Uber suspends self-driving car tests after first fatal pedestrian crash

A woman in Tempe, Ariz., has died after being hit by a self-driving car operated by Uber, in what appears to be the first known death of a pedestrian struck by an autonomous vehicle on a public road.
The Uber vehicle was in autonomous mode with a human safety driver at the wheel when it struck the woman, who was crossing the street outside of a crosswalk, the Tempe police said in a statement. The episode happened on Sunday around 10 p.m. The woman was not publicly identified.
Uber said it had suspended testing of its self-driving cars in Tempe, Pittsburgh, San Francisco and Toronto.
“Our hearts go out to the victim’s family. We are fully cooperating with local authorities in their investigation of this incident,” an Uber spokeswoman, Sarah Abboud, said in a statement.
The fatal crash will most likely raise questions about regulations for self-driving cars. Testing of self-driving cars is already underway for vehicles that have a human driver ready to take over if something goes wrong, but states are starting to allow companies to test cars without a person in the driver’s seat. This month, California said that, in April, it would start allowing companies to test autonomous vehicles without anyone behind the wheel.
Arizona already allows self-driving cars to operate without a driver behind the wheel. Since late last year, Waymo, the self-driving car unit from Google’s parent company Alphabet, has been using cars without a human in the driver’s seat to pick up and drop off passengers there.

The state has largely taken a hands-off approach, promising that it would help keep the driverless car industry free from regulation. As a result, technology companies have flocked to Arizona to test their self-driving vehicles.
Autonomous cars are expected to ultimately be safer than human drivers, because they don’t get distracted and always observe traffic laws. However, researchers working on the technology have struggled with how to teach the autonomous systems to adjust for unpredictable human driving or behavior.
An Uber self-driving car was involved in another crash a year ago in Tempe. In that collision, one of Uber’s Volvo XC90 sport utility vehicles was hit when the driver of another car failed to yield, causing the Uber vehicle to roll over onto its side. The car was in self-driving mode with a safety driver behind the wheel, but police said the autonomous vehicle had not been at fault.
In 2016, a man driving his Tesla using Autopilot, the car company’s self-driving software, died on a state highway in Florida when it crashed into a tractor-trailer that was crossing the road in front of his car. Federal regulators later ruled there were no defects in the system to cause the accident.
The National Transportation Safety Board was sending a small team of investigators to Arizona to gather information about the Uber crash, said Eric Weiss, an N. T. S. B. spokesman.

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Uber suspends self-driving car tests after first fatal pedestrian crash

Uber to invest aggressively in South Asia, won’t let Softbank rule it: CEO

Uber Technologies Inc’s chief executive pledged to continue investing aggressively in Southeast Asia even though the US ride hailing firm expects to lose money in the fast growing market due to costly battles with rivals such as Grab.
SoftBank’s 15 percent stake purchase in Uber last month has opened up the possibility of combining Uber with other ride-hailing assets the Japanese group owns across Asia. SoftBank has stakes in Singapore-based Grab and India’s Ola.
At the time of the investment, SoftBank said it wants Uber to focus on growing in the United States, Europe, Latin America and Australia – not Asia, which has been among the most costly and competitive regions for the ride-services firm, a source had told Reuters.
Uber is preparing to sell its Southeast Asia ride-hailing business to Grab in return for a substantial stake in the company, CNBC reported earlier this month, citing sources familiar with the matter.
But Dara Khosrowshahi seemed to dismiss that strategy on Thursday in his first official visit to Asia since he became Uber CEO last year.
“We expect to lose money in Southeast Asia and expect to invest aggressively in terms of marketing, subsidies etc,” Khosrowshahi told reporters in New Delhi, adding there is huge potential in the region thanks to a big population and fast internet user growth.
“From a competitive standpoint we think we can improve,” he said.
Khosrowshahi said that a decade from now he expects 80 percent of growth at Uber to be organic and some through acquisitions.
“We will look at anything …. But right now the plan for Southeast Asia is to go forward, lean forward and to invest.”
India Push
Khosrowshahi said SoftBank is an investor but Uber, which has a valuation of around $68 billion, will take any final decisions along with the board on mergers and partnerships.

He said he does not expect any change in Uber’s India operations following the deal with SoftBank.
India is one of Uber’s fastest-growing international markets and accounts for more than 10 percent of Uber’s trips globally, but it’s not making money yet, Khosrowshahi said.
Uber and India’s market leader Ola have been locked in a fierce battle, pumping in millions of dollars of investors’ money for a bigger piece of the country’s $12 billion taxi market.
“The greatest value that we can create here is to continue to invest and grow our business here, not just for India but the role it is going to play in shaping our product for the rest of the world,” he said.
Khosrowshahi declined to comment on specific investments for India but said “it is a lot” and will continue to increase.
“We as a company need to have a balanced profile in terms of growth and investment. There are developed markets that we are going to continue to invest in that are going to be more profitable … and we should actively be investing in markets like India and Latin America that have huge growth ahead of us.”
Khosrowshahi, who took the helm in August after former CEO Travis Kalanick was asked to step down amid a litany of regulatory problems, driver and consumer scandals and court cases, has pledged to make a clean break with past practices that have lead to accusations of a toxic work culture.
Uber has faced bans, restrictions and protests around the world as it disrupts conventional taxi services and Khosrowshahi is tackling this head-on by working with regulators, putting an end to the take-no-prisoners culture he inherited.
He said that the company has a responsibility to local governments and regulators, and it needs to have a dialogue with them.

Uber to invest aggressively in South Asia, won’t let Softbank rule it: CEO

Is Uber an app or ordinary taxi firm? Top EU court to decide today

The EU’s top court will decide on Wednesday if ride-hailing app Uber is an ordinary taxi company and should be regulated as such, in a decision that will be closely watched around the world.

The case is yet another thorn in the side for scandal-rocked Uber, which has drawn the fury of local taxi drivers and officials for flouting local regulations.

 

It also comes the same week as one of its drivers admitted to the attempted rape and murder of a British embassy worker coming home from a night out in Beirut, Lebanon.

Uber, the biggest name in the exploding gig economy, claims it is a mere service provider, connecting consumers with drivers in more than 600 cities.

But it has run into huge opposition from taxi companies and other competitors who say this allows it to dodge costly regulations such as training and licensing requirements for drivers and vehicles.

The case was brought by a taxi drivers’ association in the Spanish city of Barcelona, where belief runs high that Uber is a taxi company that should be subject to rules governing such vehicles.

The court’s senior advisor, Advocate General Maciej Szpunar agreed in an opinion in May arguing that Uber “whilst innovative, falls within the field of transport”.

“Uber can thus be required to obtain the necessary licences and authorisations under national law,” he said.

The company reacted sharply, saying the opinion would change little in practice and only harm innovation.

“To be considered a transport company will not change the regulations we are subject to in most European countries,” a spokesman for Uber said.

“It will however hurt the necessary reform of outdated laws which prevent millions of Europeans being able to find a reliable ride with just one click,” the spokesman said.

The opinions given by the ECJ’s advocate generals — its top lawyers — are often followed by the court’s judges.

Uber has had a rough ride in Spain, where a judge ruled in 2014 that its UberPop service risked breaking the law, leading to the Barcelona submission to the ECJ.

Early last year it decided to only operate a limited a version of its UberX service in Spain which uses licensed, professional drivers instead of the amateurs who had previously worked via the UberPop application.

Uber has already had problems with the law in several European countries, particularly France where the company was forced to overhaul its business model.

In November a labour court in London, where the company is threatened with losing its license, said it had to pay the drivers a minimum wage and give them paid leave.

Uber does not employ drivers or own vehicles, but instead relies on private contractors with their own cars, allowing them to run their own businesses.

Licensed taxi drivers meanwhile often have to undergo hundreds of hours of training, and they accuse Uber of endangering their jobs by using more affordable drivers who need only a GPS to get around.

Is Uber an app or ordinary taxi firm? Top EU court to decide today

Uber to settle US lawsuit filed by Delhi rape victim for breaching privacy

Uber Technologies Inc and a woman who accused top executives of improperly obtaining her medical records after a company driver raped her in India have agreed to settle a civil lawsuit the woman filed against Uber in June, according to a US federal court filing on Friday.

The Uber driver was convicted of the rape, which occurred in Delhi in 2014, in a criminal case in India. He was sentenced in 2015 to life in prison.

 

The Indian woman had previously settled a civil US lawsuit against Uber in 2015, but sued the company again in a San Francisco federal court saying that shortly after the incident, a US Uber executive “met with Delhi police and intentionally obtained plaintiff’s confidential medical records.” Uber kept a copy of those records, the lawsuit said.

The woman was living in the United States when she filed the lawsuit.

Terms of the settlement were not disclosed in the court document. A spokesman for San Francisco-based Uber declined to comment. An attorney for the woman could not immediately be reached for comment.

The settlement comes as new CEO Dara Khosrowshahi, who took the top job in August, is seeking to put several scandals behind the company following eight years of CEO Travis Kalanick’s pugnacious leadership, which led to rule-breaking around the world.

The lawsuit cited several media reports that said Kalanick and others doubted the victim’s account of her ordeal.

“Uber executives duplicitously and publicly decried the rape, expressing sympathy for plaintiff, and shock and regret at the violent attack, while privately speculating, as outlandish as it is, that she had colluded with a rival company to harm Uber’s business,” the lawsuit said.

A source with knowledge of the matter previously told Reuters that Kalanick had told other Uber executives he believed the incident had been staged by Indian ride-services rival Ola.

In a prior statement, while Kalanick was CEO, Uber said: “No one should have to go through a horrific experience like this, and we’re truly sorry that she’s had to relive it.”

A spokesman for Kalanick was not immediately available for comment on Friday.

Uber’s actions have led to a criminal probe by the US Department of Justice of whether managers violated U.S. bribery laws, specifically the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act, the company said in June.

The Justice Department did not say on what country or countries the investigation centered on. Bloomberg said it focused on activity in at least five Asian countries. Uber has also notified U.S. authorities about payments made by Uber staff to police officers in Indonesia, a person familiar with the matter told Reuters.

Uber previously hired law firm O’Melveny & Myers LLP to investigate how it obtained the medical records of the rape victim, Reuters reported in June.

Uber to settle US lawsuit filed by Delhi rape victim for breaching privacy

Delhi rape victim files lawsuit against Uber, Kalanick and 2 executives

The woman who was raped by a driver of Uber while on a trip in Delhi in December 2014 has filed a lawsuit against the company, its founder Travis Kalanick, and two former executives, accusing them of violating her for a second time by “unlawfully” obtaining and sharing her medical records.

The unnamed victim, who resides in Texas, filed the lawsuit in California, where Uber is headquartered, charging Kalanick, former Asia-Pacific head Eric Alexander, and Emil Michael, a former vice-president for business at the taxi-hailing company, of invading her privacy.

“Uber executives duplicitously and publicly decried the rape, expressing sympathy for Plaintiff, and shock and regret at the violent attack, while privately speculating, as outlandish as it is, that she had colluded with a rival company to harm Uber’s business,” said the lawsuit filed in the Northern District of California.

The lawsuit follows a report by ReCode on June 7, and it alleged that Alexander had obtained medical reports of the victim, held them for more than a year, and showed them to Kalanick and other employees.

They were allegedly exploring the possibility that the victim had colluded with Uber’s chief rival, Ola, to derail the company’s growth plans in the country. India is the second-largest market for Uber, after it burnt over $2 billion and lost to local rival Didi Chuxing in China. The lawsuit is likely to increase scrutiny of Uber’s practices in India because the victim’s medical records were taken from Delhi without the authorisation of any court, the police, or the victim herself. “It is shocking that Travis Kalanick could publicly say that Uber would do everything to support our client and her family in her recovery when he and other executives were reviewing illegally obtained medical records and engaging in offensive and spurious conspiracy theories about the brutal rape she so tragically suffered,” said Douglas H Wigdor and Jeanne Christensen, the partners at law firm Wigdor LLP, in a joint statement.

“Rape denial is just another form of the toxic gender discrimination that is endemic at Uber and ingrained in its culture.”

Ola has said if the statements are true, they reflected on the character of the organisation.

“It is a shame that the privacy and morals of a woman have to be questioned in an attempt to trivialise a horrific crime,” Ola said in a statement last week.

“If this report were to be even remotely true, this is an all-time low on morality and a reflection of the very character of an organisation.”

The lawsuit comes at a time when Uber is without a chief executive because earlier this week Kalanick stepped down from the position temporarily. His decision came in the light of the findings of former US Attorney General Eric Holder’s report on the widespread gender inequality and other issues of mismanagement at the company.

Last week Uber had laid off 20 employees in relation to the investigations. The 20 did not include Alexander, which shocked many employees.

ReCode reported that soon after it got in touch with Uber questioning how Alexander had got access to the documents, the company said he was no longer an employee there.

Delhi rape victim files lawsuit against Uber, Kalanick and 2 executives

Uber rival Lyft acquires Pune-based FinitePaths to tap Indian talent Uber

 

US-based ride-hailing service Lyft has acquired Pune-based startup FinitePaths for an undisclosed sum as it follows its larger rival Uber in tapping India’s large talent base to solve its global technology problems.
Vinay Kakade and Balaji Raghavan, co-founders of FinitePaths, will join the Lyft team and will shut down their startup’s sole product offering which is available on Google and Apple’s app stores. The announcement comes at a time when India is emerging as a talent hub for ride-hailing companies.
“We are very excited to have Balaji and Vinay join our team. They have extensive experience building large scale infrastructure and services. We see this experience as playing a critical role in helping us tackle some of the unique challenges we have at Lyft,” said Luc Vincent, VP of Engineering at Lyft, in a statement.
The details of the deal were not disclosed, while the founders did not mention if the rest of the small team at FinitePaths would be transitioning to work with Lyft as well.
Uber opened its technology development centre in Bengaluru in February 2016, with the mandate to build solutions for the local market which could then be exported to other markets. The company’s ‘pay-by-cash’ model which was built out of India is now available in several Southeast Asian markets.
Apart from Uber, it’s Southeast Asian rival Grab recently announced its plans to setup a research centre in Bengaluru where it would employ 200 engineers that would largely work on payment technologies. The firm has already hired Raghuram Trikutam, former VP of engineering at digital payments firm Freecharge, to head its engineering at its India centre.
Similarly, Indonesian bike taxi service Go-Jek has acquired three Indian startups – Pianta, C42 Technologies and CodeIgnition, to shore up talent for its development centre here. The top management of Go-Jek India centre come from local service Ola which pioneered the ride-hailing market in the country.
Prior to starting FinitePaths Kakade headed engineering at Amazon’s CoudSearch division in India, while Raghavan quit Google in late 2015 as an Engineering Director at Google in the Bay Area. “The technical challenges are exciting and we believe we can make the right contributions based on our prior experience and what we have built at FinitePaths,” the two wrote in a joint post announcing the acquisition.
FinitePaths has stopped accepting new user signups for its Trial Answers app, which would serve users with local context laden answers for their questions, and said that it will shut down the app over the next two weeks.

 

Uber rival Lyft acquires Pune-based FinitePaths to tap Indian talent Uber