The ride-hailing service expands its UberEats feature to the City by the Bay, offering up on-demand gourmet fare.
Uber has waded into competitive territory in San Francisco: on-demand food delivery. On Tuesday, the ride-hailing service launched in the city its UberEats service, which aims to deliver food from some of San Francisco’s most trendy restaurants in minutes.
“We are excited to bring San Franciscans the flavors and dishes that define the local food scene — in 10 minutes or less,” said UberEats San Francisco General Manager Susan Alban. “With UberEats, people can experience a variety of flavors from a menu that updates daily, and discover the best local restaurants without waiting in line.”
San Francisco-based Uber is best known for competing with taxi and limo services by offering on-demand rides to passengers via a mobile app. But it’s increasingly treading into the delivery sector. UberEats is already in New York, Los Angeles, Chicago, Barcelona and Toronto. Launching in San Francisco puts Uber in a market that’s already flush with other popular on-demand food delivery services, like Munchery, Spoonrocket and Grubhub.
Last November, Uber hired away Tom Fallows, the head of Google’s same-day delivery service Google Express, leading to speculation that the ride-hailing service was getting more involved in deliveries. Uber CEO Travis Kalanick has made his delivery goals clear in the past, saying he’s servicing a society that values instant gratification, and that means near-instant delivery.
“Today, we are in the business of delivering cars in five minutes,” he said at the LeWeb conference in 2013. “Once you’re in the business of delivering cars in five minutes, there are a lot of things you can deliver in five minutes.”
Through UberEats, people who use the Uber app can request a meal just as they would a ride. Uber changes the menus daily — making particular items available from each of the day’s participating restaurants. The option to use UberEats appears on the app only when users are in areas covered by the service.
For its launch UberEats is featuring food from a handful of local restaurants, including The Ramen Bar, which has items like chicken udon noodles; Ike’s Place, which is known for its massive sub sandwiches; and Mr. Holmes Bakehouse, famous for its croissant muffin hybrids, aka cruffins. Items range from roughly $9 to $15.
For now UberEats San Francisco will be available only in certain parts of the city, such as the Financial District and South of Market neighborhoods. But the company said it plans to expand the service to the entire city in coming months.
More than half of the Apple Watch owners polled said they find Apple Pay “magical,” while another 42 percent see it as “convenient,” according to data from research firm Wristly.
Apple Pay is proving popular with many Apple Watch owners.
A hefty 80 percent of 1,000 Apple Watch owners surveyed in the US and UK by research firm Wristly have already used Apple Pay at least once. Among the people who haven’t used it, 5 percent said they don’t “perceive a benefit,” another 5 percent said they have security concerns, and around 15 percent said they their payment needs are already being met. But 29 percent of the non-users said one of the main reasons they don’t use Apple Pay is because their credit card provider doesn’t support it.
Apple Pay launched in the US in October as Apple’s first foray into contactless mobile payments. Using an iPhone 6, iPhone 6 Plus or Apple Watch, people can pay for items on the go at supported retailers via NFC (near-field communication) technology. Apple Pay usage is notably high among the Apple Watch owners polled for several reasons. But a major one is likely convenience.
To use Apple Pay with an iPhone, you have to pull the phone out of your pocket or purse and then make the transaction via the Touch ID fingerprint sensor. With an Apple Watch, your payment method is already there on your wrist. All you need do is double-tap the watch’s side button, select the credit or debit card you want to use and hold the face of the watch to the payment terminal. The watch will vibrate, and a check mark appears on the screen to confirm the payment. You don’t need a password or Touch ID as you do on an iPhone. The watch will ask for a password if you take it off your wrist. But as long as you keep it on, a simple double-tap does the work.
That convenience may be the reason why half of the Apple Watch owners polled who use Apple Pay called the service “magical,” while another 42 percent dubbed it “convenient.” Only 4 percent found it “not that useful,” while another 3 percent said they have other concerns about using Apple Pay. Further, 79 percent of the Apple Pay users said they prefer to use it on their watch versus their iPhone.
Drilling down further, 62 percent of those polled who use Apple Pay said they prefer to buy from retailers due at least in part to the business’s decision to support Apple Pay. And 86 percent of those people said they look for the Apple Pay logo when they’re at the checkout counter. If Apple’s payment option is available, 81 percent of Apple Pay users said they will use it.
Though most of the Apple Watch owners polled may enjoy Apple Pay, Apple still faces a challenge expanding the service’s reach, both in the US and abroad. In the US, Apple has lined up a healthy list of banks and credit card companies to support Apple Pay. But it’s still facing a long haul getting more retailers to jump on board. Retailers have to set up the necessary NFC terminals in order to accept Apple Pay, a process that takes time and money. In the meantime, rival services such as Android Payand Samsung Pay are now ramping up. Samsung Pay doesn’t require NFC and can work with any magnetic strip card reader, so it holds at least that advantage over Apple Pay.
A California judge is expected to decide whether to limit the employee-versus-independent contractor case to three drivers — or allow in 160,000 drivers.
Uber is heading into one of the biggest court battles it’s seen to date.
US District Judge Edward Chen is slated to decide on Thursday whether to grant class action status on a lawsuit in which three drivers are suing Uber for reportedly misclassifying them as independent contractors rather than employees. Chen’s decision could have a huge impact on Uber’s business model and also create a ripple effect throughout the entire on-demand economy.
Uber, which is a ride-hailing service that pairs passengers with drivers via a smartphone app, is one of the world’s most valuable startups. Since the company launched in 2009, it’s grown to operate in more than 250 cities in 58 countries. Uber is also one of the highest-valued venture-backed companies in the world with a valuation of more than $50 billion by some estimates.
Uber’s current classification of drivers as contractors means it’s not responsible for all sorts of costs, including Social Security, health insurance, paid sick days and overtime. Drivers also supply and maintain their own cars, so Uber doesn’t pay for gas, repairs and other related expenses.
If Chen decides to grant class status in this case, Uber will have to contend with more than 160,000 Uber drivers in California, rather than just the three drivers listed on the complaint now. That means if Uber loses the case, it would have to pay damages to all of those drivers.
“If Uber’s motion succeeds, it could potentially save the company hundreds of millions of dollars,” said Roberto Cruz, the legal and compliance counsel for workforce management company ICon Professional Services. “The costs associated with its defense would shrink from defending against 160,000 Uber drivers to defending against just the three named plaintiffs.”
“If Uber loses its motion, the next question becomes whether or not to settle and for what amount,” Cruz added. “The difference in having to pay out a handful of named plaintiffs as employees versus having to pay hundreds of thousands of drivers as employees would be astronomical.”
The lawsuit was originally filed on behalf of the three drivers in 2013 by attorney Shannon Liss-Riordan. Over the past couple of years, Uber has tried to get the case thrown out. It filed a motion to dismiss the suit, which was denied in March, and last month it filed a 52-page motion to limit the case to just the three drivers.
In last month’s motion, Uber said the three drivers don’t adequately represent most drivers and therefore the case shouldn’t have class action status. The company argued that it’s created several different service agreements and contracts for drivers, therefore it’s difficult to lump all drivers into the same class. The motion also included statements from 400 drivers that said they’d prefer to be classified as contractors, rather than employees.
“The fact that Uber provided statements from several hundred drivers who expressed support for the company is not surprising, nor is it relevant,” the drivers’ lawyer, Liss-Riordan, said at the time. “More than a thousand drivers have contacted our firm who are very unhappy with how Uber has treated them and they feel taken advantage of.”
Much of Uber’s valuation is based on its ability to be profitable by running its ride-hailing platform. If the company is ultimately required to classify all of its drivers as employees, it will have to re-work its business model. Not only will Uber have to pay worker costs, such as overtime and health insurance, it will also have to manage a workforce of more than one million drivers worldwide. Uber didn’t return request for comment.
Several big players have weighed in on the employee-versus-independent contractor debate over the past couple of months. In July, democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton questioned whether the on-demand economy does enough to protect workers; and in June, the California Labor Commission revealed that in a March ruling it deemed former Uber driver Barbara Ann Berwick an employee, not a contractor.
In the wake of this battle, several on-demand companies appear to be re-thinking the independent contractor classification. The grocery-delivery startup Instacart said in June that it’s switching hundreds of its personal shoppers from contract workers to part-time employees. And house-cleaning startup Homejoy announced in July that it was permanently shutting downafter being sued over the classification of its workers. Several similar lawsuits have also popped up against other on-demand companies, including Homejoy, Postmates, Handy, Shyp and Washio.
“I believe the curated model approach that so many companies followed due to Uber’s success will now come under question,” said Jeff Tennery, CEO and co-founder of on-demand job site Moonlighting. “Too many of them followed Uber down this rabbit hole and won’t make it out.”
However, Tennery added, “this ruling will not sound the death knell for the sharing economy. Uber has the financial wherewithal and leadership ability to adjust their model and overcome the human resource expense.”
With looming lawsuits and the 25th anniversary of the Americans with Disabilities Act, disabled people ask whether Uber can do more to ensure they’re not refused rides from drivers.
On a stormy April day in Boston, Kristen Parisi was trying to get home. Given the rain, she ordered an on-demand Uber ride rather than trying to make her way to the train station.
“The guy showed up in a good-sized Mercedes sedan,” Parisi said. He took one look her, “and immediately was like, ‘No, no, no. I can’t take you.'”
Parisi, 30, is paralyzed from the waist down — the result of an injury from a car accident when she was five. She gets around in a small manual wheelchair she says weighs about 15 pounds and can be easily folded to fit into a car’s back seat or trunk.
Although the incident with the driver infuriated Parisi, she didn’t report it to Uber. She thought it was a one-off fluke.
But then it happened again.
The second time, Parisi was on her way to the airport and was able to convince the driver to accept her ride, but it was an awful experience. The driver complained Parisi’s wheelchair would dirty her car. Then, she forced Parisi to drag the wheelchair into the car herself. During the ride, Parisi said the driver berated her, saying just like she wouldn’t drive a dog, she shouldn’t be expected to take a wheelchair.
It was clear to Parisi this driver wasn’t aware of the Americans with Disabilities Act.
“It made me so angry and frustrated because these laws are not there just for the sake of it, these laws are there for a reason,” Parisi said. “They’re there to protect everybody.”
Parisi, a public-relations executive, has become a vocal critic of Uber, which pairs passengers with drivers via a smartphone app and is one of the world’s most valuable startups.
Her key complaint is that Uber is not doing enough to train its drivers on the ADA. This federal law passed in 1990 and marked its 25th anniversary last week. Under the ADA, all transportation providers are required to accommodate wheelchairs if the equipment can be stowed in the vehicle. Drivers must also accommodate passengers with service animals, such as guide dogs. Currently, one in five people in the US have a disability, according to the US Census Bureau.
Parisi is not alone in her criticism of Uber. Other people who use wheelchairs have said drivers for Uber and its rival Lyft have refused them rides, resulting in lawsuits in Arizona andTexas. Blind people have also been reportedly discriminated against. A lawsuit filed by the National Federation of the Blind of California last September points to more than 40 instances in which Uber drivers allegedly refused to give rides to blind passengers with guide dogs.
But Uber says it’s doing a lot to support disabled passengers. The San Francisco-based company says its service helps people with disabilities because they can order an on-demand ride with the tap of a smartphone. Uber has also launched new features in several cities over the last year that let people request extra assistance or wheelchair-accessible vehicles if needed.
“We’re a very young company but we’re already making, I think, a significant difference in terms of more mobility options for people with disabilities,” said David Plouffe, a former campaign manager and White House adviser for President Barack Obama who joined Uber in August 2014. “The ability for someone to press a button, or a family member to press a button, to get them a ride is a huge deal.”
Still, the lingering question is: Will the person who shows up follow the law and give someone with a disability a ride?
‘Law of mathematics’
Uber is the world’s largest ride-hailing service. Since Travis Kalanick and Garrett Camp founded the company in 2009, the service has expanded to operate in more than 250 cities in 58 countries. Uber has more than one million drivers and typically takes a 20 percent to 25 percent flat commission for each fare.
The service has also raked in billions in investment funding, becoming the highest-valued venture-backed company in the world, with a valuation of more than $50 billion, according to some estimates.
Uber has online materials that say drivers are not to discriminate against passengers with disabilities. In a July 9 blog post, the company wrote it “expects” drivers to “comply with all state, federal and local laws governing the transportation of riders with disabilities.” And any reports of discrimination could lead to a driver being deactivated from the service.
Plouffe said drivers also receive documents when they sign up for Uber that say discrimination is against the company’s code of conduct. Additionally, Uber has made an online video that drivers can choose to watch, which shows how to best assist people with disabilities.
“We’ve got a lot of drivers, so unfortunately the law of mathematics is that occasionally we may have somebody who doesn’t understand for whatever reason,” Plouffe said. “Sometimes we’ve seen instances where people say, ‘well I’ve got leather seats and I don’t want a dog on them.’ That’s just not okay.”
Lyft’s terms of service is similar to Uber’s. It has policies that forbid discrimination and expect drivers to accommodate wheelchairs and service animals. Drivers that violate Lyft’s policies also may face deactivation from the service.
Still, Uber and Lyft’s training is minimal compared to that offered by the established taxi industry. Most cab companies require mandatory training on ADA compliance, according to Taxicab, Limousine and Paratransit Association trade group. For example, Chicago taxi drivers are required to take classes to learn about service dogs, according to Beth Finke, who is the interactive community coordinator at the disability advocacy organization Easter Seals.
Some Uber and Lyft drivers say the companies haven’t done enough to make drivers aware of non-discrimination policies.
“Since Uber doesn’t provide much training in the first place, many drivers are left to figure it out and often feel like they’re thrown to the wolves, especially when first starting,” said Harry Campbell, a driver for both Uber and Lyft who authors a popular blog with tips for drivers. “There are a lot of things that Uber asks drivers to do and when there’s no central repository to get good information, this is what can happen.”
So why don’t Uber and Lyft do more?
‘A pretty big leap of faith’
Uber and Lyft’s business models are built around drivers who are classified as “independent contractors,” rather than employees. Under this model, drivers can be their own boss and drive whenever they want. But it also means that the ride-hailing services aren’t responsible for driver costs including Social Security, health insurance, paid sick days, unemployment and overtime. Drivers supply and maintain their own cars, so the companies save a lot of money in operating and capital costs.
This business model has another potential benefit for Uber and Lyft — these companies may beprotected from liability for the actions of their drivers.
However, this approach to the ride-hailing business is under threat. Both companies are being sued for allegedly misclassifying their drivers as contractors. (A hearing on August 6 will determine whether the case against Uber should receive class action status.) If the lawsuits can show that Uber and Lyft exercise a certain amount of “control” over drivers, the companies may be forced to change the “independent contractor” classification. The types of control a judge may look at include whether or not the companies hire and fire drivers, provide drivers with specialized equipment and require any type of training.
One of the unintended consequences of this debate is that Uber is delegating ADA training and compliance onto its drivers, Clark said. “Clearly the drivers have to follow the law. But the question is who informs them of the law?” he added. Uber effectively is saying it expects drivers to know the law, Clark said, but “I think that’s a pretty big leap of faith.”
In the lawsuit filed by the National Federation of the Blind of California, Uber argues that since it’s an app-based technology company, it doesn’t fall under the ADA’s definition of public accommodation. But the US Department of Justice disagrees. In a December filing with the court, the DOJ said it doesn’t matter whether a company provides transportation itself or contracts it out — it still has to comply with the ADA.
“While an entity may contract out its service,” the DOJ wrote, “it may not contract away its ADA responsibilities.”
‘It’s really simple’
After Parisi’s last experience with Uber, she contacted the company to report the incident. During one of many phone conversations with the ride-hailing service, she gave recommendations on how to better work with people with disabilities. Her advice included add disabled consultants to Uber’s staff, be more transparent about its policies on enforcing the ADA and make drivers go through an online training course that includes a test at the end.
Uber has also heard from one of the original co-authors of the ADA, former US Rep. Tony Coelho (D., Calif.). Coelho, who has epilepsy and is unable to drive, is a strong supporter of Uber. He says being able to order a ride in a matter of minutes makes a tremendous difference in his and other disabled people’s lives.
“Of all those things that have changed because of the ADA, the transportation industry has been the slowest to catch on,” Coelho said.
Discrimination against people with disabilities happens across the transportation sector, he said, and Uber is just one of many that’s had issues. Rather than criticize the ride-hailing company, Coelho said he believes a better approach is to encourage best practices. “Those of us who are believers in the ADA and getting services for people with disabilities need to be aggressive with Uber to make sure they follow through,” he said.
Over the past year, Uber has offered new features for people with disabilities. One is called UberAssist, which lets passengers request a driver trained to accommodate disabled people. It’s available in 10 cities in the US and in Australia. There’s also UberAccess, which specifically hails vehicles that can fit large wheelchairs. This service is offered in five US cities, so far. Uber has also added features to its app for blind and deaf people, including wireless Braille displays and vibrating alerts.
Still, disability advocates say there’s more work to be done, particularly when it comes to driver training. Just last week, a blind man on the way to the veterinarian with his guide dog was denied a ride from an Uber driver in Wisconsin.
“The training required for these very simple services is not extensive,” said Marilyn Golden, a senior policy analyst at the Disability Rights Education and Defense Fund who uses a wheelchair. “We really want to be just like everybody else, and in fact we are just like everyone else. Riding with a service animal or bringing a wheelchair with you is not challenging for drivers. It’s really simple.”
Uber has denied claims that its app gives users a false picture of the number of cabs on the road in their local area
Uber has denied that its app misleads users, after researchers from the Data & Society thinktank accused the cab hire firm of displaying “phantom cars”.
In an article for Vice’s Motherboard, the researchers claimed that the app shows cars in the passenger’s vicinity even when there are none there, citing testimonies from drivers and passengers.
One driver descibed a scenario where the passenger app’s map showed four drivers on the streets immediately by her pick-up location, but the estimated wait time for the closest car was 17 minutes.
The researchers also cited an Uber customer support representative, who reportedly told a passenger that the app “is simply showing that there are partners on the road at the time”.
“This is not a representation of the exact numbers of drivers or their location. This is more of a visual effect, letting people know that partners are searching for fares,” the representative allegedly said.
“I know this seems a misleading to you but it is meant as more of a visual effect more than an accurate location of drivers in the area. It would be better of you to think of this as a screen saver on a computer.”
Uber said that any discrepencies between the app and cars on the street are caused by network delays, and not by any attempts to mislead users.
“Our goal is for the number of cars and their location to be as accurate as possible in real time. Latency is one reason this is not always possible. Another reason is that the app only shows the nearest eight cars to avoid cluttering the screen,” an Uber Spokesperson told The Telegraph.
“Also, to protect the safety of drivers, in some volatile situations, the app doesn’t show the specific location of individual cars until the ride is requested.”
The company added that the “volatility” scenario does not apply to the UK, so the cars that users see on the in-app map are the cars that are physically on the road in their dispatch area.
New application is designed to help users perform Office-related tasks on devices running Microsoft’s OS for smartphones. Is this Bill Gates’ “Personal Agent” project?
Microsoft is internally testing a new application called Work Assistant, which might be one of the projects with which company founder Bill Gates is involved closely.
WMPU was the first to cover the new Work Assistant app. (I saw the WMPU report viaSoftpedia.)
The Work Assistant app, marked as a private internal beta, is designed to help users perform various Office-related tasks on devices running the Windows Phone operating system for smartphones.
One of my contacts confirmed that the Work Assistant application is being developed by Microsoft’s Digital Life + Work group, which is part of the Applications and Services Group (ASG) run by Qi Lu. Julie Larson-Green, chief experience officer of ASG, is believed to be spearheading the Work Assistant effort, and Gates has been involved, my source said.
“One project I am working on with Microsoft is the Personal Agent, which will remember everything and help you go back and find things and help you pick what things to pay attention to. The idea that you have to find applications and pick them and they each are trying to tell you what is new is just not the efficient model — the agent will help solve this. It will work across all your devices.”
The Work Assistant beta is 2MB in size, and was last updated December 2, 2014, according to the Windows Phone Store page about the app. It works on devices that run Windows Phone version 8.1 and requires information on users’ appointments, contacts, Internet connection and microphone.
It’s not clear what the Work Assistant’s connection is to Microsoft’s other “assistant”: Cortana. During Microsoft’sWindows 10 event in Redmond, Wash., in late January, officials showed off the ability for Cortana to do things such as fetch a PowerPoint deck from a user’s own OneDrive storage system, simply by having a user ask (by voice) for slides for a particular meeting.
Google’s app scanning process may have missed the malware because “they rely mostly on static code analysis and the app in question may have used a ‘time bomb’ method — waiting a period of time before downloading and executing the malware,” said Patrick Murray, vice president of products at Zimperium.
Millions of Android users have been hit by malware posing as games on Google Play, according to Avast security researcher Flip Chytry.
The malware harbors fake ads that pop up when users unlock their devices, to warn them about nonexistent infections, or that their devices are out of date or have porn.
Victims are then asked to take action. If they agree, they are redirected to poisoned Web pages that contain dubious app stores, or apps that try to send premium SMS messages — which are expensive — without their knowledge, or apps that collect scads of personal information on the sly.
Sometimes users were directed to legitimate companies’ websites, or to security apps on Google Play, but even if they install these security apps, the unwanted ads keep on popping up.
“Some of the malware lies quiet for up to 30 days before activating,” Chytry said.
Google spokesperson Elizabeth Markman did not confirm how many devices had been hit.
“Our techniques for protecting Google Play users continue to improve, and are reflected in the low numbers of users who install potential malware from the Google Play Store,” Markman stated.
About the Apps Breaking Bad
The Durak card game app was the most widely downloaded of the malicious apps, Chytry said, adding that Google Play’s statistics showed it had been installed between 5 million and 10 million times.
All the apps mentioned by Avast had been suspended, Markman told TechNewsWorld.
The Durak app had been removed from Google Play when TechNewsWorld checked at 8:43 a.m. PT today, but was available when checked at 12:06 p.m. PT.
“We scan apps as they are uploaded to Google Play, running each app to detect and remove malware, spyware and Trojans from Google Play,” Markman told TechNewsWorld.
That scanning is done by Bouncer, a service Google implemented in 2012.
Google can then disable developer apps and accounts if they violate its terms and content policies.
“Our goal is to provide people with an extra layer of protection while still maintaining Android’s openness and developers’ workflow,” Markman remarked.
What Went Wrong?
Google’s app scanning process may have missed the malware because “they rely mostly on static code analysis and the app in question may have used a ‘time bomb’ method — waiting a period of time before downloading and executing the malware,” Patrick Murray, vice president of products at Zimperium, told TechNewsWorld.
This is a core vulnerability when it comes to apps, Murray pointed out, because all mobile apps must communicate frequently with a server to complete updates, receive instructions and perform other tasks.
Additionally, Google’s scanning services are not adequate because scanning “is only as good as the signature database it has from the service provider,” Andrew Blaich, lead security analyst at Bluebox Labs, said. “It takes several different malware scanning programs to catch all known malware on a device since they all scan for different things.”
Google’s policy of openness is the problem because the resulting business model and architecture “make Android very difficult for them to secure,” Murray said.
Anatomy of a Takedown
In April 2014, Google enhanced its “Verify” apps to continually check devices to make sure all apps are behaving in a safe manner even after they’re installed.
However, this service “only works after an app is identified as bad,” Blaich told TechNewsWorld.
Google’s “Bouncer” service “works more along the lines of risk management,” Blaich remarked. “If enough red flags show up, then an app becomes a candidate for takedown.”
Protecting The Enterprise
Malware downloaded onto BYOD devices “can easily compromise the enterprise network by stealing corporate credentials or simply bringing the compromised device back onto the network,” Zimperium’s Murray warned.
Businesses “need to think about expanding their BYOD initiatives to go beyond simple management of devices, and employ solutions on the device that prevent these types of cyberattacks,” Murray suggested. For example, they could monitor devices continuously so malware “is caught whenever it is delivered, even if it tries to lie and wait for a period of time before detonation.”