Researcher Admits Study That Claimed Uber Drivers Earn $3.37 An Hour Was Not Correct ( 101

Last week, an MIT study using data from more than 1,100 Uber and Lyft drivers concluded they're earning a median pretax profit of just $3.37 per hour. Uber was less than pleased by their findings and used a blog post to highlight problems with the researchers' methodology. "Now the lead researcher behind the draft paper has admitted that Uber's criticism was actually pretty valid -- while also asking Uber and Lyft to make more data available, in order to improve his analysis," reports Fortune. From the report: The issue with the draft paper from MIT's Center for Energy and Environmental Policy Research (CEEPR), Uber's chief economist Jonathan Hall said, was this: The researchers asked drivers how much money they made on average each week from such services, but then asked "How much of your total monthly income comes from driving" -- without specifying that such income must relate to on-demand services. Of course, many people driving for Uber and Lyft also earn money from regular jobs and other income sources. And this, Hall alleged, skewed the researchers' results.

"Hall's specific criticism is valid," wrote Stephen Zoepf, the executive director of Stanford's Center for Automotive Research, who led the MIT study, on Monday. "In re-reading the wording of the two questions, I can see how respondents could have interpreted the two questions in the manner Hall describes." Zoepf said he would be updating the CEEPR paper, but in the meantime he recalculated the figures using a methodology suggested by Hall, and found that the median profit was $8.55 per hour, rather than $3.37, and only 8% of drivers lose money on on-demand platforms. Using another methodology, he added, the median rises to $10 per hour and only 4% of drivers lose money.


Uber Spent $10.7 Billion in Nine Years. Does It Have Enough to Show for It? ( 91

An anonymous reader shares a report: What makes Uber Technologies the most valuable venture-backed technology company in the world? Investors say size and growth. The business is transforming global transportation networks. On closer inspection of its financial performance, Uber also pioneered a very expensive way of establishing a market and staying on top. Uber has had little trouble finding investors eager to buy into its vision. It relishes telling backers about gross bookings, or the amount riders pay for service. That number is enormous, totaling $37 billion last year. But most of that goes to drivers. Uber's cut, or net revenue, came to $7.4 billion. Compared to public companies with similar valuations, Uber's revenue lags well behind. At the same time, Uber has worked to downplay its persistent losses. Because the company doesn't disclose financial results with much consistency, it's easy to lose sight of how much of investors' money Uber has spent. Since its founding nine years ago, Uber has burned through about $10.7 billion, according to a person familiar with the matter. Over the past decade, only one public technology company in North America lost more in a year than Uber lost in 2017. None has burned such a tremendous amount in the first stage of its life, according to data compiled by Bloomberg.

One Single Malicious Vehicle Can Block 'Smart' Street Intersections In the US ( 98

An anonymous reader shares a BleepingComputer report: Academics from the University of Michigan have shown that one single malicious car could trick US-based smart traffic control systems into believing an intersection is full and force the traffic control algorithm to alter its normal behavior, and indirectly cause traffic slowdowns and even block street intersections. The team's research focused on Connected Vehicle (CV) technology, which is currently being included in all cars manufactured across the globe. More precisely, it targets V2I (vehicle-to-infrastructure) protocols, and more precisely the I-SIG system implemented in the US.

The Michigan research team says the I-SIG system in its current default configuration is vulnerable to basic data spoofing attacks. Researchers say this is "due to a vulnerability at the signal control algorithm level," which they call "the last vehicle advantage." This means that the latest arriving vehicle can determine the traffic system's algorithm output. The research team says I-SIG doesn't come with protection from spoofing attacks, allowing one vehicle to send repeated messages to a traffic intersection, posing as the latest vehicle that arrived at the intersection. According to simulated traffic models, the Michigan team says that around a fifth of all cars that entered a test intersection took seven minutes to traverse the traffic junction that would have normally taken only half a minute. Researchers don't believe this bug could be exploited for actual gains in the real world, but the bugs' existence shows the protocol is poorly coded, even four years after first being proved unsecured.


MoviePass CEO Proudly Says App Tracks Your Location Before, After Movies ( 166

MoviePass CEO Mitch Lowe told an audience at a Hollywood event last Friday that the app tracks moviegoers' locations before and after each show they watch. "We get an enormous amount of information," Lowe said. "We watch how you drive from home to the movies. We watch where you go afterwards." His talk at the Entertainment Finance Forum was entitled "Data is the New Oil: How will MoviePass Monetize It?" TechCrunch reports: It's no secret that MoviePass is planning on making hay out of the data collected through its service. But what I imagined, and what I think most people imagined, was that it would be interesting next-generation data about ticket sales, movie browsing, A/B testing on promotions in the app and so on. I didn't imagine that the app would be tracking your location before you even left your home, and then follow you while you drive back or head out for a drink afterwards. Did you? It sure isn't in the company's privacy policy, which in relation to location tracking discloses only a "single request" when selecting a theater, which will "only be used as a means to develop, improve, and personalize the service." Which part of development requires them to track you before and after you see the movie? A MoviePass representative said in a statement to TechCrunch: "We are exploring utilizing location-based marketing as a way to help enhance the overall experience by creating more opportunities for our subscribers to enjoy all the various elements of a good movie night. We will not be selling the data that we gather. Rather, we will use it to better inform how to market potential customer benefits including discounts on transportation, coupons for nearby restaurants, and other similar opportunities."

Uber Challenges Study Suggesting Its Drivers Earn $3.37 Per Hour ( 271

An MIT study using data from more than 1,100 Uber and Lyft drivers concluded they're earning a median pretax profit of just $3.37 per hour. But now Reuters reports: Uber Chief Executive Dara Khosrowshahi criticized the MIT study in a tweet on Friday as "Mathematically Incompetent Theories (at least as it pertains to ride-sharing)," and linked to a response by Uber chief economist Jonathan Hall that challenged the study's methodology. Hall's rebuttal to the study said the likely misinterpretation of a survey question and the study's "inconsistent logic" produced a wage result that was below similar studies elsewhere. He said the study used a "flawed methodology" compared with a survey that found drivers' average hour earnings were $15.68. "The earnings figures suggested in the paper are less than half the hourly earnings numbers reported in the very survey the paper derives its data from," wrote Hall.

The MIT study's lead author, Stephen Zoepf, told Reuters in an email on Saturday, "I can see how the question on revenue might have been interpreted differently by respondents" and called Hall's rebuttal thoughtful. "I'm re-running the analysis this weekend using Uber's more optimistic assumptions and should have new results and a public response acknowledging the discrepancy by Monday," he wrote.

Saturday Uber's CEO tweeted a thank-you to MIT, "for listening and revisiting this study and its findings. Right thing to do."

German Cities Can Ban Diesel Cars, Court Rules ( 119

A German court has ruled that cities in Germany are allowed to enact bans on diesel vehicles, Reuters reports. It's unlikely that bans will magically appear across the country overnight, but not everyone in the country is happy about this decision. From a report: Environmentalists might be happy about the possibility of banning some of the road's dirtiest cars, but owners and right-leaning groups are not. Reuters reports that some politicians believe this decision could disenfranchise a large swath of car owners across the country, many of whom likely can't afford to immediately replace a vehicle.
The Courts

Volkswagen Settles Diesel Emissions Lawsuit Right Before Trial Set To Begin ( 74

Volkswagen settled a major diesel emissions class action lawsuit brought by hundreds of vehicle owners right before the case was set to go to trial. "The German auto giant's U.S. division settled the lawsuit brought by a North Carolina man and over 300 other owners of diesel cars who allege fraud and unfair trade practices," reports The Verge. From the report: The trial could have featured testimony from current and former VW executives and would likely have caused a spate of bad press for the automaker regarding the Dieselgate scandal. Since it first broke in 2015, the controversy has led to the resignation of VW's CEO, seen a handful of executives sentenced to jail, and resulted in billions of dollars in fines and settlements. VW is being sued by some consumers after it admitted to using software to cheat on diesel emissions tests, sparking the biggest scandal to hit the auto industry in decades. David Doar, the North Carolina man along with more than 300 other U.S. VW diesel owners, rejected settlement offers from a 2016 class action that would have reimbursed them for the value of their vehicles. Nearly all U.S. owners of affected VW vehicles agreed to take part in a $25 billion settlement in 2016, which included buyback offers and additional compensation for about 500,000 owners. But according to Reuters, some 2,000 owners have opted out, and most are pursuing separate claims seeking additional compensation.

Tesla Model 3 Torn Down, Hacked and Set On a Dynamometer, Exposing Unusual Tech Details ( 227

Rei writes: With an estimated 8,670 Model 3s delivered, a race is on as competitors and owners work to figure out its limits and explore the tech behind it. Many-time Tesla teardown expert "Ingineerix" has posted a series of videos and discussed his findings on Reddit. Among them: what appears to be the industry's first switched reluctance motor, a massive "smuggling compartment" allocated for a future front-wheel motor, no physical fuses (all solid-state), significant wiring harness length reductions via the use of multiple body controllers, a swappable crash energy absorption system, a liquid-cooled compute unit, and redundant controllers for all safety-related systems. He followed up by posting a screenshot of the car tricked into "factory mode" to reveal its internal specs, including a 1200A max discharge current, 370kW max discharge power, and a 76 kWh pack with 72,5kWh usable. Meanwhile, Munro and Associates tore down a Model 3 for an undisclosed, "not Tesla" client, releasing a video criticizing its build quality and for difficulty in accessing the HV cables in the event of an accident (Munroe's claims were dismissed by Ingineerix). Meanwhile, engineers from German automakers were extremely impressed by what they found during their teardown -- particularly the power electronics system, which they described as "compact, expandable, fully integrated, modular, easily accessible, well-protected, reasonably priced and astonishingly clever in many details." Other owners have been putting their cars on dynamometers to measure their power. Drag Times suffered some skid and measured a conflicting 281 / 327.6 hp with 552 lb-ft torque. Contrarily, Tesla Repair Channel found consistent readings around 250hp when starting from 30mph, but consistently around 390 hp when starting from 10mph. The reason for the discrepancy is not yet clear.

Airbus, Delta, and Sprint Are on a Quest for In-Flight Wi-fi That Actually Works ( 48

It's 2018, so why is it still seemingly impossible to get a decent wi-fi on an airplane? From a report: Well, a lot of reasons, it turns out. The Wall Street Journal recently enumerated them: hardware, software, government regulation, aviation regulation, and rivalries between wireless and satellite companies. Despite the obstacles, a new alliance between Airbus, Delta Air Lines, Sprint, and two U.S. satellite companies is trying to find a way to provide faster Internet and a better user experience. Japan's SoftBank, which owns 80% of Sprint, and India's Bharti Airtel are also reportedly supporting the project. The group, which calls itself Seamless Air Alliance, envisions a world where a variety of devices could easily connect to the Internet while in flight at industry-leading speeds, rivaling cable and 5G. The businesses that are either involved in or backing the alliance pack a punch: they already serve about 150 million airline passengers and 450 million mobile users around the globe.

Studies Are Increasingly Clear: Uber, Lyft Congest Cities ( 370

One promise of ride-hailing companies like Uber and Lyft was fewer cars clogging city streets. But studies suggest the opposite: that ride-hailing companies are pulling riders off buses, subways, bicycles and their own feet and putting them in cars instead . From a report: And in what could be a new wrinkle, a service by Uber called Express Pool now is seen as directly competing with mass transit. Uber and Lyft argue that in Boston, for instance, they complement public transit by connecting riders to hubs like Logan Airport and South Station. But they have not released their own specific data about rides, leaving studies up to outside researchers. And the impact of all those cars is becoming clear, said Christo Wilson, a professor of computer science at Boston's Northeastern University, who has looked at Uber's practice of surge pricing during heavy volume. "The emerging consensus is that ride-sharing (is) increasing congestion," Wilson said. One study included surveys of 944 ride-hailing users over four weeks in late 2017 in the Boston area. Nearly six in 10 said they would have used public transportation, walked, biked or skipped the trip if the ride-hailing apps weren't available. The report also found many riders aren't using hailed rides to connect to a subway or bus line, but instead as a separate mode of transit, said Alison Felix, one of the report's authors.

Automated Cars Are Not Able To Use the Automated Car Wash ( 150

schwit1 shares a report from The Truth About Cars: [T]he simple task of washing a self-driving car is far more complicated than one might expect, as anything other than meticulous hand washing a big no-no. Automated car washes could potentially dislodge expensive sensors, scratch them up, or leave behind soap residue or water spots that would affect a camera's ability to see. According to CNN, automakers and tech firms have come up with a myriad of solutions to this problem -- though a man with a rag and some water appears to be the most popular. Toyota, Aptiv, Drive.AI, May Mobility, and Uber have all said they use rubbing alcohol, water, or glass cleaner to manually wash the sensors, before carefully finishing the job with a microfiber cloth. While it's more than just a little ironic that these automated vehicles require gobs of attention and pampering from human hands just to function correctly, some companies are working on a way around it. General Motors' Cruise has said it will design and implement sensor-cleaning equipment in production vehicles.

Tesla Will Supply Free Charging Stations To Office Parking Lots 39

Tesla has unveiled a new "workplace charging" program today, which offers businesses free Tesla wall connectors and will also cover installation, provided they meet certain qualifications set forth by the California carmaker. "Tesla won't cover the cost of operating the charging stations, and the company says there could be other permitting, construction, zoning, or labor costs," reports The Verge. From the report: The workplace charging stations will be compatible with all Tesla cars, but not with other EVs, and they won't show up on publicly available Tesla charging maps. The wall chargers are 240 volts, or "Level 2," which is capable of topping off a battery pack in a handful of hours, though the company says the charge rate will vary by location depending on the infrastructure available.

Airlines Won't Dare Use the Fastest Way to Board Planes ( 310

An anonymous reader writes: You've arrived at the airport early. You have already selected the perfect seat. You've employed all possible tricks for making the check-in and security processes zoom by. But there's still some blood-pressure-raising chaos you can't avoid: boarding. From impatient fellow travelers who are determined to beat you onto the plane to passengers who insist on jamming their too-big carry-ons into overhead bins, making your way to your seat can be straight-up hellish -- and Wired's Alex Davies offers up a cheery explanation of why the situation is unlikely to improve any time soon. It's not that airlines aren't trying. In fact, United is in the middle of a months-long test at LAX that involves splitting its five groups of passengers into two lines, instead of five, to see whether that will make boarding less painful. But there are some basic measures that airlines could be taking to speed things up -- offering free baggage check, for instance, or cutting down on early boarding perks -- if they weren't so worried about their bottom lines. "The question for the airlines, then, is not how to get everyone onto a plane as quickly as possible," Davies writes. "It's how to get everyone onto a plane as quickly as possible while still charging them extra for bags, doting on the regular customers, and maintaining the system that, like all class structures, serves whoever built it."

Study Finds Automatic Braking With Rearview Cameras, Sensors Can Cut Backup Crashes By 78 Percent ( 161

A new study from the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) found that combining automatic braking with rearview cameras and sensors can cut reverse crashes by 78 percent. Rear automatic braking alone, which is an option in just 5 percent of new vehicles, is linked to a 62 percent drop in reported backup accidents in cars with that equipment. CBS News reports: Starting in May, all new cars in the U.S. will be required to have a rearview camera. Some automakers are going further by adding backup warning sensors and reverse automatic braking. For the first time, the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety tested that combination of technology. Two models -- the 2017 Subaru Outback and Cadillac XT5 SUV -- earned superior ratings. Four other vehicles scored an advanced rating for generally avoiding a collision or substantially reducing the vehicle's speed. But there's some room to improve. One vehicle did not stop automatically when backing up to a dummy car parked at an angle. Automatic braking in the front will become standard in most cars in 2022 but there's currently no plan to make it standard for backing up.

Elon Musk Steps Down From AI Safety Group To Avoid Conflict of Interest With Tesla 32

New submitter the gmr writes: According to an announcement on the OpenAI blog, Elon Musk has stepped down from the board of directors of the nonprofit AI safety group, which he co-founded in 2015, due potential conflict of interest with his company Tesla. As explained in a post on Futurism, the move away from OpenAI may indicate that Tesla may be moving forward with more AI projects than most people may realize. Musk's departure may mean that Tesla is closer to delivering vehicles capable of Level 5 autonomy, "fully self-driving" vehicles that more than 35,000 Tesla customers paid for even though the technology does not yet exist. "Elon Musk will depart the OpenAI Board but will continue to donate and advise the organization," the announcement reads. "As Tesla continues to become more focused on AI, this will eliminate a potential future conflict for Elon." The OpenAI board of directors now consists of Greg Brockman, Ilya Sutskever, Holden Karnofsky, and Sam Altman, with whom Musk co-founded the venture. The company reportedly plans to not only fill Musk's seat but expand their team as well.

"Open AI has also been a prominent voice in the conversation concerning the limitations, challenges, and potential dangers of artificial intelligence," reports Futurism. "Just this week, the company co-released a report with a number of other global AI experts that outlines the potential 'malicious' uses of the technology and how to prevent them."

Uber Will 'Invest Aggressively' In India And Southeast Asia, CEO Says ( 22

Pranav Dixit, writing for BuzzFeed News: Dara Khosrowshahi, Uber's CEO of six months, said on Thursday that the ride-hailing service would continue to invest aggressively in both Southeast Asia and India, where the company is losing money and faces strong competition from local players like Grab and Ola. Uber has been slow to expand its presence in India and Southeast Asia, allowing competitors to quickly gain ground. Singapore's Grab, for instance, claimed to have 95% of the country's ride-hailing market share last year. And Ola, Uber's Indian rival, currently operates in 110 cities against Uber's 29 cities. Ola does 1 billion rides annually, compared to Uber, which announced in mid-2017 that it completed 500 million total rides in the country in its first four years of operations. "We expect to lose money in Southeast Asia and expect to invest aggressively in terms of marketing, subsidies, etc.," Khosrowshahi told reporters in India, which is Uber's fastest-growing market outside the United States, and where he is currently on his first official tour. While Uber's India operation is not yet profitable, it does account for 10% of Uber's rides globally.

Uber Launches 'Express Pool' To Get More Riders To Share Rides ( 63

An anonymous reader quotes a report from Recode: Uber is beginning to roll out a cheaper version of its ride-sharing UberPool service, called Express Pool. The service, which was being tested in Boston and San Francisco, is now available in Los Angeles, San Diego and Denver, and will launch in Miami, Philadelphia and Washington, D.C., tomorrow. The idea is that Express Pool, which requires riders to walk a little to meet their driver -- and then again to their destination after being dropped off -- will make shared rides more efficient. If it works, it should both increase the number of rides that drivers can give and also make those shared trips faster for passengers. The new service tests a thesis Uber has long had: Lower prices means higher utilization, and higher utilization means more money -- both for drivers and for Uber. Also that road congestion is bad and the solution is to share more rides. Those are the same theories that sparked the creation of the original UberPool service, which requires a little less walking. But the hope is that this will make it easier to match more passengers and therefore lose less money on each shared ride.

New Lawsuit Accuses Tesla of Knowingly Selling Defective Vehicles ( 62

A new lawsuit from a former Tesla employee claims the company knowingly sold defective cars, and that the employee was demoted and eventually fired after reporting the practice to his superiors. The lawsuit was filed in late January in New Jersey Superior Court under the Conscientious Employee Protection Act (CEPA). The Verge reports: The former employee, Adam Williams, worked for Tesla as a regional manager in New Jersey dating back to late 2011. While there, he says he watched the company fail "to disclose to consumers high-dollar, pre-delivery damage repairs" before delivering its vehicles, according to the complaint. Instead, he says the company sold these cars as "used," or labeled as "demo/loaner" vehicles. "There's no merit to this lawsuit. Mr. Williams' description of how Tesla sells used or loaner vehicles is totally false and not how we do things at Tesla," a representative for the company said in response to the lawsuit. "It's also at odds with the fact that we rank highest in customer satisfaction of any car brand, with more owners saying they'd buy a Tesla again than any other manufacturer. Mr. Williams was terminated at Tesla for performance reasons, not for any other reason." The lawyer for the plaintiff could not be reached in time for publish.

Williams says in the court filing that he reported this behavior in late 2016 and early 2017 to his supervisor, as well as Lenny Peake, Tesla's East Coast Regional Manager, and Jerome Guillen, a company vice president. Shortly after that, he claims, he was demoted to service manager of the Springfield, New Jersey Tesla store. He then says he was demoted again later in the year to a "mobile manager" position and was ultimately fired in September 2017. In the lawsuit, Williams argues that he was terminated for reporting the alleged lawbreaking practices, and he should therefore be covered by CEPA's whistleblower protection.


The Car of the Future Will Sell Your Data ( 241

Picture this: You're driving home from work, contemplating what to make for dinner, and as you idle at a red light near your neighborhood pizzeria, an ad offering $5 off a pepperoni pie pops up on your dashboard screen. Are you annoyed that your car's trying to sell you something, or pleasantly persuaded? From a report: Telenav, a company developing in-car advertising software, is betting you won't mind much. Car companies -- looking to earn some extra money -- hope so, too. Automakers have been installing wireless connections in vehicles and collecting data for decades. But the sheer volume of software and sensors in new vehicles, combined with artificial intelligence that can sift through data at ever-quickening speeds, means new services and revenue streams are quickly emerging. The big question for automakers now is whether they can profit off all the driver data they're capable of collecting without alienating consumers or risking backlash from Washington. "Carmakers recognize they're fighting a war over customer data," said Roger Lanctot, who works with automakers on data monetization as a consultant for Strategy Analytics. "Your driving behavior, location, has monetary value, not unlike your search activity."

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