Uber is being investigated for gender discrimination in a federal probe

As Uber tries to chart a new course, it still can’t manage to outrun news that paints its corporate culture in an ugly light.

As The Wall Street Journal reports, Uber is being investigated by the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) for gender disparities pertaining to hiring practices and pay. The EEOC probe began in August 2017 and the commission has been interviewing employees and collecting relevant documents since. The EEOC declined to provide details to TechCrunch due to “confidentiality provisions,” adding that details of an EEOC investigation “[become] public only when the EEOC files a lawsuit, which is typically a last resort.”

An Uber spokesperson told TechCrunch that the company has “proactively made a lot of changes in the last 18 months.” Those changes include creating and enacting a new “salary and equity structure,” reforming the way it conducts performance reviews to emphasize high-quality feedback, putting out diversity and inclusion reports and involving more employees in diversity trainings.

Uber put out its first diversity and inclusion report in March 2017 and in April of this year updated those numbers, which demonstrate some movement in the right direction, albeit at a glacial pace. In the latest report, the company noted it had increased the percentage of women in its workforce from 36.1 to 38 percent, which isn’t exactly progress to write home about.

With new CEO Dara Khosrowshahi, Uber is hoping to rewrite its own story, but the company continues to be embroiled in leadership turbulence, like last week’s departure of Chief People Officer Liane Hornsey after an internal investigation into race-based discrimination and last month’s departure of Chief Brand Officer Bozoma Saint John.

It’s worth noting that Uber isn’t being singled out by the EEOC, which has also launched recent investigations into age discrimination at Intel and gendered pay discrepancies at Google. Still, for Uber, no news would be good news — even just for a little while.

Lyft outlines bike and scooter plans

On the heels of Lyft’s acquisition of bike-share company Motivate, the company is gearing up to fully integrate bicycle and scooter sharing into the app. There’s no word on exactly when this will happen, but it’s likely this will happen soon.

Lyft is also investing $1 million to advance transportation equity to people in underserved communities. As part of its commitment, Lyft will work with nonprofit organizations like TransForm to develop programs that support people with low incomes.

“Soon you will be able to get real-time transit information, plan a multi-modal trip, and use Lyft Bikes and Scooters to connect to a local transit stop or shared ride pickup location,” Lyft wrote in a blog post.

In June, Lyft revamped its rider app to encourage shared rides. Currently, 35 percent of Lyft rides are shared, but the goal is to reach 50 percent shared rides by 2020, Lyft VP of Government Relations Joseph Okpaku told TechCrunch last month. With scooters and bikes offered via the app, Lyft envisions being better equipped to “bridge the first and last-mile gap.”

By the end of 2019, Lyft says it aims to take one million cars off the road. Last year, Lyft says 250,000 of its community members gave up their personal cars.

This comes shortly after Uber invested in part of Lime’s $335 million round. Uber’s plan is to put its logo on Lime’s scooters, Bloomberg previously reported. Meanwhile, Uber owns and operates bike-share service JUMP following a ~$200 million acquisition earlier this year. In April, Uber unveiled its multi-modal transportation ambitions, which includes car rentals and public transit integration.

Last month, both Lyft and Uber applied to operate electric scooter programs in San Francisco. The city’s municipal transportation agency, however, has yet to make a decision on which five companies, if any, will receive permits.

Hear BMW’s Dieter May explain the connected car at Disrupt SF 2018

Mobility is undergoing a radical transformation and the topic will be thoroughly examined at Disrupt SF this September. We’re excited to have BMW’s Dieter May speak on the main stage about how the German car company is addressing the connected car while still building, what they say is, the ultimate driving machine.

And bonus! May plans to unveil something brand new right on the Main Stage. We can’t share many details on the unveiling, but we can say that it’s certainly worth your attention.

May has been at BMW since 2014 when he joined the car company after eight years at Nokia. He currently leads the digital products and services as a Senior Vice President. It’s an interesting position that puts him in the middle of merging consumer technology with the driving experience — and doing it in a safe manner. That’s the tricky part and a topic we’re excited to speak to him about.

BMW is in a tough position like most auto makers. Consumers expect the latest and flashiest technology. Massive LCD screens are expected now to display rich navigation with always-updated information. Auto makers need to deploy this technology in a manner that is safe and practical. BMW just revealed its latest in-car operating system that upends traditional BMW style in favor of what’s best for the driver.

We’re excited to talk to talk to May about how automakers and startups alike should address consumer’s expectations.

Dieter May joins several other notable figures in the mobility space speaking at Disrupt SF including Cruise’s Kyle Vogt and Aurora’s Chris Urmson.

Passes to Disrupt SF 2018 are available at the Early Bird rate until July 25 here.

Turo files lawsuit against Los Angeles in car-sharing battle at LAX

Peer-to-peer car-sharing marketplace Turo has filed a lawsuit against the city of Los Angeles Airport in a preemptive strike aimed at defending the ability of its users to rent out their personal cars at Los Angeles International Airport.

Turo filed the lawsuit Thursday in the U.S. Central District Court of California in Los Angeles. The city is not able to comment on ongoing litigation, Alex Comisar, press secretary for LA Mayor Eric Garcetti said.

Turo contends in its lawsuit that LAX has misclassified its peer-to-peer car-sharing platform as a rental car company. Turo argues that California’s car-sharing law is clear and notes that it doesn’t own or operate a fleet of vehicles or use the airport’s facilities that traditional rental car companies do.

“Due to this misclassification, the airport expects Turo to obtain a rental car company permit and expects our community to pay anti-competitive fees whenever they choose to exchange cars at or near LAX,” Turo Chief Legal Officer Michelle Fang told TechCrunch. “We’ve seen firsthand how rental car giants Enterprise Rent-a-Car have prodded airports across the country, including LAX, to attack our community, including our users’ rights to choose transportation options other than rental cars and to share their own cars to supplement their income.”

Fang said LAX has repeatedly refused to even come to the table despite efforts to negotiate.

Turo says in the lawsuit that it has reached out to LAX officials in an effort to develop an appropriate fee structure. The company is open to paying a fee that is in line with how ride-hailing companies are charged.

“The fees need to be proportionate for the way that the ground transportation is being used,” Fang said, adding that rental car companies need parking lots and shuttles and other infrastructure at airports. “The use to LAX is much more comparable to TNCs and limos and taxis than it is to rental cars.”

The company decided to take action after it viewed email messages between the car rental company Enterprise Holdings and city officials that discussed an impending lawsuit against Turo. Enterprise has yet to respond to a request for comment on the lawsuit.

The lawsuit against Los Angeles marks further escalation of a battle between Turo and established car rental companies that aim to protect their domains.

Earlier this year, San Francisco sued Turo for allegedly ignoring fee requirements and other rules at San Francisco International Airport. The city’s lawsuit argued that Turo’s users have added to airport traffic congestion and that its operation at the airport without paying fees gives it an unfair advantage against competitors.

Turo countersued San Francisco, saying the city was trying to classify it as a traditional rental car company.

Turo closed a $104 million Series D round in April. The company has raised $205 million to date. 

Greyhound’s exit from Western Canada gives package delivery firms a chance to fill the gap

CALGARY — Package delivery firms say they are prepared to fill the gap when Greyhound Canada closes most of its Western Canada operations this fall.

The company says its Greyhound Package Express service will no longer be available in most parts of B.C., northern Ontario and all of Alberta, Saskatchewan and Manitoba after it ends passenger service at the end of October.

“It might create some opportunities for us on our small package delivery side of things,” said Dennis Steele, owner of Steele’s Transfer in Calgary.

Transport companies like his compete with Greyhound’s lower prices by offering services tailored to customer needs, he said.

Steele said his company, started by his parents in 1957, has about 30 drivers who mainly serve the Edmonton-Calgary corridor, but it offers a wider range of delivery points through interline and third-party carriers.

David Butler, Greyhound’s regional vice-president for Eastern Canada, said the areas being closed accounted for about 1.15 million of the 1.2 million packages Greyhound delivers each year, adding about two-thirds of the shipments were made under contract by commercial customers.

Greyhound’s freight service cost less than most, but its schedule was also usually less convenient as it depended on the passenger bus schedule, Butler said.

“It’s a very competitive marketplace and there’s a lot of options for the customers from the package business to look at,” he said.

The Greyhound Package Express service will no longer be available in most parts of B.C., northern Ontario and all of Alberta, Saskatchewan and Manitoba after it ends passenger service at the end of October.

Greyhound said it was ending passenger service after years of adjusting schedules and prices because ridership had fallen by nearly 41 per cent across the country since 2010. Butler said the package service is down 35 per cent in the same period.

A spokeswoman for Purolator wouldn’t comment directly on Greyhound’s service, but said the closing won’t affect its business plans.

“We don’t expect this news will affect Purolator going forward. In fact, we have been growing and expanding our services and capabilities,” Courtney Reistetter wrote in an email.

James Anderson, a spokesman for FedEx Canada, wouldn’t comment on the Greyhound service, but said his firm is well able to handle delivery demand with a total of 38 hubs or facilities throughout Western Canada.

Margaret Becker, who operates a “hotshot” delivery business at Fort St. John in northeastern B.C., said the oil and gas sector uses Greyhound as an equipment parts delivery service and to transport workers to towns near their drilling sites.

“Someone else will take it over,” she said, adding demand is low now because depressed natural gas prices have stalled local activity in the sector.

The loss of Greyhound’s package service in Western Canada stirred up memories for Calgarian Gary Blaney, 50, who recalled dozens of packages delivered over the years by Greyhound to his far-flung family members.

“For as long as I can remember, my family has used Greyhound to send boxes of presents at Christmas time,” he said. “It was the most affordable way and the most reliable way.”

He said his family’s flow of packages sent by Greyhound peaked when he was growing up in a small town in Saskatchewan when it was the best way to connect with relatives in Ontario, Alberta and B.C.

But that traffic has almost entirely stopped since he moved to Calgary more than a decade ago.

“That’s the world we live in. Lots of other ways to send stuff these days.”

Project Loon and Project Wing graduate from Google X

Google X projects Loon and Wing have left the nest and graduated to independent companies under Google’s parent company Alphabet, Google X Captain of Moonshots, X Astro Teller wrote in a Medium post yesterday.

“Today, unlike when they started as X projects, Loon and Wing seem a long way from crazy — and thanks to their years of hard work and relentless testing in the real world, they’re now graduating from X to become two new independent businesses within Alphabet: Loon and wing,” Teller wrote in the post.

Loon and Wing, which respectively launched in 2013 and 2014, have both seen substantial progress from the moonshot ideas they were proposed as.

Loon, a fleet of internet enabling balloons that patrol the skies to connect remote and technologically undeserved areas, played a role in connecting those affected by flooding in Peru last summer and assisted those devastated by Hurricane Maria in Puerto Rico this past fall.

Meanwhile, Wing, an autonomous drone delivery service aimed at reducing CO2 emissions, has tested its drones remote reach through burrito deliveries in Australia. This May, the U.S. Department of Transportation selected Wing as one of ten teams to push the limits of drone technology in the Unmanned Aircraft Systems Integration Pilot Program.

In his statement, Teller announced that Alastair Westgarth will be stepping in as Loon’s new CEO and Wing will welcome James Ryan Burgess as its new CEO along with Adam Woodworth as CTO.

Loon and Wing will now join the ranks of X’s four fellow graduates, including the self-driving car company Waymo and the cybersecurity analytics platform Chronicle, as well as competitors like SpaceX’s prototyped system of internet satellites and Amazon’s long discussed drone delivery system.

The skies ahead are far from clear, but with the backing of Alphabet these bright-eyed new companies have a solid start.

‘A wonderful mutual opportunity’: Michelin buying Canada’s Camso for $1.45 billion

Michelin agreed to buy Camso, a Canadian producer of rubber tracks for farm equipment and snowmobiles, for US$1.45 billion as the French tiremaker bolsters its specialty-equipment business.

The two companies’ off-road operations will be combined and run from Camso’s headquarters in Magog, Quebec, Michelin said in a statement Thursday. Closely held Camso, which also makes tires for material-handling equipment, has sales of US$1 billion.

“This acquisition is a wonderful mutual opportunity,” Michelin Chief Executive Officer Jean-Dominique Senard said in the statement. “Michelin will benefit from all of Camso’s skills in the off-the-road mobility markets and Camso from the full range of Michelin’s expertise in the specialty markets.”

The acquisition is the second deal of more than US$1 billion announced by Michelin this year, and both of them diversify the Clermont Ferrand, France-based company away from car and truck tires. Michelin agreed in March to buy U.K.-based conveyor-belt maker Fenner Plc for about 1.2 billion pounds (US$1.6 billion), strengthening the buyer’s presence in mining equipment.

Camso ranks among the top three companies in making tracks and tires for construction equipment, Michelin said. The company, which has a manufacturing site in Sri Lanka, has grown at an average of 7 per cent a year since 2012.

The deal values Camso at US$1.7 billion including net debt, Michelin said, which equals 8.3 times earnings before interest, tax, depreciation and amortization, after synergies. Michelin forecasts US$55 million of cost savings and increased sales by 2021.

Michelin also doubled its estimate of synergies from the Fenner acquisition to 60 million pounds, the company said Thursday.

Michelin shares have fallen 13 per cent this year, valuing the company at 18.6 billion euros ($21.7 billion).

Shareholders in Camso include Caisse de Depot et Placement du Quebec, Canada’s second-largest pension fund manager; Quebec’s Solidarity Fund QFL, which is backed by a labour union; Mouvement Desjardins, Canada’s biggest credit union; and three individuals.

–With assistance from Frederic Tomesco.


Uber lays off self-driving car operators in SF and Pittsburgh

Uber has let go all (about 100) of its self-driving car operators in Pittsburgh and San Francisco, Quartz reports and has been confirmed by TechCrunch. This comes after Uber officially pulled the plug on its operations in Arizona in May, following a fatal car crash involving one of its autonomous vehicles in March.

Despite how this may initially look, Uber is still working on resuming autonomous vehicle testing in Pittsburgh this summer. Those affected by the layoffs can apply for one of roughly 55 new advanced operator positions that Uber calls Mission Specialists in either San Francisco or Pittsburgh. Mission Specialists are trained for on-road and test track operations, and are responsible for giving feedback to developers. There are also other open roles that don’t involve the operation of self-driving cars.

“Our team remains committed to building safe self-driving technology, and we look forward to returning to public roads in the coming months,” an Uber spokesperson told TechCrunch.

Uber suspended its self-driving car operations in all markets following the fatal Tempe, Ariz. crash, but operators were still employed by Uber and receiving regular pay. Now, those vehicle operators get first priority at applying for a Mission Specialist role, which requires some more technical expertise.

In California, Uber decided in March not to re-apply for its self-driving car permit in the state, but Uber is still in fact intending to resume testing in the state at some point. A couple of months later, at Uber’s Elevate conference, Uber CEO Dara Khosrowshahi said he expected self-driving cars to hit the streets again within the next few months. Self-driving testing is also on hold in Toronto, but it seems that the employees behind the wheel were already in Mission Specialist-like roles.

You can read more of TechCrunch’s coverage of Uber’s autonomous driving below.