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TechCrunch

Mark Cuban, Marc Benioff, Robert Downey Jr., Gwyneth Paltrow, and Uber CEO Dara Khosrowshahi are investing in toilet paper – TechCrunch

A slew of big name entrepreneurs and celebrities are really circling the drain with their latest investment. Led by Greycroft Partners, a who’s who of celebrity investors including: Mark Cuban, Marc Benioff, Iron Man and Pepper Potts (er… Robert Downey Jr. and Gwyneth Paltrow), Uber’s chief executive Dara Khosrowshahi, Seattle Seahawks quarterback Russell Wilson, Ashton Kutcher and Guy Oseary’s Sound Ventures, and  Code.org founder Hadi Partovi are investing $3 million into the new toilet paper brand Cloud Paper. (Grammy Award-winning singer/songwriter Ciara, serial-entrepreneur Grant Ries, Muse Capital, Ashley and Marc Merrill and The Chainsmokers’ Mantis Ventures are also backing the company) Why? Because they’re hoping to save the environment. Founded by Ryan Fritsch and Austin Watkins, two former employees of Khosrowshahi’s at Uber who went on to take roles at the logistics startup Convoy, Cloud Paper is one of several companies trying to get consumers to make the switch to bamboo-based toilet paper. But it may be the only one to get such high profile investors to flush it with wads of cash. A year-and-a-half in the making, Cloud Paper began when the two colleagues started talking about launching their own business, but one that could have an immediate impact on the climate crisis they saw as the most pressing societal issue. Image Credit: Cloud Paper They settled on toilet paper because of its massive contribution to deforestation, a key contributing factor to climate change. According to statistics provided by the company 15% of deforestation is due to toilet paper…Continue readingMark Cuban, Marc Benioff, Robert Downey Jr., Gwyneth Paltrow, and Uber CEO Dara Khosrowshahi are investing in toilet paper – TechCrunch

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Wired

Why Wasn’t Uber Charged in a Fatal Self-Driving Car Crash?

The safety driver behind the wheel of a self-driving Uber that struck and killed a woman in 2018 has been charged with a crime. Prosecutors in Maricopa County, Arizona, Tuesday said the driver, Rafaela Vasquez, has been indicted for criminal negligence. But Uber, her employer and the company that built the automated system involved in the fatal collision, won’t face charges. The attorney for neighboring Yavapai County declined to prosecute Uber last year, writing in a letter that the office found “no basis for criminal liability.” (Yavapai took over the Uber part of the case because Maricopa County had worked with Uber on an anti-drunk-driving campaign.) Yavapai County attorney Sheila Polk declined to elaborate on her decision. A spokesperson for Uber declined to comment. Image from an onboard camera just before an Uber self-driving vehicle hit and killed Elaine Herzberg. Photograph: Tempe Police Department/AP What happens when humans and machines work together to hurt others? The question isn’t new. As the anthropologist Madeleine Clare Elish noted earlier this year after an investigation into automation in the aviation sector, “conceptions of legal liability and responsibility did not adequately keep pace with advances in technology.” It has, in other words, been difficult—though not impossible—for the legal system to hold people responsible for the technology they build. Instead, the human in the loop, the person behind the wheel or the screen, has borne the bulk of the responsibility. As a practical matter, it’s easier for prosecutors to sell juries on a story they…Continue readingWhy Wasn’t Uber Charged in a Fatal Self-Driving Car Crash?

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Engadget

Uber backup driver charged with negligent homicide in self-driving accident

Tempe Police Vehicular Crimes Unit is actively investigatingthe details of this incident that occurred on March 18th. We will provide updated information regarding the investigation once it is available. pic.twitter.com/2dVP72TziQ — Tempe Police (@TempePolice) March 21, 2018 The car’s software detected Herzberg more than five seconds before the crash but did not identify her as a pedestrian with a bike crossing the street away from a crosswalk. However the NTSB report went into depth saying that while the backup driver could have avoided the crash if they had been paying attention, it was “the last link in a long chain of actions and decisions made by an organization that unfortunately did not make safety the top priority.” That included Uber deactivating the Volvo SUV’s built-in automatic emergency braking system, which put all pressure on the backup driver to intervene in a situation where the self-driving rig failed. Source linkContinue readingUber backup driver charged with negligent homicide in self-driving accident

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Wired

Uber Pledges to Go All-Electric, but It Doesn’t Own the Cars

Uber on Tuesday pledged to convert its fleet in US, Canadian, and European cities to fully electric by 2030. By the end of the following decade, Uber says, all of its rides will be aboard electric vehicles, either cars, bikes, or scooters. The pledge follows a similar one from rival Lyft, which said in June that all of its rides would be in electric vehicles by 2030. “Uber has a clear responsibility to reduce our environmental impact,” CEO Dara Khosrowshahi told reporters. “Today, we’re committing to work with cities to build back better together and tackle the climate crisis more aggressively than ever before.” There’s a hitch, however: Uber and Lyft don’t own the cars that they’re pledging to electrify. In fact, they’re fighting legal battles in California, Massachusetts, and elsewhere to prove that their drivers—who own the cars—aren’t even employees. So electrifying “their” fleet hinges on convincing the often not-wealthy people who often drive part-time for their apps to get behind the wheel of a new, often more expensive car. Beyond the drivers, the plans turn on decisions—by policymakers, by the people who fund and build charging infrastructure, and by riders—that the companies don’t control. Climate experts call the ride-hail industry’s electric push admirable—particularly because it could spark wider change in the automotive industry. Just 3 percent of the vehicles sold globally last year were electric, and fewer than 2 percent of those sold in the US were battery powered, according to Bloomberg New Energy Finance. But batteries are…Continue readingUber Pledges to Go All-Electric, but It Doesn’t Own the Cars

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VentureBeat

Yandex and Uber spin out self-driving venture with $150 million investment

Yandex and Uber are spinning out their self-driving joint venture into a standalone company, with the Russian tech giant increasing its stake by investing an additional $150 million. The two former rivals merged their ride-hailing operations in Russia and parts of Eastern Europe back in 2017. Now that the Self Driving Group is a separate company, Yandex will have a 73% stake, Uber will have 19%, and the balance will be owned by Yandex managers and employees. The move comes amid predictions that the development of fully autonomous vehicles will take much longer than widely anticipated. Yandex appears to be challenging such doubts by taking a much more aggressive approach to building its self-driving technology. “From our perspective, the message is quite clear,” said Artem Fokin, head of business development for the company now known as Yandex Self Driving Group. “By spinning off our business into a separate entity, the company demonstrates its belief that what we’re doing right now has huge potential to become a successful business going forward. This is no longer just an experiment.” In a press release, Yandex, which started as a search engine before expanding into several other markets, said the self-driving unit had previously attracted $65 million in investments. The company made a splash when it launched a robo-taxi service in 2018, and it currently has 130 vehicles spread out over Russia, Israel, and the United States. Most recently, Yandex began a testing program of its fourth-generation AV in Ann Arbor, Michigan. While the standalone…Continue readingYandex and Uber spin out self-driving venture with $150 million investment

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TechCrunch

Yandex spins out self-driving car unit from its Uber JV, invests $150M into newco – TechCrunch

Self-driving cars are still many years away from becoming a ubiquitous reality, but today one of the bigger efforts to build and develop them is taking a significant step out as part of its strategy to be at the forefront for when they do. Yandex — the publicly-traded Russian tech giant that started as a search engine but has expanded into a number of other, related areas (similar to US counterpart Google) — today announced that it is spinning out its self-driving car unit from MLU BV — a ride-hailing and food delivery joint venture it operates in partnership with Uber. The move comes amid reports that Yandex and Uber were eyeing up an IPO for MLU last year. At the time, the JV was estimated to be valued at around $7.7 billion. It’s not clear how those plans will have been impacted in recent months, with COVID-19 putting huge pressure on ride-hailing and food-delivery businesses globally, and IPOs generally down compared to a year ago. In that context, spinning out the unit could help improve the unit economics and cost base of the MLU unit, but Yandex says that it’s being done to double down on more focused investment in self-driving. “Yandex’s motivation behind the spinoff is twofold,” said a spokesperson. “From the business standpoint, we are increasing our stake in a strategically important business with lots of potential for growth. From the technology standpoint, self-driving technology is quickly moving forward to become a viable business.” As part of the…Continue readingYandex spins out self-driving car unit from its Uber JV, invests $150M into newco – TechCrunch

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Wired

A Former Uber Exec’s Indictment Is a Warning Shot

Khosrowshahi fired Sullivan and Craig Clark, a security lawyer, in 2017. Sullivan, who prior to Uber had been the chief security officer at Facebook, is now chief information security officer for the internet infrastructure company Cloudflare. In a tweet on Thursday, Cloudflare CEO Matthew Prince wrote, “Sad to see Joe Sullivan allegations. … Anytime an opportunity arose, Joe’s advocated for us to be as transparent as possible. I hope this is resolved quickly for Joe & his family.” According to media reports following Uber’s 2017 breach notification, other company executives and employees aside from Sullivan approved and helped to carry out the plan to treat the breach like a bug bounty disclosure and pay the hackers off through this mechanism. “I was surprised and disappointed when those who wanted to portray Uber in a negative light quickly suggested this was a cover-up,” Sullivan told The New York Times in a 2018 statement. John Flynn, Uber’s longtime chief information security officer, who left the company in July, told the Senate Commerce Committee in February 2018 that Uber “made a misstep in not reporting to consumers, and we made a misstep in not reporting to law enforcement.” Shawn Tuma, a partner in the law firm Spencer Fane who specializes in cybersecurity and data privacy issues, notes that Sullivan is apparently being singled out because he provided testimony and assistance to the FTC in its investigation of the company’s 2014 breach. Under the Justice Department’s standards for establishing individual accountability in corporate wrongdoing…Continue readingA Former Uber Exec’s Indictment Is a Warning Shot

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The Next Web

No, Uber and Lyft aren’t shutting down in California just yet

Just as the Uber and Lyft “blackout” was about to begin in California, the ride-hailing companies have been handed a reprieve by an appeals court. Last night, the ride-hailing companies were going to suspend their services in response to a recent court ruling that required them to recognize their drivers as employees, The New York Times reports. Despite the injunction, the reprieve allows the companies to continue operating until yet another decision is made, later this year. Further hearings will be held in October. [Read: Google admits its Android Auto assistant is a little, umm, slow] There seems to be general routine in this case: a court tells Uber and Lyft to classify drivers as employees, they appeal, they continue operating as normal, the case escalates, they appeal, they continue working as usual. The latest injunction appeared to be the most effective, but with the recent remission it seems business as usual — again — for the ride-hailing companies, for now. However, this time, the companies have been asked to provide details on how they plan to employ their drivers should they lose their appeal. These plans must be submitted by early September. “These companies may have bought themselves a little more time, but the price is that they have to demonstrate — under oath — that they have an implementation plan that complies with the law,” said John Cote, a spokesman for the San Francisco city attorney. On the whole, it looks like Uber and Lyft have indeed bought…Continue readingNo, Uber and Lyft aren’t shutting down in California just yet

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Engadget

Former Uber security chief arrested for covering up 2016 hack

In addition to obstruction of justice, prosecutors charged Sullivan with failing to share knowledge of a felony. In total, he faces up to eight years in prison if convicted of both charges.  “We expect good corporate citizenship,” said US Attorney David L. Anderson. “We expect prompt reporting of criminal conduct. We expect cooperation with our investigations. We will not tolerate corporate cover-ups. We will not tolerate illegal hush-money payments.”  Bradford Williams, Sullivan’s attorney, told The New York Times there’s “no merit” to the charges. “If not for Mr. Sullivan’s and his team’s efforts, it’s likely that the individuals responsible for this incident never would have been identified at all,” he said. Williams added that Sullivan and his team worked closely with other Uber employees and followed the company’s policies. Meanwhile, a spokesperson for Uber told The New York Times it continues to cooperate with the Justice Department’s investigation into the 2016 hack. “Our decision in 2017 to disclose the incident was not only the right thing to do, it embodies the principles by which we are running our business today: transparency, integrity, and accountability,” they said. Sullivan may become the second former Uber employee to end up behind bars. At the start of August, Anthony Levandowski, the engineer at the center of the trade secret legal battle between Waymo and Uber, was sentenced to 18 months in prison.  Source linkContinue readingFormer Uber security chief arrested for covering up 2016 hack

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Wired

Uber and Lyft Win a Reprive, and Won’t Quit California—for Now

Uber and Lyft will not ditch California drivers and riders at midnight, after a state appeals court let them—for now—continue treating their drivers as independent contractors, instead of employees. The court’s order halts a brief but furious game of chicken between the companies and the state of California, which sued them to follow a new labor law passed last fall. Uber and Lyft had threatened to leave the state over the law, Assembly Bill 5, which creates a more stringent test to differentiate contractors from employees. The companies said they didn’t have enough time to prepare for what would have been a monumental shift in their business model in the midst of a pandemic, though the law was passed last year. For drivers and riders, the status quo is now set to continue until at least mid-October, when judges will hear the companies’ and state’s arguments in court. The appeals court also ordered the companies to submit a guarantee that they will comply with the law if they lose. Workers who are employees instead of contractors are entitled to minimum and overtime wages, paid sick leave, health benefits, and access to social insurance programs like unemployment. The appeals court decision likely means that California voters—rather than judges—will determine the outcome of the Golden State labor fight. Uber, Lyft, Instacart, and DoorDash are backing a statewide ballot measure, known as Proposition 22, to create a “third” category of employment, which would include a minimum wage, some auto insurance and vehicle maintenance…Continue readingUber and Lyft Win a Reprive, and Won’t Quit California—for Now