Pick up some moving insights into the future of mobility with Gett chief executive Dave Waiser in Tel Aviv

Dave Waiser has been at the forefront of the mobility technology revolution in Israel for the past eight years, ever since he launched Gett in 2010.

One of the last companies standing in the ultra-competitive global ride-sharing market, Gett has withstood competition from Didi Chuxing, Grab, Ola, Lyft and Uber and kept pace with those rivals as it claims a share of a worldwide market worth billions.

Through direct operations and partnerships with companies like the chauffeur and logistics business Carey International, Gett has managed to achieve a footprint of 1,000 cities that span the globe. It operates directly in 100 cities in four countries (including a competitive position in New York) and has raised some $640 million in venture funding — including a $300 million investment from the Volkswagen Group.

For Waiser, Gett’s success is only the latest in a string of endeavors which the enterprising entrepreneur has undertaken since the early days of the new millennium. One of Waiser’s first jobs, back in 2000, was to launch the Russian entity of the publicly traded early telecommunications software vendor, Comverse.

In Tel Aviv, Waiser will share his thoughts with us on the future of mobility, the peaks and valleys of the entrepreneur’s journey, and what’s next for Gett as it continues to drive forward in a highly competitive market.

It’s a perspective that no one would want to miss, and one that’ll be exclusively available to our audience in Tel Aviv. Tickets are on sale now. 

 

China’s Didi pares back ‘hitchhiking’ car service following passenger murder

Didi Chxuing is making big changes to Hitch, its inter-city carpooling service, following the murder of a passenger at the hands of a driver earlier this month.

Last week, Didi — China’s dominant ride-hailing service by some margin — expressed its “deep remorse” for the murder, and suspended Hitch for a week to conduct a review of the service.

Hitch, as the name suggests, is a hitchhiking-style service that groups people who are headed in the same direction together. Unlike Didi’s other services, it isn’t commercial; passengers give the driver their share of fuel and any other costs they want to cover. That makes it affordable and hugely popular, but it has also made the service less professional than Didi’s other modes of transport. Indeed, many in China have claimed the service is ‘sleazy,’ with many comments left about passenger appearances, particularly those who are female.

The primary change will see Hitch available limited to daytime when the service resumes, with no new rides able to start between the hours of 10pm and 6am.

In an apparent nod to the unsavory elements, Didi is scrubbing all Hitch driver and passenger reviews and ratings. Personal information for users will no longer be public, and profile photos will be replaced by generic images, Didi said.

Beyond Hitch, Didi is also making changes to its driver authentication program.

That’s down, in a large part, to the fact that the suspect in the murder of the passenger was not a verified Didi driver. He was able to use the app (on more than one occasion) by taking the smartphone belonging to his father, who is a verified Didi driver. Didi’s facial recognition technology, which verifies a driver’s identity before granting them access to the service, failed in this instance — Didi said it was “defective” that day.

Didi is closing down the option for its drivers to use other people’s cars with their permission, and implementing a “zero tolerance policy” on matching cars with their registered owners — a strange loophole that drew concern.

The Didi service added an SOS button two years ago, and now it is aiming to refine that further by introducing automatic audio recording which is passed in real-time to a customer support agent once an SOS is activated. The firm said it is also weighing up adding video in the future. Conscious of privacy concerns, the company said the audio would be stored remotely, not on a passenger’s device, and deleted within 72 hours if not needed for longer.

“We understand that not everyone is comfortable with having their trips recorded. Additional user authorization may also be needed if in-vehicle video monitoring were to be introduced in the future,” the company said.

“Nevertheless, this could be a most effective means to enhance safety standards, and to ensure adequate evidence support for potential dispute resolution,” Didi added. “Would this be an acceptable solution in the eyes of our users?”

That’s one of a series of questions put out by Didi, which said it will solicit opinions for potential safety measures. The company said it has booked “proactive consultation sessions with relevant authorities and experts” and it will also put out a call for comment on its social media channels.

Didi is facing pressure from rival Meituan Dianping, which started out in local services but recently introduced ride-sharing services and moved into dockless bikes with the acquisition of Mobike.

This is not the first time that Didi, which became China’s single-largest ride-hailing company when it bought out Uber’s local business in 2016, has dealt with the murder of a customer. Two years ago, a woman in Shenzhen was robbed and murdered by a Didi driver.

China’s Didi Chuxing suspends carpooling service following murder of a passenger

Didi Chuxing, China’s largest ride-hailing service, has suspended its Hitch, one of its carpooling services, for one week as it investigates the murder of a passenger.

The victim was a 21-year-old air stewardess identified only as Ms. Li. State-run news agency Global Times reports that the incident took place in the evening of May 5, when she used Hitch — which lets people headed to the same destination take a ride together — to summon a ride home from Zhengzhou airport, Henan Province, after finishing work. The publication cites police reports that say Li was murdered by her driver using a weapon.

Didi has used facial recognition technology to verify its drivers since 2016. The technology is used to speed up registration of drivers when they initially sign-up, and also to prevent fraud when they log in to start a shift. The idea is that the app will only unlock when the driver account owner takes a selfie which should match with the record Didi has.

In the case of this tragic incident, that safeguard failed.

The suspect — who has been named as Liu Zhenhua — is not registered on its platform, according to Didi, but he was able to access it, and take rides, using a verified driver account belonging to his father. Didi said it did not prevent this because its facial recognition feature was “defective” that day.

It looks like there was a warning sign, however. The company said that the account had received a sexual harassment complaint before the incident — it isn’t clear if that was from the father, or his son accessing the account — but Didi was unable to reach the account despite trying to make contact an apparent five times. Yet, despite the complaint, the account was allowed to log-in and take rides.

“Due to the imperfection of the arbitration rules of the platform, the complaint was not handled properly in subsequent days,” Didi admitted in a statement.

Hitch is an inter-city carpooling service focused on commuting and distance-traveling that lets passengers cover the cost of fuel and a driver’s basic costs. Didi’s commercial carpooling services are not affected. The Hitch suspension starts tomorrow — May 12 — and Didi said it will use the time to review all of its registered drivers for “any cases involving mismatch of drivers and vehicles.”

The company also pledged to revamp its operational approach and customer support system.

In a prior statement provided to TechCrunch, Didi expressed its “deep remorse” at the incident which it said it has “undeniable” responsibility for. The company added that it must “step up to win the trust of our users.”

We are deeply saddened by and sorry about the tragedy that happened to Ms. Li while using DiDi Hitch. No words can express our deep remorse in the face of such an enormity. We give our sincere condolences and apologies to the family of Ms. Li. We need to step up to win the trust of our users. Our responsibilities in this case are undeniable.

Our special task force is working closely with law enforcement agencies with the utmost effort. The murderer needs to be brought to justice; and Ms Li and her family deserve a just answer.

We apologize again to the family of the victim and the public. Please be assured we will review thoroughly all our business practices to prevent such an incident from happening again.

Global Times reported that Didi is offered a reward of one million yuan (just over $150,000) for information about the alleged murdered, although Didi did not confirm that when we asked.

Didi is facing pressure from rival Meituan Dianping, which started out in local services but recently introduced ride-sharing services and moved into dockless bikes with the acquisition of Mobike.

This is not the first time that Didi, which became China’s single-largest ride-hailing company when it bought out Uber’s local business in 2016, has dealt with the murder of a customer. Two years ago, a woman in Shenzhen was robbed and murdered by a Didi driver.

Uber and Lyft have had fatal incidents, too.

In the U.S., those range from a seven-year-old girl being run over by an Uber driver in San Francisco in 2014, to a driver in Michigan murdering six people while on duty for the ride-hailing service in 2016. Other fatalities have taken place in Australia, Lebanon, Singapore and India.

This year, Uber’s autonomous vehicles have also been involved in civilian deaths. In March, a woman died after being struck by a self-driving Uber SUV in Tempe, Arizona. While police said Uber wasn’t responsible for the incident, the company paused its autonomous vehicle testing following the fatal crash.

Lyft is considering entering Japan’s challenging ride-hailing market for some reason

Lyft, Uber’s chief nemesis in the U.S., is thinking of entering the fiercely competitive Japanese ride-hailing space, according to comments from one of its founders.

“We would love to be in Japan, and we also will be looking at that possibility,” John Zimmer, Lyft co-founder and president, said at the New Economy Summit 2018 in Tokyo.

“I think the regulatory framework here will play an even larger role than it likely had in other regions,” he added, according to a report from Japan Times.

Lyft made its first global expansion when it entered Canada last December so it is natural that the firm is eyeing overseas opportunities. Japan is one that springs to mind since it has counted Rakuten, the country’s dominant e-commerce service, as an investor since 2015, while the taxi market is one of the most lucrative in the world. Business in Tokyo alone is estimated to be worth over $15 billion in annual sales.

Hopping over the border to Canada is an obvious first move for many companies, but Japan would, by contrast, be a far more complicated market for Lyft to navigate.

Just ask Uber .

The U.S. giant has struggled to gain a foothold in a market that remains dominated by licensed taxi operators. Uber CEO Dara Khosrowshahi recently paid a visit to Japan where he said he conducted “promising” meetings with taxi companies aimed at boosting Uber’s licensed taxi product in the market.

However, there are plenty of rivals.

Japanese taxi companies have an Uber of their own, JapanTaxi, which recently raised $69 million from Toyota. (Toyota is also an Uber backer, but those conflicts are becoming normal.) Beyond top backers, JapanTaxi is notable for being owned by Ichiro Kawanabe, who runs Japan’s largest taxi operator Nihon Kotsu and heads up the country’s taxi federation.

Other rivals include Line, Japan’s top messaging app which has offered taxi services for a few years, while Sony plans to introduce AI-based taxi hailing and Didi, Uber’s Chinese frenemy, is planning a Japan expansion in partnership with SoftBank, the notorious Uber investor.

In short, Lyft may harbor an interest in Japan but it would do better to prioritize less complicated markets for its next expansion.

Global tech firms and investors are reshaping Latin America’s startup environment

 Latin America is emerging as the new battleground for the global tech giants, and some of Silicon Valley and Asia’s biggest investors—from Sequoia Capital to SoftBank—are taking notice. International investment in Latin American startups has more than doubled since 2013, with 25 new investors entering the region in 2017 alone, including SoftBank, Didi Chuxing and… Read More

Sony Corp. to launch an AI-based taxi-hailing service in Japan

 Sony Corporation said today that it will build an AI-based ride-hailing system in Japan in partnership with five taxi companies. The service will use artificial intelligence to manage taxi dispatches and forecast demand based on factors like weather, traffic and local events. Sony’s announcement came just before Uber chief executive officer Dara Khosrowshahi, who is currently visiting… Read More

China’s Didi partners with SoftBank to launch taxi-hailing services in Japan

 Uber’s tangled relationship with investors Didi and SoftBank is about to get more complicated after the duo inked an agreement to introduce taxi-hailing services that will compete directly with Uber in Japan. Didi dominates the Chinese market — thanks in no small amount to its acquisition of second-placed Uber China — but this year it has expanded to Brazil via an acquisition… Read More

Uber’s big SoftBank deal has officially closed

 SoftBank’s $1.2 billion primary direct investment deal has officially closed, according to Uber itself, which confirmed the deal closure and provided the following statement to TechCrunch via a spokesperson:
We’re proud to have SoftBank, Dragoneer and the entire consortium in the Uber family. This is a great outcome for our shareholders, employees and customers, strengthening… Read More