Uber Is Adding Safety Features It Resisted For Years (4-12-18)

Uber will add a “911” button and bolster driver screenings, according to an announcement from CEO Dara Khosrowshahi on Thursday. (Mark Ralston/AFP/Getty Images)

After years of resisting major changes pushed by riders and government regulators, Uber announced upgrades this week it said are aimed at keeping its U.S. ride-hail customers safe.

The mobility company will add an emergency 911 feature akin to a “panic button” — a type of enhanced 911 that connects passengers directly with emergency personnel, and allows them to share their location with the operator. The company said it also will bolster driver screening by mandating annual reviews of background checks to ensure drivers remain in compliance with its standards. And it plans to allow riders to share their trip information with up to five “trusted contacts” on every trip so there are multiple sets of eyes to ensure rides go smoothly, the company said.

The changes, expected to be in place this summer, were unveiled as part of a broad package of changes that CEO Dara Khosrowshahi said represent a push to “double down on safety in our app” and “strengthen our screening process.”

Read Full Story Here (via The Washington Post)

Uber Gets Into Car Rentals And Public Transit (4-11-18)

Uber  is officially a multi-modal transportation platform. On the heels of its acquisition of bike-share startup JUMP, Uber CEO Dara Khosrowshahi today announced Uber Bike‘s expansion into Washington, D.C., along with two key partnerships in car rentals and public transit.

The first is with instant car-booking service Getaround,  which launched at TechCrunch Disrupt NY in 2011 to enable car owners to rent their vehicles to neighbors, tourists and other people within their city.

Dubbed Uber Rent, the platform taps into Getaround’s existing marketplace of cars that are available for instant rentals. Uber Rent, which will launch in San Francisco later this month, lets people book Getaround cars directly from the Uber app. Once Uber feels solid about the product market fit, it will expand the program nationally.

Read Full Story Here (via TechCrunch)

The New Symbiosis Between Automakers And Ride-Hailing Companies (4-7-18)

Transportation giants are exploring “new ways to unlock value based on the communications, processing capabilities, and physical location” of vehicles and their users.

The following is an excerpt from the book “Three Revolutions: Steering Automated, Shared, and Electric Vehicles to a Better Future” by Daniel Sperling.

Automakers will increasingly find themselves in a complicated relation­ship with ride-hailing companies such as Lyft and Uber. The latter will be competitors but also customers. In the next few years, sales to drivers for Lyft, Uber and others will almost certainly offset declines in car purchases by users of the services. As shared mobility services expand, auto man­ufacturers will likely start producing customized vehicles for ride-hailing companies — even as their own mobility services compete head-to-head.

Today, Lyft and Uber have almost no hard assets and are essentially internet-platform companies. Managing and owning vehicles clashes with their current business model. But once level-5 driverless cars come on the scene, they will have little choice. It appears inevitable that they will embrace a new business model that involves ownership of vehicles. A huge part of the success of demand-responsive, app-based ride-hailing companies will be their ability to profit as proprietors of capital, which will mean owning and operating a fleet of automated electric cars. So just as self-driving cars have pulled Detroit into the Silicon Valley game, the power of fleet ownership will likely force ride-hailing companies into partnership with manufacturers.

Read Full Story Here (via Green Biz)

Singing About Love: Hailu Mergia Interviewed (4-10-18)

Photo by Piotr Gruchala

After finding a Hailu Mergia tape in a shop in Ethiopia, then Googling a phone number to get in touch, Brian Shimkovitz reissued the dreamy, hypnotic 1985 solo album, Hailu Mergia And His Classical Instrument back in 2013 on his label Awesome Tapes from Africa. With it, he introduced the snake charmer synths and psychedelic-kitsch accordion sounds of this legendary Ethiopian bandleader and jazz musician to a whole new young, hip audience. It was followed up by reissues of Mergia’s 1977 beautiful Ethio-jazz albums Tche Belew and last year’s Wede Harer Guzo, built on moody ancient scales and standards.

Mergia, who was working as an airport taxi driver at the time, loved the out-of-the-blue comeback and the opportunity to tour the world, and now at 71, is keeping the momentum up with new writing. In February, Awesome Tapes released Lala Belu, Mergia’s first new album in over 15 years, recorded in London and mixed in Washington DC, near his home in Maryland.

Read Full Story Here (via The Quietus)