Uber Technologies Inc should be classified as a transport service and regulated like other taxi operators, the European Union's top court said in a landmark ruling on Wednesday that could impact other online businesses in Europe.

Uber, which allows passengers to summon a ride through an app on their smartphones, has transformed the taxi industry since its launch in 2011 and now operates in more than 600 cities globally. In the latest of a series of legal battles, Uber had argued it was simply a digital app that acted as an intermediary between drivers and customers looking for a ride and so should fall under lighter EU rules for online services.

"The service provided by Uber connecting individuals with non-professional drivers is covered by services in the field of transport," the European Court of Justice (ECJ) said. "Member states can, therefore, regulate the conditions for providing that service," it said.

The case follows a complaint from a professional taxi drivers' association in Barcelona that Uber's activities in Spain amounted to misleading practices and unfair competition from Uber's use of non-professional drivers - a service Uber calls UberPOP and which has since been suspended in Spain and other countries.

GIG ECONOMY

Uber has taken the fight to regulators and established taxi and cab companies, expanding from a Silicon Valley startup to a business with a valuation of $68 billion. The company is planning an initial public offering in 2019.

The European case had been widely watched as an indicator of how the burgeoning gig economy, which also features the likes of food-delivery company Deliveroo, would be regulated in Europe. The ECJ said Uber "exercises decisive influence over the conditions under which the drivers provide their service" and that without the Uber mobile app "persons who wish to make an urban journey would not use the services provided by those drivers."

The decision is unlikely to have an immediate impact on Uber's operations in Europe, where it has cut back its use of unlicensed services such as UberPOP and adheres to local transportation laws.

"This ruling will not change things in most EU countries where we already operate under transportation law," an Uber spokeswoman said in a statement. "As our new CEO has said, it is appropriate to regulate services such as Uber and so we will continue the dialogue with cities across Europe. This is the approach we'll take to ensure everyone can get a reliable ride at the tap of a button."

Following changes in top leadership and a series of legal battles, Uber recently adopted a more conciliatory approach under its new chief executive, Dara Khosrowshahi, who took the job in August.

In a tweet Wednesday, Khosrowshahi said that the ruling was "not a setback, since we've already changed our approach in the EU to follow transportation laws and work with professional drivers."

He said Uber will "keep talking with EU governments to enable affordable transportation services for millions more Europeans." Khosrowshahi in October met with regulators in London, where Uber is in the middle of a legal battle over its right to operate in its most important European market. Bernardine Adkins, head of EU, trade and competition law at Gowling WLG, said the ruling provided "vital clarity to its (Uber's) position within the marketplace."

"Uber's control over its drivers, its ability to set prices and the fact its electronic service is inseparable from its ultimate consumer experience means it is more than simply a platform connecting drivers to passengers."

TAXI LOBBY CHEERS

IRU, the world road transport organisation, which includes taxi associations, cheered the ruling as finally offering a level playing field for providers of the same service.

"In the area of mobility, the taxi and for-hire sector was one of the first to embrace innovation and new technologies," said Oleg Kamberski, head of passenger transport at IRU. "Finding a solution that allows both traditional and new transport service providers to compete in a fair way while meeting the service quality standards became necessary."

EU law protects online services from undue restrictions and national governments must notify the European Commission of any measures regulating them so it can ensure they are not discriminatory or disproportionate.

Transport, however, is excluded from this. The tech industry said the ruling would impact the next generation of startups more than Uber itself.

"We regret the judgment effectively threatens the application of harmonized EU rules to online intermediaries," said Jakob Kucharczyk, vice president of competition and EU regulatory policy at the Computer and Communications Industry Association. "The purpose of those rules is to make sure online innovators can achieve greater scalability and competitiveness in the EU, unfettered from undue national restrictions," he added.

"This is a blow to the EU's ambition of building an integrated digital single market."

 

Creative Media Works, operating as BBM Messenger, has partnered with Uber, the world's largest on-demand ride-sharing company, to launch the Uber ride-on-demand service within BBM Messenger. Users around the world will have access to this new service, including Indonesia - BBM’s largest market - Africa, Asia, Europe, North America, and the Middle East.

The tie-up between two of the world’s leading technology platforms means that BBM Messenger users – both Android and iOS - can book an Uber ride via the Uber icon in the BBM Discover menu, without leaving the BBM app or having to have the stand-alone Uber app on their phone.

BBM Discover is a high-valued space within BBM Messenger, designed for high impact and reach while giving partners access to the power of social chat. Uber Ride sits as an icon within BBM Discover’s existing ecosystem of content and services.

When launched from the Discover menu, the new Uber service asks riders to sign in with their mobile number or connect with a social media account. Once riders log in, the service accesses their profile and settings, automatically detects their location, and loads a map. Riders simply enter their destination, tap the Request Uber button as well as payment option, and wait for their ride to arrive.

Chan Park, General Manager, South East Asia, Uber, says: “Millions of people around the world use BBM Messenger to stay in touch. This partnership means they will now be able to request an Uber from within the BBM ecosystem. A safe, reliable and affordable ride is now at the fingertips of even more people.”

“We are excited to be working with BBM Messenger - our first partner in Asia Pacific to use the m.uber platform to request an Uber ride for their users without ever having to leave the BBM app. With this partnership, BBM users can quickly request an Uber ride via BBM despite variations in quality of location, network speed, or device features.”

Chan added that the collaboration enables millions of BBM users globally to access safe, reliable transportation at the push of a button - whenever and wherever they are.

Compatible with all modern browsers, m.uber is a web client for the global market that offers an app-like experience regardless of location, network speed, and device.

“Uber has grown to play such a key role in so many parts of the world today. We’re happy to connect our millions of active users with the service, giving them an easy and reliable transportation option at their fingertips within the BBM eco-system,” said Matthew Talbot, CEO of Creative Media Works, the company which operates and runs BBM globally.

An Uber driver Abdoulie Jagne, has been arrested in Georgia, U.S., after he was accused of raping a 16-year-old female passenger earlier in the week. The 58-year-old Jagne, who was arrested on Thursday, was booked into the Gwinnett County Jail in north central Georgia.

Authorities told Fox 5 Atlanta that Jagne could face more charges. The teen told police she had been drinking at a bar with friends on Sunday night, WSB-TV Atlanta reported.

One of the girl’s friends then called an Uber ride for her, and that’s when Jagne picked her up, authorities told the station. The driver allegedly committed the crime after stopping the vehicle along an unincorporated road. The girl told police she was dropped off at a nearby apartment complex, where she started banging on several doors, seeking help.

Police found the teen to be intoxicated, with her pants around her ankles, Fox 5 Atlanta reported. She was transported to a nearby hospital for treatment. Uber officials told the paper that Jagne had worked for the company for a couple of months. They released the following statement. “What’s reported here is horrifying beyond words. Our thoughts are with the rider and her family during this time. This driver has been permanently removed from the app.”

 

NAN

 

Three senior managers in Uber Technologies Inc's security unit resigned on Friday, an Uber spokesperson said, days after the company's new chief executive officer disclosed a massive data breach and criticized past security practices.

Uber's CEO, Dara Khosrowshahi, who was installed in the top job in August, disclosed the data breach last month shortly after learning of it himself, saying that "none of this should have happened." Uber's security practices are also under scrutiny in a high-stakes legal battle with self-driving car company Waymo, an Alphabet Inc subsidiary.

Uber last week said it fired its chief security officer, Joe Sullivan, over his role in the 2016 data breach, which compromised data belonging to 57 million customers and about 600,000 drivers. The resignations Friday came amid mounting frustration within Uber's security team over Sullivan's dismissal and the company's handling of the public disclosure of the breach.

The three managers who resigned were Pooja Ashok, chief of staff for Sullivan; Prithvi Rai, a senior security engineer and the number two manager in the department; and Jeff Jones, who handled physical security, the Uber spokesperson said. Ashok and Jones will remain at the company until January to assist in transition, the spokesperson said.

A fourth individual, Uber's head of Global Threat Operations, Mat Henley, began a three-month medical leave, said a separate source familiar with the situation. The departures include most of Sullivan's direct reports.

None of the four immediately responded to requests for comment. Emails in connection with the departures, described by the separate source, complained of emotional and physical strain from the past year.

Sullivan in August told Reuters that his security team totaled around 500 employees.

Leadership in the unit has been in turmoil since the termination last week of Sullivan and a deputy, as well as Uber's admission that it paid $100,000 to hackers to delete stolen data from the October 2016 breach and keep it secret, while failing to report the incident to regulators or warn customers that their phone numbers and other data had been exposed.

In the Waymo case, testimony at a pretrial hearing this week focused on claims by former employee Richard Jacobs that Uber had a special unit within its security team that tried to obtain programming code and other trade secrets from rivals.

Uber launched an investigation in response to Jacobs' claims, which were outlined in a 37-page letter sent to Uber's in-house attorney and the U.S. Department of Justice. Board members received a report before Thanksgiving on the findings of that investigation, run by law firm WilmerHale. The report has not been shared publicly.

Henley, who was among the Uber security managers named in Jacobs' letter, said in court Wednesday that the unit at Uber that Jacobs had accused of acquiring rivals' trade secrets no longer exists.

In addition to having a technical team dedicated to obtaining data from competitors, Uber also had a "human intelligence" team to spy on people and record their conversations without them knowing, according to testimony in the Waymo case. In one instance, a security vendor hired by Uber recorded a conversation between executives of rival ride-hailing firms Didi and Grab, Nicholas Gicinto, a security manager at Uber, testified in court Wednesday.

Uber's general counsel, Tony West, on Wednesday sent a note to employees, which was seen by Reuters, saying that human surveillance of individuals would no longer be tolerated. West said he did not believe the activity was illegal, "but, to be crystal clear, to the extent anyone is working on any kind of competitive intelligence project that involves the surveillance of individuals, stop it now."

 

 

Uber Technologies Inc. agreed to buy 24,000 sport utility vehicles from Sweden’s Volvo Cars to form a fleet of driverless autos.

The XC90s, priced from $46,900 at U.S. dealers, will be delivered between 2019 and 2021 in the first commercial purchase by a ride-hailing provider, Volvo said in a statement Monday. San Francisco-based Uber will add its own sensors and software to permit pilot-less driving.

Uber’s order steps up efforts to replace human drivers, the biggest cost in its on-demand taxi service. The company has agreed to use 100 XC90s for self-driving tests in Pittsburgh, while also striking a deal to include autonomous vehicles from Daimler AG’s Mercedes-Benz in its network at some point.

“This new agreement puts us on a path toward mass-produced, self-driving vehicles at scale,” Jeff Miller, Uber’s head of auto alliances, told Bloomberg News. “The more people working on the problem, we’ll get there faster and with better, safer, more reliable systems.”

For carmakers, news of Uber buying vehicles at a commercial level means potential new sales, but also looming disruption to a business model that sees autos largely sold to private owners. Uber’s $70 billion valuation already puts the group almost on a par with Germany’s Daimler.

The deal will boost sales at Volvo and should also help lower the cost of the Chinese-controlled group’s own fully-autonomous cars planned from 2021. Volvo engineers have been working closely with Uber to develop a base vehicle with core driverless technology that the ride-hailing company can then augment. Volvo plans to use those cars for its own future offering.

“The automotive industry is being disrupted by technology and Volvo Cars chooses to be an active part of that disruption,” Chief Executive Officer Hakan Samuelsson said. “It’s a new market that’s emerging and we’re the first to be delivering into that segment.”

 

- Bloomberg

Ride-hailing service Uber Technologies Inc. is growing rapidly in sub-Saharan Africa and considering moves into more markets, despite sometimes violent opposition from metered taxi drivers, a senior executive said on Tuesday.

Uber's service has triggered protests by rivals from London to New Delhi as it up-ends traditional business models that require professional drivers to pay steep licensing fees to do business.

"We are bullish on Africa. The growth here is still substantial and we think that given the right regulatory environment, the growth could be even better," Justin Spratt, head of business development for the sub-Saharan region, told Reuters.
"Africa's growth thus far has been faster than America and a large part of that is because there is such deficiency in public transport ... that talks to the latent need, the pent-up demand for citizens to travel more within cities," he added.

Spratt said Uber was talking to governments, regulatory authorities and metered taxi associations across the continent to address grievances that have seen some of its contract drivers attacked from Kenya to South Africa.

"We realize that we need to work with cities and the regulatory framework to help build out ride-sharing regulation," he said on the sidelines of an African telecommunications conference.

Uber, which operates in Nigeria, Kenya, Ghana, Tanzania, Uganda and South Africa, has around 15 million drivers globally and is struggling to meet demand in Africa for drivers to become contractors, Spratt said.

The service, which launched in sub-Saharan Africa in 2013, is looking to new markets in Senegal, Ivory Coast, Mauritius and the wider southern African region, but has not yet taken a decision on where it will go next, he said.

 

- Reuters

Uber has announced the appointment of Lola Kassim as its new General Manager for West Africa.

Lola worked as a Management Consultant with McKinsey and Company where she led teams providing strategic business advice and implementing organizational and operational improvements in the energy, public, and financial services sectors in West and Southern Africa.

A seasoned professional with over 10 years of global experience working at senior private sector and government levels in Africa and Canada, Lola will be responsible for driving Uber’s overall strategy for West Africa, which includes improving reliability and service levels for uberX and creating additional value adds for driver-partners.

“I am immensely pleased to be joining Uber at a pivotal point in the company’s growth and expansion curve. My vision for West Africa, in particular, is to ensure that we are aligned with Uber’s overall objective of creating sustainable, alternative modes of mobility. In addition to creating value for driver-partners and riders, I will also be focused on ensuring that we continue to engage with our key stakeholders and relevant partners with a view to continued positive impact across West Africa.”

Speaking on Lola’s appointment, Alon Lits, General Manager Sub-Saharan Africa, Uber said: “As a company that is deeply committed to diversity and inclusiveness, we are excited to have Lola join the team of other incredible women at Uber – who are pushing the envelope towards achieving the global vision of creating value for riders and driver-partners alike. In West Africa, Lola will be supported by a highly skilled and enthusiastic team covering Operations, Marketing, Communications, Legal and Policy. As we often say at Uber, we are #superpumped.”

Prior to joining Uber, Lola spent 3.5 years as a Management Consultant at McKinsey and Company. She also worked as a Governance Advisor with the Liberian Presidency through the

Africa Governance Initiative, supporting a unit driving delivery of Presidential infrastructure priorities. She began her career with the Canadian government where she served as Policy Advisor to senior officials and managed units developing policy, strategy, and business cases regarding socio-economic development programming for Canada’s Aboriginal communities and foreign policy.

A Nigerian-Canadian, Lola holds a Bachelor’s degree from Harvard University and an MSc from the London School of Economics where she was a Chevening Scholar.

Every day there’s more news about the inevitable arrival of autonomous vehicles. At the same time, more people are using ride-hailing and ride-sharing apps, and the percentage of teens getting their driver’s license continues to decline.

Given these technologies and social changes, it’s worth asking: Should Americans stop owning cars?

We’ve conducted an analysis of the all-in cost of car ownership, and we found that mobility services such as ride-hailing and ride-sharing apps – which few people today would consider their main mode of transportation – will likely provide a compelling economic option for a significant portion of Americans. In fact, if the full cost of ownership is accounted for, we found that potentially one-quarter of the entire U.S. driving population might be better off using ride services versus owning a car.

From dream to brutal reality

America’s love affair with the car and individual car ownership took off after World War II, aided by inexpensive fuel, a rising consumer class and a vast national network of highways. A new generation of young professionals moved away from the urban core to the suburbs and abandoned mass transit for transportation enabled by personal car ownership.

University of Texas at Austin

This shift transformed the modern American landscape, triggered a new approach to city planning and enabled urban sprawl. Cities that blossomed before WWII – New York and Boston, for example – already had and continue to use their mass transit systems. By contrast, cities whose growth mostly occurred in a post-war boom like Los Angeles, Atlanta, Houston and Denver were built and effectively designed around car ownership. It’s still typical for an American family to buy a house that has a large garage to store cars.

But for many people, the 1950s concept of driving as an expression of personal liberty has been replaced by the brutal reality that driving is often a tedious chore. With an average price of US$35,000 apiece in the U.S., cars are used about 4 percent of the time, during which drivers are often subjected to congested traffic.

On its face, spending so much money for an appliance that starts losing value immediately, takes up vast amount of our free time and is rarely used seems ridiculous. Is it time to consider a whole new approach to personal transportation?

Weighing costs

To answer this question, we built a comprehensive calculator that includes the costs of car ownership and compares it with an alternative of using mobility services, such as ride-hailing and ride-sharing apps, full-time to replace personal car ownership. The results might surprise you.

The costs of traditional car ownership go far beyond the price tag: There is also interest paid on car loans, insurance, taxes, fuel and maintenance. Some expenses are non-obvious, such as parking, property taxes and construction costs for home garages, and the value of our time.

Ride-hailing services become more economic when a person’s car is more expensive and the more that person values his or her time (the blue end of the charts). The cost of transportation services now is usually between $1 per mile (on left) and $1.50 per mile (right), but the introduction of autonomous vehicles has the potential to push prices to below $1 per hour. The intersecting lines represent the results for the median price for a new car and median wages reported to the Social Security Administration. The acronym TNC stands for Transportation Network Company. F. Todd Davidson and Gordon Tsai, CC BY-ND

The value of an individual’s time – that is, the dollars per hour you would assign to the time you spend driving – is one of the most important factors in our calculations.

The average American spends 335 hours annually behind the wheel driving over 13,000 miles. Add in the hours we spend maintaining, cleaning and managing our cars, and it becomes clear that America’s focus on personal car ownership is costing us a significant amount of time, arguably our most precious asset.

How much would you pay to avoid the stress of driving around town? How much would you pay to use that time more efficiently, such as catching up on email, reading a book or taking a nap? What if you could do work-related tasks while riding? Some professions are more suited to using time riding in a productive way: It’s probably easier for a lawyer to clock billable hours while riding to work than a plumber, for example.

When these costs are included, mobility services might be the economically preferable option. To be clear, this analysis is focused on full replacement of personal car ownership in which an individual would shift to using ride services for all trips, rather than purchase a new vehicle.

The decision for owning a vehicle or using mobility services is unique to every individual. If you purchase a highly efficient vehicle for less than $25,000 and drive it more than 15,000 miles per year until it falls apart, then you should definitely own a car if your goal is to save money.

But, if you drive less than 10,000 miles per year, face long waits in traffic, or place a high value on your time that would otherwise be spent driving, our calculations show that mobility services might be the cheaper option. Geography can also play a role – it’s not a coincidence that there have historically been so many taxi cabs in New York City, where the high cost of parking and slow pace of traffic consume time and money.

Outpricing human drivers

The rise of autonomous vehicles used for carpooling and ride-sharing services could make mobility services even more compelling, particularly when you consider the economics from the service provider’s perspective.

An autonomous Uber car being tested in Pittsburgh. AP Photo/Jared Wickerham

Assume for a moment that you operate a fleet of vehicles that provide mobility services. Let’s also assume you can purchase the vehicles in bulk for $20,000 apiece and that they will operate full-time for five years (the average age of a New York City taxi was 3.6 years in 2015). The median annual pay for a taxi driver is approximately $25,000. This means that it will cost you $145,000 to purchase the car and pay a driver over five years of operations (ignoring fuel, maintenance, registration and other miscellaneous operating expenses).

Using common accounting practices, we calculated that if you could buy an autonomous vehicle for less than $114,000, a service provider would be better off never hiring a driver.

For the average customer, a price tag of $114,000 is unimaginably high for a car. But, for a company like Uber that might someday operate a fleet of autonomous vehicles, a price tag north of $100,000 might look like gold when compared with paying drivers, a major contributor to operating cost.

As the price for autonomous vehicles goes down, the cost of delivering ride services goes lower. That means more consumers are more likely to use them, expanding the overall market.

Uber, Alphabet and many of the automotive companies understand this. It’s one of many reasons why there is an epic race to capture market share and eventually be the first to deliver fully autonomous vehicles.

On the other hand, if the price of autonomous vehicles falls far enough, maybe individuals will buy their own and recapture the time they currently spend driving themselves, obviating some of the value of mobility services.

Cultural factors

But, another question remains: Do Americans really want to give up their cars? Even if mobility services with carpooling and automation are a less expensive choice, the service might still not be adopted quickly since people purchase cars for many reasons beyond simply price (for example, they buy cars for convenience, status, fun, identity and so forth).

For many decades, the car has been a critical part of the American culture, often used as a tool to flaunt wealth and showcase the unique personalities of the drivers. Will Americans want to ride in cookie-cutter cars that are part of a larger automated fleet? Will they trade off the idea of car ownership as an extension of identity to gain back some of their free time?

The post-war American dream: a home in the suburbs with a car to get you around. Richard, CC BY

Some trends do appear to be working in favor of increased use of mobility services. As the United States, and the world more broadly, continues to adopt ever greater levels of digital communication, more people will be able to complete work while on the go. And, the movement toward cities during the past decades has resulted in denser urban centers, increasing traffic congestion and making the case for alternatives to traditional car ownership.

Even changes in how different generations consume goods and services might be playing a role. Millennials have shown tepid interest in following in the footsteps of prior generations when it comes to car ownership. It will be interesting to observe whether Generation Y shows more desire for cars as they begin to enter parenthood and push toward suburbs in pursuit of affordable housing.

How the transition will play out is still unclear. If we were to postulate, it seems the most likely outcome is that the future transportation system will be a mix of personal car ownership and mobility services, using both systems as complementary. If more people use carpooling services in particular, these complementary systems of personal car ownership, mobility services and public transportation might make our roads and cities cleaner, faster and more affordable.

In addition to common mobility services today, Uber and Lyft might soon be joined in force by microtransit operators, like Ford’s Chariot shuttle service.

As mobility services become more mature, we will likely see new solutions emerge to make it even more convenient to meet specific needs, such as transporting youths, the elderly or disabled people, and even assist in disaster recovery efforts. The increased level of service could create a virtuous cycle that reinforces the value of mobility services, producing greater adoption, which further lowers costs and leads to even greater adoption. When it’s all said and done, the ease and economic benefits mean that the transition to mobility services might take place faster than we think.

 

Researcher Zhenhong Lin, Ph.D., from the Oak Ridge National Laboratory contributed to the research in this article. Gordon Tsai of the University of Texas also contributed.

F. Todd Davidson, Research Associate, Energy Institute, University of Texas at Austin and Michael E. Webber, Professor of Mechanical Engineering and Deputy Director of the Energy Institute, University of Texas at Austin

This article was originally published on The Conversation. Read the original article.

Following TfL’s decision to withdraw Uber’s license to operate in London, there has been a widespread picking over of the ride-hailing app’s recent history – and speculation about its future. A fairly common conclusion is that Uber needs to become more ethical if it is to survive.

I want to suggest that this may not be possible. After the calamitous year Uber has had, it should not be difficult for the company to improve its reputation – simply by avoiding many of the unnecessary embarrassments heaped upon itself in 2017. However, merely improving its PR will not get Uber out of the hole it has now dug for itself. It is looking as though, in many territories such as London, Uber’s survival will rely on concrete measures to better care for both its drivers and customers.

Herein lies the problem. It is not that Uber is incapable of such ethical measures. But for this company specifically, the additional cost that is required to look after drivers and customers is likely to be too great. It all comes down to the economic model on which Uber is built.

There is a great tendency among commentators to focus on the capabilities of Uber’s app, when making sense of its explosive growth across the world. This is a mistake. Figuring that Uber’s app explains its growth is like putting the birthday cake’s appeal down to the candle on top. The engine of Uber’s growth to date has been the US$11.5 billion it has raised from banks and investors. The company has never made a profit, and in 2016 alone lost nearly US$3 billion.

These are staggering amounts, and to make sense of them we need to understand that Uber’s business model is the same as Amazon’s. Amazon became the largest online retailer on the planet by burning through huge sums of investment on the way to becoming dominant in an ever-increasing number of sectors, and a de facto monopoly in some such as books.

Now Amazon is able to use its position to generate the vast profits expected by those that funded its expansion. Effectively, what both companies surely rely on is investors subsidising the prices customers pay in the short term, in return for a long-term monopoly with higher prices.

Trump card

In reaching this point, Amazon has itself received plenty of criticism, particularly around its tax arrangements and working conditions in its Orwellian “fulfilment centres” (warehouse to you and me). But Amazon has benefited, throughout its growth, from a trump card: its use of a virtual shopfront makes its overheads significantly lower than bricks-and-mortar rivals.

Amazon beats the competition by limiting its overheads. Shutterstock.com

Uber’s fundamental problem is that it does not have this advantage. In his comprehensive critique of Uber, transport expert Hubert Horan made a key observation about the taxi business, which separates it from retail. While shops have used economies of scale to operate first nationally, then internationally, for over a century, taxi companies have remained highly localised. The reason for this, argued Horan, is that the economies of scale are not there for the taking in this market. Some 85% of taxi company costs are drivers, cars and fuel, and this applies whether you cover one city or a dozen.

Not only does Uber not avoid these costs, its model actually introduces new ones. Most dramatically, the costs of becoming established in new markets is vast. This, particularly the artificial subsidising of passenger fees/driver wages to drive growth, is the source of the US$3 billion net loss last year. Ultimately – whether in the form of debt or equity – these sums will have to be paid back, and then some.

Eventually, this additional cost will be felt. Either the driver has to bear it, and so is motivated to look to rival employers, or the customer does, with the same outcome. Uber’s hope must be that when it gets to this stage there will be no alternatives left to chose from.

Elusive goal

So can Uber afford to become ethical? Its growth to date has been so costly that even after the raft of regulations it has managed to sidestep, and measures forcing down the income of its drivers, it is losing billions every year. In a properly regulated market, in which Uber has to give its drivers appropriate employment protections, and passengers the safeguards they need, its goal of apparently aping Amazon becomes even harder.

If Uber can achieve market dominance before it runs out of funding, the inefficiencies in its model cease to matter. Society will simply have to carry the cost of higher fares and lower driver wages.

If it fails to achieve near monopoly status and has to continue to compete against local firms, in my view it has little hope of ever repaying its investors. For customers that travel to different cities frequently, Uber’s scale gives them a clear edge. For everyone else, is an app slightly shinier than its competitors’ clones enough to outweigh the higher fares that should come with Uber’s model?

Should Uber ultimately fail, it would open up the possibility of a taxi company fit for the 21st century. One that harnesses the possibilities of digital technologies not to enrich venture capital, but drivers themselves, in the form of cooperatives like the one currently developing in the absence of Uber in Austin, Texas.


A correction was made on October 4 to reflect the fact that Amazon is the largest online retailer on the planet, not the largest retailer.

Murray Goulden, Senior Research Fellow, University of Nottingham

This article was originally published on The Conversation. Read the original article.

Uber Technologies Inc's new Chief Executive Dara Khosrowshahi told employees on Wednesday the ride-services company would change its culture and may go public in 18 to 36 months.

Khosrowshahi, who led travel-booking site Expedia Inc for 12 years, made the remarks as he introduced himself to Uber's workforce on Wednesday during an all-staff meeting at its San Francisco headquarters.

His plans include rebuilding Uber's culture and growing market share as well as possibly conducting an initial public offering in 18 to 36 months, according to people who attended the meeting. It is common for venture capital-backed companies to signal an IPO at a vague time in the future.

"This company has to change," Khosrowshahi told employees, according to the Twitter feed of Uber's communications team. "What got us here is not what's going to get us to the next level."

Khosrowshahi said Uber needed to stabilize itself but also take what he called "big shots." The appointment of Khosrowshahi, who described himself as "a fighter," comes as Uber is trying to recover from a series of crises that culminated in the ouster of former CEO Travis Kalanick in June. It is also a key step toward filling a gaping hole in its top management that at the moment has no chief financial officer, head of engineering or general counsel.

In his first meeting with Uber employees, Khosrowshahi emphasized recruiting new talent - particularly a chief financial officer - as well as a chairman to help him run the board, according to tweets from Uber.

Kalanick, who attended Wednesday's staff meeting, welcomed his replacement in a statement. "Casting a vote for the next chief executive of Uber was a big moment for me and I couldn't be happier to pass the torch to such an inspiring leader," Kalanick said.

BOARD DYSFUNCTION

Khosrowshahi inherits a dysfunctional board that has been divided by a lawsuit filed by investor Benchmark Capital against Kalanick. The lawsuit, which seeks to force Kalanick off the board and rescind his ability to fill two board seats, has caused shareholder infighting and complicated the CEO search.

Delaware Judge Sam Glasscock on Wednesday brought that dispute closer to a resolution when he stayed the lawsuit and moved it to arbitration, which moves the legal fight out of the public eye and hands a victory to Kalanick.

"I think what we have here is a political battle that belongs in the boardroom and not the courtroom," said Donald Wolfe, an attorney for Kalanick. Glasscock stopped short of dismissing the lawsuit, as Kalanick had requested, because of concerns about the impact the dispute might have on other Uber shareholders who may also want to take legal action. The board had already selected Khosrowshahi as Uber's next CEO in a vote on Sunday. But the firm and its board did not speak publicly on the decision until Tuesday evening, as contract negotiations were ongoing.

"The board and the executive leadership team are confident that Dara is the best person to lead Uber into the future," Uber's eight-member board wrote in an email to employees sent late Tuesday that was also made public.

Khosrowshahi has been replaced at Expedia by Mark Okerstrom, the company's chief financial officer for the last six years. On a call with reporters Wednesday, Okerstrom hinted at the surprise and confusion that followed Khosrowshahi's appointment as Uber CEO. Khosrowshahi was not a publicly known candidate for the job, and he told Expedia staff he was accepting the new role two days after the first media reports on his selection.

"I think the way that this whole thing unfolded is not the way that most people would have planned it," Okerstrom said.

Khosrowshahi will remain on the Expedia board.

 

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  1. Opinions and Analysis

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