Uber Beat Tesla to the Punch; Has Self-Driving Trucks Operating on the Highway
Adding worth to the adage “you can’t be the first in everything,” Tesla will have to take a backseat on who can claim to be the first company to roll out a fleet of self-driving trucks. That distinction rests on the shoulders of Uber, which announced that its self-driving haulers have been carrying cargo on the highways of Arizona for commercial freight customers over the past few months. While the trucks drive themselves on these highways, there are licensed operators that are still on board, ready to take over in the case of emergency. Eventually, though, Uber plans to use these self-driving trucks exclusively on long highway hauls and leaving human drivers to tackle shorter service trips.
Breaking: Uber-Branded, Self-Driving Car Strikes and Kills a Pedestrian
A pedestrian was struck and killed in Tempe, Arizona, by a self-driving car over the weekend, according to a report from the The New York Times. The incident occurred this past Sunday at 10 pm local time and involved an Uber-branded vehicle traveling in autonomous mode with a human safety pilot in the driver’s seat. Neither the system nor the human driver were unable to avoid the collision. The pedestrian involved was crossing the street outside of a crosswalk when she was struck by the vehicle.
This is the first known case of a pedestrian killed by a self-driving vehicle.
In response, Uber has suspended its public self-driving testing, including programs in Tempe, San Francisco, Toronto, and Pittsburgh. “Our hearts go out to the victim’s family. We are fully cooperating with local authorities in their investigation of this incident,” Uber said in a statement.
The incident follows a high-profile fatality back in 2016, when Joshua Brown was killed in a collision while operating his Tesla Model S in Autopilot mode. The system failed to recognize an 18-wheeler crossing the highway when the sedan passed under the trailer at highway speeds.
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NVIDIA Partners Up with Uber and Volkswagen for Vehicle-Based Artificial Intelligence
Add Nvidia to the growing list of tech companies that are diving into the pool that is autonomous driving technology. The California-based computer chip maker is linking up with Volkswagen, Uber, and China-based autonomous driving startup Baidu to expand its involvement in the fast-growing autonomous driving space. Each partnership is independent of the other so Invidia effectively landed three separate deals with three separate companies. The scope of the partnerships differ depending on the company, but all three companies will make use of Nvidia’s state of the art computer chips to launch software systems that fit into their respective plans in the sphere of autonomous driving.
Uber Gets Huge Chunk Of Change With Softbank Investment
With New Years right around the corner, ride-hailing services like Uber are likely getting a major bump in use. Now, Uber has something else to get excited about, as Softbank just announced it was plunking down nearly $8 billion for a considerable stake in the company, a move that will also have far-reaching effects on how the company is run.
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Craziness: Uber Charges $14,000 for a 21-Minute Ride!
We all have our Uber horror stories, especially those that involve alarming surge prices. I’ll take a leap of faith, though, and say that none of our experiences are as astonishing as the one a rider from Toronto just experienced when he was charged over $18,500 Canadian ($14,400 USD) for a five-mile, 20-minute ride. That’s beyond astonishing. That’s outright ridiculous.
Colorado Sticks $8.9 Million Fine Up Uber’s Tailpipe for Unqualified Drivers
Uber is on the hook for an $8.9 million fine in Colorado after state regulators discovered flaws in the company’s background check process that led to the hiring of 57 people even though they lacked valid driver’s licenses or had committed offenses that would have otherwise disqualified them from becoming drivers. The ride-sharing service has since come out with a statement, admitting that it had recently discovered errors in its background check process in the state and has started working on the matter to correct the issue.
The Sketchiest of the Sketchy: Uber Covered up Cyber Attack that Exposed Data of 57 Million Riders and Drivers
It wasn’t even two years ago that Uber was fined for failing to disclose a data breach in 2014, and here we are again in the midst of another scandal. This time, it involves the personal and confidential data of 57 million riders and drivers, all of which was retrieved by hackers who held the data for ransom. Uber isn’t only responsible for not reporting this hack, but for also covering it up – a move made by former Chief Security Officer, Joe Sullivan, and his subordinates. Former CEO Travis Kalanick was also informed of the attack just a month after it happened and still failed to report it to the FTC despite the fact that it was involved in negotiating over a privacy settlement with the agency at the time of the hack. Uber claims that it took immediate steps to secure the data and prevent further unauthorized access. Of course, Uber paid the hackers the $100,000 ransom to delete the data and proceeded to cover up the breach from the FTC.
Uber Bites Into Volvo Big Time; Orders 24,000 Models
Volvo and Uber aren’t messing around with their partnership. The two companies initially signed a strategic agreement in 2016 that included Volvo supplying Uber with a fleet of XC90 SUVs. Now, Uber’s taking it to a whole new level by ordering 24,000 units from the Swedish automaker between 2019 and 2021. No mention was made on which Volvo models Uber is getting, but all units will come with autonomous driving technology.
On-Demand Aviation Could Be Closer To Reality Than We Think
The prospect of air taxis has long been a pipe dream for this world. But it might not stay that way anymore now that Uber and NASA have finalized a partnership that will sensually turn “on-demand aviation” from fantasy to reality. Together, the two companies hope to start doing test runs of flying taxis by 2020 - yes, that’s a little over two years away - in certain locations around the world, including Los Angeles, Dallas, and Dubai.
The announcement was made by no less than Uber’s own head of product, Jeff Holden, who laid out new details about the company’s ambitious Project Elevate program. Included in his speech at the Web Summit in Lisbon, Portugal is the announcement that the ride-hailing service has signed a Space Act Agreement with NASA, which aims to create a new air-traffic control system that will specifically manage the low-flying, possibly autonomous aircrafts that Uber plans to develop to make up its fleet of air taxis. The goal, according to Holden, is to bring UberAir into the forefront of public transportation by “performing far more flights on a daily basis than it has ever been done before.” Holden added that the road to getting there will be made easier by “combining Uber’s software engineering expertise with NASA’s decades of airspace experience.”
Whereas the full details of the Uber-NASA partnership haven’t been made clear, this partnership is far from a cosmetic one. There’s already a groundswell of support growing for the propagation of this technology, most notably from Los Angeles mayor Eric Garcetti, who’s leading the charge in turning Los Angeles into a true city of the future in time for the 2028 Summer Olympics. Rest assured, as the project evolves and becomes more feasible, expect more and more cities, and possibly countries, to jump aboard the prospect of seeing a full-fledged, fully operational, on-demand aviation offering in their locales.
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Will Uber and Tesla Join Forces To Redefine Transportation?
So, Tesla has clearly expressed its plan to introduce fully autonomous ride sharing and taxi services, which is the same exact segment of transportation that Uber is moving toward. As of now, the two companies can work without paying too much attention to one another, but as time progresses, these companies will slowly begin to venture closer to becoming competitors – eventually setting a collision course for one another that could result in a pretty epic battle that would redefine the very nature of future transportation. Just think, we could even see Teslas and Uber vehicles smashing into each other all Vigilante 8 and Carmageddon style in a futuristic, AI-fueled, throw down that results in death, destruction, and cinema-style chaos. Okay, so maybe that’s extreme, but the fact of the matter is that these companies will eventually buck horns if both live up to their own expectations, but what if they do come together as one?
Well, Jason Calacanis – and early angel investor of Uber – spoke about such a thing on his web show, This Week in Startups. He believes it will be a good idea, and that the two should join forces to create the ultimate transportation company. He believes that, together, they could beat every other company at transportation. It could be an amazing collaboration, and Calacanis even believes that Elon Musk would act as the CEO of both companies (because he doesn’t have enough on his plate with SpaceX, Neuralink, Tesla, Hyperloop, and The Boring Company,) while Uber found Travis Kalanick would transition into being a board member of Uber. But when you take a look at the source, there’s a clear reason why Mr. Calacanis would like to see such a collaboration and joining of forces…
You Can Now Buy Snacks During Your Uber or Lyft Ride
A new startup is bringing somewhat unconventional vending services into the hands of Lyft and Uber drivers, allowing them to offer up thinks like snacks, pain relievers, and even phone chargers to their riders. The startup is known as Cargo and has a nifty little setup that includes a display case for the vehicle and inventory, as well as a web portal where customers pay for their purchase. Apparently, drivers get to sign up for free, and it appears as if the stock is given out on consignment and is even automatically tracked and delivered as needed, based on the driver’s sales. And, this isn’t some tiny little startup either, as the company has reportedly received as much as $1.75 million in seed funding and is already operating in New York City, Boston, and Chicago.
Of course, the company is still in the embryonic stages of deployment but claims to have received requests from drivers in 49 states. And, that’s really not surprising, considering that drivers are reportedly making $100 – $150 extra a month just from vending sales alone. The system operates rather simply for something that could be complicated. Customers simply insert a basic URL into their phone, plug in the number of the vending machine in their ride, and choose what they want to buy, be it an iPhone charger or a pack of spearmint gum. Payment is made electronically, and once completed, an alert is sent to the driver who then hands over you’re your goodies for the trip home. So how much do drivers get paid? Keep reading to find out.
Uber In Hot Water Over Stabbing And Attempted Robbery Incidents
Christmas is literally a few days away and you would think that the festive spirit of the holiday season is putting everyone in a good mood. But alas, the world doesn’t work that way. Uber found that out the hard way after two of its drivers found themselves involved in two separate criminal investigations in Florida and Michigan, respectively.
The incident in Florida involved 29-year old Uber driver Namique Anderson, who shot an armed robber attempting to steal from him and his passenger. According to reports, Anderson’s Uber car was cut off by a Dodge Caravan with the robber getting out and brandishing two firearms with the intent to steal from Anderson and his passenger. Turns out, the Uber driver had his own firearm in the car, which he used to shoot and kill the robber.
Florida police have been on top of the investigation and have said that the Uber driver is unlikely to face charges since he acted in self-defense. Unfortunately for Anderson, Uber has specific policies that prohibit drivers from carrying firearms when they’re operating their cars, even if the driver has a license to carry a gun, which Anderson had.
The ride-service company has not yet made a decision on a potential punishment on Anderson for violating its policies.
The incident isn’t what Uber had in mind this close to Christmas, but at least its driver is not expected to face charges. The same, sadly, cannot be said for 23-year old Uber driver Jacob Allemon, who was arrested after stabbing his passenger because the passenger, a 49-year old man who was with his wife, “disrespected” his car.
According to reports, Allemon drove the couple to a shopping center parking lot, where he ordered them to get out. The victim asked that the driver to wait until another ride arrived, only for the request to turn into an altercation where Allemon stabbed the victim five times. Fortunately, the none of the stabs were fatal and the victim, after being treated at a local hospital for wounds to the chest, back, and face was released the next day.
Allemon was arrested and charged with assault with intent to do great bodily harm less than murder. Likewise, he has also been banned from the app with an Uber spokeswoman commenting that the description of the incident was “appalling.”
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Uber: The Rebels of the Self-Driving Car World
Change is inevitable, and while we may not like certain changes, we eventually get used to them and adapt accordingly. One prime example of this is self-driving cars. Right now, we’re at a turning point where self-driving cars are being tested and we, as a society, and learning more about them every day. As the years go on, they’ll get better, and will ultimately be accepted. But, some companies seem to think they can usher in a new evolution of driving without complying with certain mandates. Tesla has been under fire for some time about its process of introducing autonomy but has ultimately complied with regulations. Uber, on the other hand, seems to think that it’s beyond governmental regulation and gives the California DMV and Mayor Ed Lee, a big “F You” when it was told to cease and desist the testing of its self-driving Volvo XC90s.
Like any other company testing higher levels of autonomy on California roadways, Uber has been asked to obtain the proper permits before it can legally test its self-driving vehicles. Uber has failed to do that thus far, and it doesn’t look like it will anytime in the near future. In a recent statement, Uber said, “we respectfully disagree with the California Department of Motor Vehicles legal interpretation of today’s autonomous regulations, in particular, that Uber needs a testing permit to operate its self-driving cars in San Francisco.”
To put things simply, Uber’s argument is that since there is someone behind the wheel to take control that the car is not fully autonomous and is similar to Tesla’s autopilot technology. Of course, Uber’s autonomous XC90s don’t have this requirement, so its reasoning doesn’t exactly hold water. And, if you know the California government, you know it feels the same way. For now, the government is threatening legal action and Uber is promptly giving them the bird at every turn. And, there’s the case of the XC90 that ran a red light last week. Uber blames the person behind the wheel and has suspended them, but that seems to justify California’s request to get the necessary permits. Obviously, these XC90s can drive without the driver paying attention – otherwise, that video of the XC90 running a red light wouldn’t exist – and it also proves that Uber’s self-driving technology is far from ready to take on the roads by themselves.
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Uber’s First Self-Driving Cars Hit the Streets of Pittsburgh
Uber is officially on its way to bringing autonomous car rides to the masses with its first fleet of autonomous cars hitting the streets of Pittsburgh. To be clear, this is just a pilot and is only being offered to certain people, with “our most loyal Pittsburgh customers” being cited by the brand in its release earlier today. If you’re in the area, and happen to use Uber enough to be considered one of its most loyal customers, don’t expect an empty car to show up, though. At least, not yet anyway.
For now, there is a safety driver located in the driver’s seat of every Autonomous Uber car. For the most part, however, the car will drive itself unless the driver has to intervene in the case of inclement weather, or other situations that require human intervention. Uber hasn’t announced how many self-driving cars it has set loose on the streets of Pittsburgh, however, TechCrunch reports that there were as many as 14 Ford Fusions with the self-driving technology at the recent press event. And, while it wasn’t mentioned in Uber’s release, some sources are indicating that rides in the autonomous cars are free to the select few Uber users that can summon them.
This move comes about a year and a half after Uber opened its Advanced Technologies Center in Pittsburgh. While that makes it a good place for the first fleet of autonomous vehicles to hit the streets, it’s also a city that experiences all four seasons. This makes it a good test bed for refining the technology even further. Just think, humans never seem to remember how to drive when the snow starts flying, so this coming winter should be pretty interesting with a bunch of self-driving Uber cars on the road.
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Volvo And Uber Strike Partnership To Develop Autonomous Vehicles
Volvo Car Group and ride-sharing service Uber have signed up on a $300 million partnership to develop autonomous driving vehicles. It’s the latest partnership between a traditional automaker and a tech firm to accelerate the development of self-driving technology and at the rate these partnerships are being formed, it might be a good idea to start creating a chart to see who has partnered with who.
The Volvo-Uber deal allows both companies to pool their resources together and capitalize on the strengths of each other. For its part, Volvo will send over XC90 SUVs to Uber, which in turn will install its autonomous driving system that the company itself is developing for use in its ride-sharing service. Volvo will then use the vehicles with Uber’s self-driving tech for its own strategic purpose. The partnership covers hardware and software developments aimed at addressing important issues surrounding autonomous driving, particularly the safety and security of a system that is poised to redefine the entire auto industry moving forward. Both Volvo and Uber are also seen as 50/50 partners in this endeavor and whatever technology is developed for the purpose of this collaboration will be shared to the other party.
That said, the collaboration doesn’t both companies to one another, an important point considering how competitive the race to develop autonomous driving technology has become. For what it’s worth, Toyota has already made an investment in Uber. Likewise, Volvo and Uber are also part of a bigger lobbying group with Ford, Google, and Lyft to lobby for autonomous driving cars with lawmakers and regulators in the U.S.
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