’s facing the consequences.

The ridesharing outfit has settled with the US’ Federal Trade Commission over allegations that it not only didn’t adequately safeguard data, but misrepresented how secure that info really was.

Uber didn’t monitor staff access to personal info as closely as it said it did, the FTC says, and it also gave a false impression of how secure that info was when stored on third-party servers. Instead, employees needed just a single key to get full access to data, and it stored some information (including customer locations) online in plain text. It even ditched an automated staff monitoring tool after less than a year.

There’s no mention of a fine in the settlement, but that doesn’t mean Uber is off the hook. In addition to being barred from misrepresenting privacy and security, it’ll have to implement a “comprehensive privacy program” and undergo third-party privacy audits every 2 years for the next 20 years. That’s par for the course as far as FTC settlements go, but it’s a long time in Uber terms — the company may have fulfilled its driverless car ambitions by the time the audits are over.

In a statement, Uber tells us that it welcomes the end of the investigation and sees this as an “opportunity” to prove that it has turned a corner. You can read the full statement below.

The settlement comes right as Uber is in the midst of trying to fix a toxic corporate culture that many blame for Uber’s lax approach to privacy. Uber recently ousted CEO Travis Kalanick, who was frequently blamed for the company’s tendency to test (and sometimes break) legal boundaries. Other executives accused of dodgy behavior have also left the company.

The FTC-mandated reforms could still be helpful, but Uber may be better prepared to implement them than it was just months earlier.

“We are pleased to bring the FTC’s investigation to a close. The complaint involved practices that date as far back as 2014. We’ve significantly strengthened our privacy and data security practices since then and will continue to invest heavily in these programs. In 2015, we hired our first Chief Security Officer and now employ hundreds of trained professionals dedicated to protecting user information. This settlement provides an opportunity to work with the FTC to further verify that our programs protect user privacy and personal information.”

Uber’s terrible, awful, no-good 2017 isn’t over yet. Two years after it started leasing cars to drivers, the ride-hailing company has realized that it should’ve looked at the economics of such a little better. “The average loss per vehicle was about 10 times what they had thought,” the Wall Street Journal reports. Specifically, WSJ‘s sources say that the company is losing around $9,000 per car. That’s a stark contrast to the $500 per-car losses it expected.

And that’s not all. Uber apparently sunk some $600 million into its domestic leasing program, opening it to 24 markets. Recently, the company came under fire for leasing unsafe vehicles to drivers in Singapore.

As WSJ describes, this part of Uber’s business seems like it was doomed from the start. Sources say that the lease costs were more than a driver would pay a typical dealer, which in turn pushed drivers to take more fares. More fares meant more wear and tear on a vehicle, which resulted in lower resale values of said cars.

Here’s a bolt out of the blue: Uber is partnering with Yandex, the Google of Russia, to launch a new standalone company that merges their respective ridesharing services to target Russia, Kazakhstan, Azerbaijan, Armenia, Belarus, and Georgia.

The new company, tentatively titled “NewCo,” will be 59.3 percent owned by Yandex, 36.6 percent owned by Uber, and 4.1 percent owned by employees. Additionally, Uber will roll its UberEats food delivery service into the new venture.

Though Yandex is perhaps better known for its online technologies across Russia and nearby regions, it has actually operated an Uber-style taxi-hailing app for a number of years already, and it recently announced it was slashing its prices to stay ahead of the local competition, which includes Uber and Gett. Uber, for its part, has faced stiff regulatory hurdles in Russia, and was given the green light to continue operating in Moscow last year, but only using licensed taxi drivers.

As a result of this deal, Uber is investing $225 million into NewCo, with Yandex only stumping up $100 million, with the post-money valuation pegged at $3.725 billion.

That Uber is putting more cash into the new company, yet is only gaining a little more than one-third of the ownership, indicates that Yandex holds a much larger share of the local market, and Uber has effectively failed to overturn the incumbents. Indeed, according to a set of slides issued by Yandex, it is currently on track to do 285 million rides in 2017 across the various regions, while Uber is on for more than half of that, at around 134 million.

Above: Uber vs. Yandex

The announcement also echoes a similar move Uber made in China last year, when it decided to be swallowed by local etaxi giant Didi Chuxing in a $35 billion deal, rather than continuing to haemorrhage cash trying to infiltrate the market. The more modest nature of this latest tie-up with Yandex reflects the smaller market, but it also goes some way toward improving Uber’s balance sheet.

“Combining our business with Yandex will give us a very significant stake in a new company which will initially serve more than 35 million trips each month and operate in an incredible 127 cities in six countries across the region,” explainedPierre-Dimitri Gore-Coty, Uber’s head honcho for EMEA, in an email sent to employees. “Uber will also have three of the seven seats on the new company’s board and — together with the $225 million cash investment we are making in the new company — our 36.6 percent ownership stake will be worth almost $1.4 billion.”

The new company — which will be headed up by Tigran Khudaverdyan, who currently serves as the CEO of Yandex.Taxi — will also tap Yandex’s existing technologies including maps and navigation.

Once the transaction is complete, which is expected to happen in Q4, riders will be able to use both Yandex and Uber apps, but the driver apps will be integrated, “leading to shorter passenger wait times, increased driver utilization rates, and higher service reliability,” according to a separate Yandex statement.

It’s also worth noting here that Uber an Yandex’s boards of directors have already approved this deal (as you’d expect) and shareholder approval isn’t required — the only potential sticking point would be regulatory approval.


Sourced: Paul Sawers

Taking to Twitter in the wee hours of Monday morning, restless Tesla CEO Elon Musk confirmed that the much-anticipated Model 3 electric car makes its debut this month, with a ceremony marking an initial production run of just 30 cars planned for July 28. Separately, Tesla reported sluggish second-quarter Model S and Model X production and deliveries owing to battery inventory issues.

“Model 3 passed all regulatory requirements for production two weeks ahead of schedule. Expecting to complete SN1 on Friday,” he tweeted. “Handover party for first 30 customer Model 3’s on the 28th!” (Presumably, his SN1 reference is serial number 1, or the first sellable unit.)

While Tesla is meeting a goal set by Musk to begin delivering cars to customers in July, the production timetable laid out isn’t fast by conventional auto industry standards. The company’s Fremont, California, plant will make just 30 in July, 100 in August and more than 1,500 in September, Musk said. High-volume production won’t kick in until late in the year, it appears.

“Looks like we can reach 20,000 Model 3 cars per month in Dec,” he said.

Elon Musk tweets

The small sedan is a major step for the youngest and most valuable U.S. carmaker by market capitalization, which for nearly a decade has specialized in premium electric vehicles selling for an average of $100,000. In fact, selling an affordable, high-volume electric car has been Musk’s goal since August 2006, when he published Tesla’s “Secret Master Plan.”

The first Tesla Model 3 electric car for the masses should come off the assembly line on Friday with the first deliveries in late July, the company’s CEO says.

CEO Elon Musk, in several Twitter messages early Monday, says the new car passed all government regulatory requirements for production to begin two weeks ahead of schedule. The company plans to hold a party to hand over the first 30 Model 3s to customers on July 28, Musk wrote in a tweet.

The Model 3 is to start around $35,000 and with a $7,500 federal electric car tax credit, could cost $27,500. Tesla says the five-seat car will be able to go 215 miles (346 kilometers) on a single charge and will be sporty, accelerating from zero to 60 miles per hour in under six seconds.

Musk tweeted that the company expects to produce 100 cars in August and more than 1,500 in September. “Looks like we can reach 20,000 Model 3 cars per month in December,” he wrote.

That figure is less than previous estimates. Musk earlier had said Tesla would make 10,000 Model 3s per week by December.

Tesla also said Monday that it delivered about 22,000 vehicles in the second quarter, bringing first-half deliveries to about 47,100.

That’s at the low end of the company’s prediction earlier this year of 47,000 to 50,000 Model S sedan and Model X SUV deliveries in the first half, as much as a 71 percent increase over a year ago.

While second-quarter deliveries rose 53 percent from a year ago, they still were about 12 percent below first-quarter deliveries. Tesla said in a statement that second-quarter production was hampered by a severe shortfall of battery packs. Production averaged 40 percent less than demand until early June, the company said.

Tesla said that as long as global economic conditions don’t worsen considerably, it is confident that second-half Model S and Model X deliveries are likely to exceed deliveries in the first half.

Musk’s tweets about the Model 3 appear to erase doubts that Tesla would be able to meet deadlines for mass producing the cars, which is key to the company making money. Previously it has faced delays in getting vehicles to market. The Palo Alto, California-based company aims to make 10,000 Model 3s per week in 2018.

Tesla hasn’t said how many people have put down $1,000 refundable deposits for the Model 3, but Musk has said people who put down a deposit now won’t get a car until the end of 2018, suggesting it could be close to 500,000.

Tesla’s last new vehicle, the Model X SUV, was delayed nearly 18 months. Musk says the Model 3 is much simpler to make, but 14-year-old Tesla has no experience producing and selling vehicles in high volumes. Tesla made just 84,000 cars last year. Bigger rivals like General Motors, Volkswagen and Toyota routinely sell around 10 million vehicles per year.

Even if the Model 3 is on time, servicing all those vehicles will still be a challenge. Model S and Model X owners are already worried about having to share Tesla’s company-owned charging stations with an influx of new cars. And while Tesla is promising to increase its network of stores and service centers by 30 percent this year, it began 2017 with just 250 service centers worldwide. That leaves many potential owners miles from a service center.

Musk has said a new fleet of mobile service trucks will be deployed to help customers who are far from service centers. Tesla also plans to double its global high-speed charging points to 10,000 by the end of this year and increase them by another 50 percent-100 percent in 2018.

Until recently, Tesla owned the market for fully-electric vehicles that can go 200 miles (322 kilometers) or more on a charge. But that’s changing. GM beat Tesla to the mass market with the Chevrolet Bolt, a $36,000 car that goes 238 miles (about 383 kilometers) per charge. Audi plans to introduce an electric SUV with 300 miles (483 kilometers) of range next year; Ford will have one by 2020. Volkswagen plans more than 30 electric vehicle models by 2025.

Automotive competitors like Mercedes and Volvo — not to mention tech companies like Google and Uber — can also match Tesla’s efforts to develop self-driving vehicles. And they have deeper pockets. Tesla has had only two profitable quarters in its seven years as a public company

Uber founder Travis Kalanick has resigned as the ride-sharing app’s chief executive officer in the face of shareholder outrage over company culture.

Mr Kalanick, who helped found Uber around eight years ago and was instrumental in growing it into a transportation behemoth, announced last week that he would be taking a leave of absence for an unspecified period of time.

He said that he needed time off to grieve for his mother, who had died in a May boating accident, while also admitting that he was responsible for Uber’s current situation and needs to become a better leader.

On Wednesday the company confirmed that he would not be returning as CEO.

That announcement came after former US Attorney Eric Holder released a list of recommendations to improve Uber’s culture, which included relieving Mr Kalanick of some of his leadership responsibilities.

Citing people familiar with the situation, the New York Times reported that Mr Kalanick had agreed to resign following hours of drama with some of the company’s biggest investors, including venture capital firm Benchmark. One of the partners at Benchmark, Bill Gurley, sits on Uber’s board.

In a letter delivered to the CEO in Chicago and signed by Benchmark and four other major investors, they reportedly demanded he quit.

A spokesperson for Uber told The Independent: “Travis has always put Uber first. This is a bold decision and a sign of his devotion and love for Uber. By stepping away, he’s taking the time to heal from his personal tragedy while giving the company room to fully embrace this new chapter in Uber’s history.”

In a statement cited by the New York Times, Mr Kalanick said: “I love Uber more than anything in the world and at this difficult moment in my personal life I have accepted the investors request to step aside so that Uber can go back to building rather than be distracted with another fight.”

In recent months, the ride-sharing company has frequently been pointed to as an example of what has culturally gone wrong with Silicon Valley’s booming startup scene.

A former engineer at Uber, Susan Fowler, posted a blog online in February that detailed sexual harassment during the year she spent at the firm, sparking global outrage.

Ms Fowler wrote that she was propositioned by her manager. She said that she reported him to human resources, but was told that he would not be punished because he was a “high performer”.

That incident prompted Mr Holder’s investigation, during which more than 200 interviews were conducted with former and current employees.

Uber has since also made changes to its HR operations and launched a 24-hour hotline for employees. Earlier in June it sacked 20 people, including some managers. It is understood to be searching for new executives to professionalise its workplace.

Last week Uber director David Bonderman resigned after being accused of having made a sexist remark at a meeting to discuss how the group can transform its culture amid that probe into harassment and discrimination.

During the meeting, fellow board member Arianna Huffington reportedly spoke to employees about the importance of adding more women to the board of directors.

“There’s a lot of data that shows when there’s one woman on the board, it’s much more likely that there will be a second woman on the board,” Ms Huffington said, according to Reuters.

In response, David Bonderman reportedly quipped: “Actually, what it shows is that it’s much more likely to be more talking.”