Source: Business Insider SA
China’s leading e-hailing service is expanding into South Africa, challenging a market dominated by Bolt and Uber. The official launch, which brings DiDi Chuxing to Cape Town, follows a successful pilot programme conducted throughout March in Gqeberha.
Founded in 2012, DiDi Chuxing is the world’s largest e-hailing service, with an estimated 550-million users and more than 30-million drivers across 16 countries. The tech company’s latest foray into the South African market comes amid talks of a public listing after raising $21.2-billion (R315-billion) in venture capital, with major backing from SoftBank Group.
By comparison, Uber has an estimated 93-million active users and 4-million drivers in 80 countries.
On 1 March, DiDi launched a limited pilot programme in Gqeberha to gauge interest in the South African market. The trial signed up more than 2,000 drivers who provided transport to 20,000 residents, according to Stephen Zhu, the head of DiDi’s international business.
The South African version of the app has been officially unveiled and is available for download but is limited to users in Cape Town. The first phase of the expansion focuses on recruiting drivers who won’t need to split their fares with DiDi – noted as a “0% commission” by the e-hailing service – for the first month after signing-up on the app.
The number of available drivers is limited during the recruitment phase though, which increases waiting time and prices, especially during peak traffic hours.
DiDi currently offers “express” transport to passengers, which is charged at a base fare of R15 and a distance rate of R10 per kilometre. These fares are, however, subject to “dynamic pricing” fluctuations which are similar to Uber’s surge pricing. During peak hour traffic or when drivers are limited, fares are increased according to a standard rate multiplier.
DiDi’s “express” service is the equivalent of Bolt’s standard ride and UberX, in terms of passenger capacity.
In addition to being more expensive than both Uber and Bolt, DiDi’s passenger service is currently limited to the “express” offering, while the other two competitors offer even more affordable options through compact rides.
By Khulekani Magubane for Fin24
Two law firms have announced that they will initiate an opt-out class action lawsuit on behalf of South African Uber drivers.
This comes after the UK Supreme Court ruled last week that Uber drivers should legally be classified as workers and get benefits.
The lawsuit could cover as many as 20 000 South African Uber drivers.
Two law firms announced on Tuesday that they would move ahead with plans to file a class action on behalf of South African Uber drivers against the ride hailing tech giant’s operations in South Africa as well as in London for drivers to be recognised as employees.
If successful, the legal bid will allow South African Uber drivers to pursue holiday pay and compensation for overtime under existing South African legislation. Currently, drivers in the Uber service operate similar to contractors.
The law firms – Mbuyisa Moleele Attorneys and Leigh Day – said in a joint statement on Tuesday that a decision by the UK Supreme Court on Friday affirmed that, in 2016, a group of Uber drivers should have been legally classified as workers and should qualify for similar benefits.
“Furthermore, Uber operates a similar system in South Africa, with drivers using an app, which the UK Supreme Court concluded resulted in drivers’ work being tightly defined and controlled by Uber,” the statement said.
Uber said in a blog post following the UK Supreme Court ruling that the judgment only focused on the group of drivers from 2016, and that they should have been classified as workers.
“The verdict does not focus on the other drivers on the app, nor does it relate to couriers who earn on Uber Eats,” Uber said.
“Worker is a UK-specific legal classification and a worker is not an employee.”
Zanele Mbuyisa of Mbuyisa Moleele Attorneys said Uber’s argument that it was just an app does not hold water when the company behaves like an employer and uses a business model which “exploits drivers”.
“We are issuing a call to workers to stand up for their rights and join the class action against Uber. Drivers should contact MBM Law … to fight for the rights to which they are legally entitled,” said Mbuyisa.
Richard Meeran of Leigh Day said: “The ruling by the UK Supreme Court is a final vindication for UK Uber drivers who have for too long been denied their statutory employment rights as workers. We hope that this class action in South Africa will enable South African Uber drivers to access those same rights”.
The statement said because Uber sets the amount of the fare, the information given to the driver about the passenger, ratings systems and can deactivate drivers who do not perform according to Uber’s standards, the dynamic between the company and drivers was similar to that of employers and employees.
The statement said up to 20 000 South Africa Uber drivers could be covered by the opt-out class action lawsuit.
By Gugu Lourie for Tech Financials
Uber is launching Uber Direct in South Africa as coronavirus minimises the demand for its traditional ride-hailing business.
Uber Direct is an on-demand and scheduled last-mile delivery solution for businesses.
Businesses can use Uber Direct to move their goods within their supply chain, and between locations to better balance supply and demand, ensuring customers receive their orders when required.
“This is our broadest effort yet to help businesses meet unprecedented demand for delivery, and helping people stay at home while still getting the items they need,” Alon Lits, director for Uber Sub-Saharan Africa explains.
“Uber Direct also allows us to unlock economic opportunities for delivery people and drivers now and beyond the lockdown. Safety continues to be a top priority, and we are regularly providing drivers and delivery people with information to help them stay safe.”
Millions of people around South Africa go without food each day, with the lockdown and continued call for self-distancing, this number is expected to increase.
South Africa has extended its 21-day lockdown by two weeks to the end of April.
Uber has partnered with the Western Cape Department of Health and The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation to deliver medication to South Africa’s citizens most vulnerable to COVID-19.
Dr Giovanni Perez, Chief Director of Metro District Health Services at the Western Cape Government Department of Health says, “This partnership is a great example of how the public and private sector can work together, regardless of any challenges, for the well-being of the people.“
In the first two weeks of the partnership, over 25 000 people received their medication, with many more safe and contactless deliveries being made daily.
Oumar Seydi, Africa Director, Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation highlights how important this initiative is as part of the COVID19 response, ‘Finding innovative ways of protecting the most vulnerable populations is critical at this time and we are honoured to be part of this innovation to get medication in the hands of those who need it most.”
Uber has also partnered with SA Harvest, a food rescue organisation that aims to eradicate food waste, to expand and optimise deliveries to their beneficiary organisations in the Western Cape. This is to ensure more vulnerable people are fed daily and will further allow SA Harvest to expand their deliveries in Gauteng in the coming weeks.
By Ayanda Nyathi for EWN
Uber and Bolt drivers are considering roping in the Department of Transport to help solve their ongoing issues around safety and pay.
Drivers staged a disruptive protest on Wednesday, raising concerns over security and the payment arrangements they had with their companies.
Uber and Bolt drivers said they felt they were being taken for a ride and were plotting their next move. The protest was partially disrupted by clashes with police who at times fired rubber bullets.
The drivers were calling for the payment arrangement they had with Uber and Bolt to be relooked at and wanted measures introduced to improve their safety.
Protest leader Sibusiso Ngwenya said the clashes with police would not deter them.
“We are planning to engage with the Department of Transport to ask that they intervene and speak to the e-hailing companies,” he said.
By Lisa Martin for The Guardian
Image credit: Uber Elevate
Uber Air says Melbourne will be a trial site for its new aerial ridesharing service that it is claiming will shuttle people around cities by 2023.
Melbourne will be the first city outside the US to host trials of Uber Air, a service the company describes as “aerial ridesharing” that will shuttle people from rooftop to rooftop for the price of an UberX.
The company has flagged test flights will begin next year, with commercial operations to start in 2023.
Passengers will travel in “electric vertical take-off” contraptions.
The service will operate using the Uber app, allowing passengers to travel across a network of landing pads called “Skyports”.
Uber spokesman Eric Allison said the concept had the potential to reduce traffic congestion which costs the Australian economy an estimated $16.5bn a year.
“The 19km journey from the CBD to Melbourne airport can take anywhere from 25 minutes to around an hour by car in peak hour, but with Uber Air this will take around 10 minutes,” Allison said.
Dallas and Los Angeles in the US will also be pilot cities. Melbourne beat cities in Brazil, France, India and Japan.
The Victorian treasurer, Tim Pallas, said the announcement was testament to Melbourne’s record of innovation.
“Victorians have a can-do attitude and we hope Uber Air will give us the altitude to match it,” he told reporters in Melbourne on Wednesday.
Pallas said there had been no request from Uber for financing.
He said he wanted to put his hand up as the first customer.
“I’m Uber excited,” he joked.
RMIT University aerospace engineer expert Matthew Marino said the concept would potentially be safer than driverless cars.
“While a driverless car would be faced with obstacles on the road like pedestrians on their mobile phones or other vehicles like trams and buses, aerial autonomous vehicles don’t have these obstructions,” he said.
“We need to prove to people that this technology can be as safe as helicopters, which regularly fly in our cities. More research and development are needed in this area.”
Centre for Urban Research expert Chris De Gruyter was sceptical about whether Uber Air can can solve transport problems.
“These vehicles are very low capacity – similar to what a car could carry – while there are also questions about if these vehicles will create visual clutter in the sky and how environmentally friendly they are,” he said.
“Another risk is empty running, where there are no passengers, but the vehicle has to travel to pick people up from another location.”
By Lucinda Shen for Fortune
As of Monday’s market close, those who bought into Uber at its IPO are down roughly $1.4 billion.
But very early investors, and now, the bankers that helped take the company to market are in the green. Uber shelled out $106.2 million to a bevy of underwriters led by Morgan Stanley, per filings with the Securities and Exchange Commission. The group also includes Goldman Sachs, BofA Merrill Lynch, Barclays, Citigroup, and Allen & Company.
That comes as shares of Uber fell another 11% Monday—pulling its valuation down to $62 billion and representing a collective $1.4 billion loss for those who bought in at the company’s $45 IPO price. Assuming that Uber drivers took up all shares offered to them at the IPO price, they are collectively looking at paper losses of about $43.2 million.
On Friday, Uber CEO Dara Khosrowshahi sought to calm his employees regarding Uber’s stock price.
“Like all periods of transition, there are ups and downs,” he wrote in a note to workers.”Remember that the Facebook and Amazon post-IPO trading was incredibly difficult for those companies. And look at how they have delivered since.”
In particular—Facebook’s IPO may echo strongly with that of Uber’s. That IPO too involved Morgan Stanley in the lead role. Following a lackluster first day of trading, the bank’s fees, as well as trades stemming from its role as the lead in the deal, were heavily scrutinized. A Massachusetts regulator later fined Morgan Stanley $5 million over the IPO, arguing the underwriter had selectively disclosed information to certain clients over others.
It remains to be seen whether similar investigations will follow Uber’s IPO. But for now, count the banks as one of the few parties that have profited from this deal.
By Sarah Evans for News24
Uber faces a class action suit by customers who say they suffered emotional trauma and physical injuries while using its service. Eleven people represented by Ulrich Roux Attorneys will approach the High Court in an effort to pursue a damages claim from the transportation service as a class action.
The class action comes on the back of criminal and civil suits involving people who were harmed, allegedly while using Uber.
In a criminal case, four men are currently facing trial on a number of charges including rape, attempted rape, kidnapping, robbery with aggravating circumstances and attempted murder. They allegedly attacked five Uber users between July and August 2016.
According to the charge sheet, the accused’s modus operandi was for one of them to pose as an Uber taxi driver and pretend to be the driver who received the victim’s Uber request. But he was not the driver linked to the victim’s Uber app.
In most of the cases, the other accused would emerge from the boot of the car, through the back seat, and attack the victims, stabbing and raping them in all cases but one, which was an attempted rape. The victims were also robbed of their belongings and made to tell the accused their bank account details.
In the civil case, Roux said that eight people had come forward wanting to claim damages from Uber for incidents that took place while they were using the service.
Safety ‘a top priority’
Roux said that the team of lawyers was drafting an application to have the case certified as a class action, which must be approved by the High Court before it can proceed. He said the team believed that Uber had “vicarious liability” in these incidents, as it advertised the service as safe and reliable to use.
Uber told News24 on Thursday that it could not comment on a case that has not yet begun, however, its thoughts remain with the riders affected by these incidents, it said.
“Our thoughts continue to be with the riders and their families, these incidents are deeply upsetting.
“As soon as these incidents were reported we reached out to local authorities and whatever information we could provide was handed over to the police and it was this close collaboration that led to the arrest of the suspect. In cases of this nature we work closely with police to support their investigations,” Uber explained in a statement on Thursday.
The taxi service also wished to clarify that since these incidents, it had undertaken to improve its verification process and safety features for riders and drivers.
“Safety is a top priority for Uber, and has been since our launch in South Africa. We’re committed to doing the right thing and take on our part of the responsibility to increase safety.
“We constantly invest and innovate to raise the bar on safety,” Uber said.
A London court has granted ride-hailing firm Uber a licence to keep operating in the capital, accepting the firm’s assertions that its corporate culture had changed and that it should be allowed to keep driving on the streets of London.
However, Chief Magistrate Emma Arbuthnot on Tuesday granted an operating licence lasting only 15 months.
The firm told Westminster Magistrates’ Court it has made significant changes since a regulator refused to renew the company’s operating licence last year over public safety concerns.
The company insists it has changed, and a clean break with the past means it should be granted a new licence.
By Daniel Cooper for Engadget
Problematic transportation outfit Uber is thinking about a way to use your phone to determine if you’ve been drinking. A patent application was uncovered by CNN, entitled “Predicting user state using machine learning,” which outlines the general idea. Essentially, by watching how you behave day-to-day, the system can pick up when your behavior is normal (for you) or abnormal. That could be, for instance, how you use your phone, the angle at which you hold it, and even how you’re walking.
Obviously there are some common sense elements to this, too, especially if you’re requesting a ride in the small hours from a notorious night spot. The thinking is that drivers will be fed this information ahead of you boarding the vehicle to better prepare them for what’s coming. A cynical reading of the plans could mean that drivers choose not to pick up a ride from a drunk passenger to avoid trouble. That would likely mean they’re left fending for themselves or, worse still, choose to drive themselves instead.
Of course, patent applications are mostly the province of companies wealthy enough to devote such time to dreaming up new ideas. Wacky concepts and ideas are patented all the time in the hope that, in years to come, they prove to be both useful and profitable. There’s no indication that this system is going to pop up in Uber’s customer-facing app in the near future, although it certainly could do.
Source: Associated Press via News24
Police in a Phoenix suburb say one of Uber’s self-driving vehicles has struck and killed a pedestrian.
Police in the city of Tempe said on Monday that the vehicle was in autonomous mode with an operator behind the wheel when the woman walking outside of a crosswalk was hit.
Police say that the accident happened overnight on Sunday when the woman was walking outside of a crosswalk.
Elaine Herzberg, 49, died of her injuries at a hospital.
Uber has been testing the self-driving vehicles in Tempe and Phoenix for months.
Police said Uber is cooperating in the investigation.
The company will stop the testing of its self-driving cars in Tempe, Pittsburgh, San Francisco and Toronto.
The testing has been going on for months in the Phoenix area, Pittsburgh, San Francisco and Toronto as automakers and technology companies compete to be the first with the technology.
Uber CEO Dara Khosrowshahi expressed condolences on his Twitter account and said the company is working with local law enforcement on the investigation.
(Find out how you can seek legal aid to receive compensation after a personal injury by visiting The Clark Law Office).
The federal government has voluntary guidelines for companies that want to test autonomous vehicles, leaving much of the regulation up to states.
The US Department of Transportation is considering other voluntary guidelines that it says will help foster innovation. But Transportation Secretary Elaine Chaos also has said technology and automobile companies need to allay public fears of self-driving vehicles, citing a poll showing that 78 percent of people fear riding in autonomous vehicles
The number of states considering legislation related to autonomous vehicles gradually has increased each year, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures. In 2017 alone, 33 states introduced legislation.
California is among those that require manufacturers to report any incidents to the motor vehicle department during the autonomous vehicle testing phase. As of early March, the agency received 59 such reports.