Friday, September 08, 2017
The FBI has opened an investigation into Uber over its “Hell” program, which the company allegedly used to track Lyft drivers from 2014 to 2016, according to The Wall Street Journal. The probe is being led by the FBI’s New York office in conjunction with the Manhattan US attorney’s office, the latter of which was already investigating Uber’s “anticompetitive strategies” since 2016, according to the report.
“We are cooperating with the investigation,” an Uber spokesperson said. The company declined to offer any further comment.
One of Hell’s main schemes involved Uber creating fake rider accounts on Lyft, according to a report published in The Information in April. It then used those accounts as a window into its rival service, where it monitored how many Lyft drivers were available in certain areas at certain times. Armed with that information, Uber would fill apparent gaps in Lyft’s coverage in real time. The software got its name because of the way it mirrored Uber’s “God view,” or, later, “Heaven view,” which employees used to track the company’s own drivers and riders.
Another part of the program was used to identify drivers who used both Lyft and Uber. Uber reportedly used that information to target these drivers with incentives to lure them away from Lyft. The company reportedly discontinued the use of Hell in 2016.
Earlier this year, a former Lyft driver filed a class action lawsuit against Uber over its use of the Hell. The suit alleged that Uber’s secretive tracking program violated various privacy and communications acts, but it was ultimately dismissed last month.
The investigation into Hell is not the only one Uber’s newly minted CEO has to worry about. In May it was reported that the US Justice Department opened a criminal probeinto the company for its use of “Greyball,” software that allowed it to evade local regulators in towns where the company wasn’t licensed to operate. The Justice Department is also investigating whether Uber violated the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act.
Source : The Verge
Thursday, September 07, 2017
Sadiq Khan Linked To Uber ? : Mayor's Night Time Commissioner "Has Conflict Of Interest" Over Uber Case
LBC has discovered that Sadiq Khan's Night Time Commissioner is representing three Uber drivers in a court case.
Pre-eminent barrister Philip Kolvin QC was appointed by the Mayor of London last December and advises on the project to make London a 24-hour city, bringing together pubs, nightclubs, the police and transport - including Uber.
But it now appears there could be a conflict of interest in Mr Kolvin’s role as Night Time Commissioner because he is representing Uber drivers in court, with those drivers are having their legal costs met by Uber.
Conservative MP and former Transport Minister Theresa Villiers says the London Mayor now needs to review the appointment. She told LBC: "I have concerns about what I've heard bout Philip Kolvin's involvement in defending Uber drivers in court.
"He's got a perfect right to do that, but I do worry that this gives him a conflict of interest regarding his role on the Mayor's Night Time Commission.
"I think the Mayor needs to look at the situation. I'm not sure it's really credible for Mr Kolvin to continue with these cases if he's going to continue with his role as Commissioner."
LBC's Political Editor Theo Usherwood explains: "My initial focus was on the Berkshire town of Reading. That's because in March last year, its council refused to grant Uber an operator's licence on the grounds it wouldn't guarantee having an office in the town staffed on a daily basis.
"As a result, Uber launched the Reading Reward Zone - promising the first 150 drivers to cover the town between £15 and £25 per hour. That led in June to council officers catching two men, who pleaded guilty and were fined £500.
"But now another two Uber drivers are being prosecuted by the council. One of the men is due to go to trial in November. Both are represented by Mr Kolvin QC.
"He is described by the Legal 500 as the “standard-bearer” when it comes to licensing, and I’ve been told by other barristers his fees will run into the thousands of pounds for a day’s work. My source at Uber has told me that they’re paying their drivers’ legal fees in this case.
"To be clear - Nobody is calling into question Mr Kolvin’s professionalism as a barrister.
"But the appearance of a conflict of interest centres on his role as chairman of the Night Time Commission."
Keith Prince, the Conservative chairman of the Greater London Authority’s Transport Committee told me that because Uber has more cars on the road than any other minicab company, it would inevitably have an interest in the Night Time Commission’s work.
He said: "Is this the right position to have where you have someone who will, in his role as Night Time Commissioner, be looking at contracts across London and looking at how the night-time economy works.
"No one can deny that Uber has an interest in how the night-time economy work."
Mayor's office insists there is no conflict.
A spokesman for Mr Khan told LBC that Mr Kolvin has declared all of his interests with the GLA and provided advance notice about the impending case between the Uber driver and the LTDA. As a result the GLA's monitoring office has also reviewed the issue and concluded there is no conflict.
The spokesman also said the Commission had no decision making powers. In reference to the Bexleyheath hearing, the spokesman added: "Philip stands by his undertaking not to carry out any work for Uber in the capital and that is not breached by acting for this individual.
"There is no conflict of interest in acting for a London citizen in a taxi licensing prosecution and chairing a Commission advising on the future of the night time economy in London."
Uber's licence to operate in London is up for renewal at the end of this month. Transport for London will make the decision on allowing them to continue. If it doesn't, Uber faces a lengthy legal battle to stay in business in the capital.
A technology company that hopes to put driverless taxis on the roads of London by 2019 has raised £14m, the biggest investment in an autonomous car start-up in Europe.
FiveAI, a Cambridge-based company founded last year, has secured the funds months after winning millions of pounds in government support to fund trials of a driverless taxi service in the capital.
Despite being a minnow compared to the likes of Google and Uber, which are investing billions in their own driverless car programmes, it hopes to gain a foothold in the UK by teaching its cars to navigate the peculiarities of British roads.
“It’s a medieval city, the topography, objects and the behaviour of people in London are different to those of Phoenix, Arizona,” said Stan Boland, FiveAI’s chief executive.
The company is raising the funds from the European venture capital firm Lakestar Capital, as well as Amadeus Capital Partners, run by Acorn Computers founder Hermann Hauser.
It is gradually developing its driverless car technology and plans to run a trial of 10 cars in an outer borough of London in 2019, allowing passengers to order rides in the same way they use Uber and other taxi-hailing apps.
A consortium led by the company that also includes Direct Line, the University of Oxford and Transport for London won £12.8m from the departments for business and transport in April as part of a government push to support driverless cars.
Mr Boland, a serial entrepreneur who founded the tech companies Element14 and Icera before selling them to chip firms Broadcom and Nvidia for $640m (£491m) and $367m respectively, said he hoped to expand across Europe while Silicon Valley companies were focusing on American cities.
On Tuesday, a separate driverless car group led by software group Oxbotica said it planned to test driverless vehicles between London and Oxford in 2019.
Wednesday, September 06, 2017
Dear Mr Ward
Thank you for your email response of 17 October 2016.
When booking a private hire vehicle, the passenger is deemed to be entering into a contact with the licensed operator who is inviting the booking and then fulfilling it with a licensed driver and vehicle. When accepting a booking, by whatever means, the operator is obliged to make a record of it at their licensed operating centre. The details of contracts between passengers and specific licensed operators are a matter for those two parties.
In accepting the booking and taking the payment, there is, in our view, what amounts to a contractual arrangement between the operator and the passenger. We will not comment on any specific contractual arrangements between the various parties.
As previously advised, Uber London Limited is registered as a private hire operator in London, having met the same pre-licensing requirements as any other applicant for an operator's licence and is subject to all legislation which applies to private hire operators in the Capital.
As they agree and admit, the contract is between the customer and the person/company that invited the booking....INVITED the booking....
So, if Uber California or Taxify are the people that own the App which INVITES the booking to be made and then passed on, then THOSE companies require and Operators license as explained above.
The total disregard to this by TfL and any other authority is beyond any comprehension of the trade and requires immediate action.