Uber's most notable news and announcements

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The taxi-hailing app is considered both brilliant and controversial, depending on who you ask. Here we've documented the company's journey to a $70 billion valuation.

Disclaimer: it's been a bit of a bumpy one...

Uber launches new safety features for UK passengers and drivers

17th October 2018

Uber has announced a new Safety Toolkit for both riders and drivers in the UK as part of the company's efforts to build trust with customers.

Features include an emergency button thats connect directly to private emergency services and security response through a third party private security supplier, a list of trusted contacts that can get the rider's information in a single tap, a safety centre containing information of safety tools in the app, and speed alerts that reminds drivers to maintain a safe speed within the posted speed limits.

The new features are already used in the United States and will now be rolled out in phases across Europe, the Middle East and Africa.

Uber pays $148 million over data breach cover up

27th September 2018

Uber has yet again found itself at the centre of a storm of allegations of foul play, as it comes to light that the firm suffered a staggering data breach involving the information of 57 million customers and drivers in 2016, yet failed to disclose information about the event. Instead the company quietly paid the hackers in question a paltry $100,000 (come on lads, you do know they're valued at $50 billion?) to wipe the information gleaned from the company's cloud servers. Afterwards, they sought to hide the mess from regulators.

They are now paying a far heftier $148m (£113m) to settle charges brought by the US government and 50 states over the cover-up.

The company revealed some information about the attack in November 2017, with Uber's boss Dara Khosrowshahi, saying weakly: "None of this should have happened, and I will not make excuses for it."

Legal action brought by individual customers, drivers and cities continue. Going forward, the company will have to submit reports on all security incidents to regulators. They have also pledged to change how they operate, although the flagrant disregard for the law and pointed lack of respect towards their customers and workers will again underline for many the firm's toxic reputation.

Toyota invests $500 million into Uber for autonomous vehicles

28 August 2018

Car manufacturer Toyota has committed an enormous $500 million in Uber (£387 million) to promote the development of autonomous vehicles, with plans for testing in the wild by 2021.

The first fleet of autonomous vehicles will be based on the automaker's Sienna Minivan, and will combine Uber's autonomous driving system with Toyota's automated safety support system and core connected vehicle infrastructure, the Mobility Services Platform (MSPF).

In a statement, executive VP at Toyota Shigeki Tomoyama said: "Combining efforts with Uber, one of the predominant global ride-sharing and automated driving R&D companies, could further advance future mobility.

"This agreement and investment marks an important milestone in our transformation to a mobility company as we help provide a path for safe and secure expansion of mobility services like ride-sharing that includes Toyota vehicles and technologies."

Uber shuts down self-driving car operations in Arizona

24 May 2018

Uber has announced it will be shutting down its self-driving car operations in Arizona, following a fatal crash involving one of its vehicles two months ago.

Its entire self-driving car programme was suspended after the fatality where a woman was hit on a road in Arizona - marking the first fatality involving an autonomous vehicle.

However, it will continue its wider self-driving car programme, limited to Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, and two cities in California this summer. It will focus on smaller routes and fewer cars.

“We’re committed to self-driving technology, and we look forward to returning to public roads in the near future,” said a spokesperson for the company.

Uber CEO predicts flying taxi service

20 February 2018

Uber CEO Dara Khosrowshahi has said that he can picture the ride-hailing app taking to the skies in the next five to ten years with a flying taxi service.

Speaking at an investor forum in Tokyo, Japan – his first visit to Asia as Uber CEO, according to Reuters – Khosrowshahi stated that the company believes flying vehicles will feasibly become an affordable form of mass transport.

Morocco service canned

19 February 2018

As of 23 February 2018 Uber will stop serving any cities in Morocco while it seeks clarification from local regulators.

The business said in its country blog that since its launch in the territory three years ago, it hasn’t had enough information from regulators about how it should integrate into the existing transport model. It added that it wants to be present in Morocco and will return when new rules are in place.

So it is suspending its activity for now, which includes 300 drivers and almost 19,000 regular users, according to the firm.

Uber acquiesces to TfL English language test proposal

19 February 2018

Uber, which is currently in talks with Transport for London over its survival in the British capital, has dropped an appeal against the High Court that ruled drivers would be subject to English language exams, according to CityAM.

However, TfL has told drivers that the exams will now be catered to the role, including material that is relevant to private hire drivers.

A TfL spokesperson told CityAM: "We believe the ability to communicate in English at an appropriate level is a crucial element of the high standards of passenger safety and service Londoners and visitors to the city deserve.

"We are pleased that the appeal has been withdrawn and will work to introduce a new test that is more relevant to the role of a private hire driver. It would require applicants to demonstrate the appropriate level of English at the same level as the existing test but would include language and vocabulary that directly relates to a private hire driver’s role and responsibilities."

But the IWGB union that is organising gig economy workers for companies like Deliveroo and Uber has slammed the proposals.

Speaking with Techworld, a spokesperson said that the test is the flagship proposal from Tfl’s "failed 2015 review of private hire regulations" to address the challenges of new business models in the transport sector.

See also: Greens pledge support to gig economy workers as Uber appeal gets underway

"Back then, a TfL-commissioned independent impact assessment report said: 'there is no evidence to suggest that the drivers' lack of English is currently a widespread issue with regard to current levels of passenger safety'," the spokesperson pointed out.

"Perhaps if TfL had instead focused on the regulatory challenges posed by Uber, on driver worker rights and passenger safeguarding some of the recent regulatory chaos could have been avoided."

Uber settles with Google subsidiary Waymo

9 February 2018

Uber and Google self-driving car subsidiary Waymo have at last reached a settlement in court, where Uber will pay out $245 million in equity to Waymo.

It was alleged in a lawsuit in 2017 that former Waymo engineer Anthony Levandowski had stolen thousands of confidential documents before founding OttoMotto, an autonomous vehicle company that was later bought by Uber. The complaint alleges these documents ultimately found their way to Uber, where the former Waymo engineer became head of the ride-sharing app’s autonomous vehicles division.

And late in 2017 a letter from ex-Uber security manager Richard Jacobs alleged that Uber’s ‘Strategic Services Group’ was engaged in “unethical” intelligence operations – and had been allegedly involved in stealing trade secrets as well as spying on the competition and politicians.

The settlement will include 0.34 percent of Uber equity tied to its valuation of $72 billion, reports Business Insider.

Uber chief executive Dara Khosrowshahi – whose appointment had been seen as a manoeuvre to clean up the company’s tattered reputation– said in a statement issued before the fifth day of testimony: “To be clear, while we do not believe that any trade secrets made their way from Waymo to Uber, nor do we believe that Uber has used any of Waymo’s proprietary information in its self-driving technology, we are taking steps with Waymo to ensure our Lidar and software represents just our good work.

“While I cannot erase the past, I can commit, on behalf of every Uber employee, that we will learn from it, and it will inform our actions going forward.”

But controversial ex-CEO Travis Kalanick issued his own statement that claimed Uber would have won the case had it stuck it out.

“As Uber’s statement indicates, no trade secrets ever came to Uber,” Kalanick said in a statement. “Our sole objective was to hire the most talented scientists and engineers to help lead the company and our cities to a driverless future. The evidence at trial overwhelmingly proved that, and had the trial proceeded to its conclusion, it is clear Uber would have prevailed.”

Although Uber gained prominence as a ride-sharing app (with controversy after controversy, detailed below), it is thought to be pinning its hopes on having a major stake in the roads when self-driving cars become commonplace.

Uber is ruled a technology company by the European Court of Justice

20 December 2017

The European Court of Justice (ECJ) has judged that Uber is officially a transport company and not a digital service, severely limiting the ride-hailing company's ability to grow in Europe.

As a transportation company, Uber will now have to comply with existing local taxi rules, which could halt its ability to offer peer-to-peer services which allow non-licensed drivers to make money by picking up passengers via the company’s smartphone app.

An Uber spokesperson said: "This ruling will not change things in most EU countries where we already operate under transportation law.

"However, millions of Europeans are still prevented from using apps like ours. 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."

Uber had previously argued that it was a technology company helping people to make contact with each other electronically, and not a taxi firm.

Uber admits to ICO that 2.7 million UK users affected by massive data breach - NCSC warns drivers and passengers to be 'vigilant'

In merely the most recent incident that could tarnish Uber’s reputation in the UK, the ride-sharing company has just admitted 2.7 million people in Britain were affected by the recent 57 million-strong data breach.

An ICO statement revealed that Uber confirmed 2.7 million user accounts were impacted in the UK, including names, mobile numbers, and email addresses.

The National Cyber Security Centre (NCSC) said that the stolen information does "not pose a direct threat to people or allow direct financial crime" but concerned drivers or passengers should follow the NCSC’s advice, which, among other things, suggests changing passwords and being vigilant to the possibility of scam phone calls or email phishing attempts.

The ICO said: "On its own this information is unlikely to pose a direct threat to citizens. However, its use may make other scams, such as bogus emails or calls appear more credible. People should continue to be vigilant and follow the advice from the NCSC."

The Information Commissioner added that it is still waiting for technical reports that should detail more precise figures, including the type of data that was compromised.

"We would expect Uber to alert all those affected in the UK as soon as possible," the statement continued. "We are continuing to work with the NCSC plus other relevant authorities in the UK and overseas to ensure the data protection interests of UK citizens are upheld."

Uber was stripped of its licence to operate in London and then lost an appeal over drivers’ rights – see below for a litany of controversies.

Uber concealed data breach exposing personal information of 57 million drivers and users

22 November 2017

Uber concealed a global data breach impacting 57 million drivers and users, the taxi-hailing firm confirmed.

The breach - which took place in October 2016 - was hidden from its users and drivers, and resulted in the firm paying $100,000 (£75,000) to hackers to delete the data.

The breach left 57 million names, email addresses and mobile phone numbers vulnerable, Uber said. Within that, 600,000 of drivers had their names and licence details exposed.

According to Bloomberg, Uber's former chief executive Travis Kalanick did have knowledge of the hack over a year ago. The firm's chief security officer Joe Sullivan has left the company.

"While we have not seen evidence of fraud or misuse tied to the incident, we are monitoring the affected accounts and have flagged them for additional fraud protection," Uber's chief executive Dara Khosrowshahi said in a statement.

"None of this should have happened, and I will not make excuses for it," he added.

Khosrowshahi said that affected Uber drivers will receive free credit monitoring and identity theft protection, but Uber didn't offer anything to affected customers.

Uber to buy tens of thousands of cars from Volvo

20 November 2017

Uber is set to buy "tens of thousands" of self-driving cars from Volvo in a deal estimated at £1.1 billion following an agreement last year to develop autonomous vehicles as a joint venture with the carmaker.

The framework agreement lays out plans for Uber to buy the "autonomous driving compatible base vehicles" between 2019 and 2021. Uber and Volvo previously struck a $300 million (£226 million) partnership last year to develop a self-driving taxi fleet to go on trial in Pittsburgh.

Volvo said the non-exclusive agreement marks a "new chapter" in the "convergence of car makers and Silicon Valley-based technology companies" but that it will continue to develop its own autonomous vehicle strategy, which should result in the company's first fully autonomous car by 2021.

In a statement, Volvo chief executive Håkan Samuelsson said the company's aim is to "be the supplier of choice for ride-sharing service providers globally."

"Today's agreement with Uber is a primary example of that strategic direction."

Volvo has changed hands several times over the last two decades, first acquired by Ford in 1999 and then bought by Chinese car and auto parts manufacturer Geely in December 2009.

Beleaguered ex-CEO for Uber Travis Kalanick told the FT last year that Uber's mission was to "provide transportation as reliable as running water" and that doing so would be impossible without moving into developing their own technology.

By contrast, European Uber rival MyTaxi – which recently purchased popular taxi hailing app Hailo – is owned by Daimler AG, the thirteenth-largest car manufacturer in the world that owns the Mercedes line of vehicles.

Uber loses court appeal over drivers' rights

11 November 2017

Uber has lost its appeal against a ruling ordering it to treat its drivers as workers rather than self-employed.

Uber's appeal argued that its drivers were self-employed as they were under no obligation to use its booking app, claiming that 80 percent of its drivers would rather be classed as self-employed, according to The BBC.

Last year two drivers, James Farrar and Yaseen Aslam, argued that their actions were ultimately controlled by Uber, which meant they were employees of the firm.

A tribunal ruled that the drivers were employees of Uber and should receive holiday pay, paid breaks and the minimum wage.

The Employment Appeal Tribunal's (EAT) ruling is a landmark decision that could trigger a major shift in the whole of Britain's growing gig economy.

Uber UK's acting general manager, Tom Elvidge, said: "Almost all taxi and private hire drivers have been self-employed for decades, long before our app existed. The main reason why drivers use Uber is because they value the freedom to choose if, when and where they drive and so we intend to appeal."

Uber board agrees to push ahead with SoftBank investment, and a 2019 IPO

3 October 2017

Uber's board has manoeuvred to further limit the power of beleaguered former chief exec Travis Kalanick and decided to go ahead with proposed investment from Japanese conglomerate SoftBank, plus an initial public offering (IPO) by the end of 2019.

Investor Benchmark – which had previously attempted to push Kalanick from the board (see below) – said it would drop its lawsuit as long as the SoftBank deal goes ahead.

In a statement seen by Reuters the board agreed to bolster corporate governance within the company following a wave of scandals and lawsuits.

Uber said: "The board voted unanimously to move forward with the proposed investment by SoftBank and with governance changes that would strengthen its independence and ensure equality among all shareholders."

SoftBank Vision Fund and investment outfit Dragoneer are tipped to lead a consortium that would invest as much as $1.25 billion at Uber's $68 billion valuation, with an additional investment round planned that would see the group buy secondary shares, Reuters reports.

It's believed that new CEO Dara Khosrowshahi was brought in to lessen tensions at the director level and throughout the board, as well as reshape Uber's reputation.

Transport for London agrees to further meetings with Uber

3 October 2017

Khosrowshahi met with regulators from Transport for London this week. Reports suggest that while the talks didn't resolve the city's decision to strip the ride-sharing company of its licence, there could be some headway.

A TfL spokesperson describing the meeting as constructive: "Today's constructive meeting centred on what needs to happen to ensure a thriving taxi and private hire market in London where everyone operates to the same high standards. Further steps in this process will take place over the coming weeks."