These Are the Challenges Tech Giants Will Face in 2019

Following Uber founder Travis Kalanick’s forced departure, his successor Dara Khosrowshahi revamped his executive team and company culture to …

For the past decade, the technology giants—Facebook, Google, Apple, Amazon, Microsoft, Tesla, Uber—have dominated the business world. Just last year, their stock prices appeared to be on an endless upward trajectory.

No longer.

The past year presented the major technology companies with multiple difficulties, and 2019 promises to be even more challenging. Expect extensive news coverage of how Russian agents used Facebook advertising to influence the U.S. election as special counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation continues. The Federal Trade Commission may take antitrust action as Google, Facebook, and Amazon dominate digital advertising revenue.

Additionally, Senate Commerce Committee Chairman John Thune (R-S.D.) has told leading technology companies that a federal privacy law “enjoys strong bipartisan support.”

Will the pioneers of this technology era keep pace, or remain oblivious to the public policy issues they are creating? Entering 2019, tech companies have five major issues they must address—or governments and the public will do it for them:

TechCrunch: Lyft wants to bring AR/VR to ride-hailing passengers

Lyft filed two patent applications that suggest the ride-hailing company is working on providing augmented and virtual reality (AR/VR) experiences for …

Brief:

  • Lyft filed two patent applications that suggest the ride-hailing company is working on providing augmented and virtual reality (AR/VR) experiences for passengers, TechCrunch reported. One patent, filed in July 2017, describes a “virtual reality transportation experience” that would respond to real-world surroundings and incidents like sudden stops and turns as people ride to their destination.
  • The VR experience would provide passengers with headsets to immerse themselves in a computer-generated environment that could offer games and entertainment. Those VR experiences could be shared with people in other cars or those waiting for a pickup.
  • Another patent filing detailed how AR, the technology that overlays digital images on a real background through a mobile device, could provide information to passengers in order to expedite the pickup and drop-off process based on traffic patterns and location. Lyft would use AR overlays to show customers information including ideal pickup locations based on the passenger’s immediate surroundings.

Insight:

Lyft’s patent filings from 18 months ago indicate that the ride-hailing company has thought ahead about how AR/VR technologies could one day become key parts of the transportation services provided to passengers. The patents are likely tied to Lyft’s acquisition of AR startup Blue Vision Labs last year. One service Blue Vision offers is collaborative AR tech to let people in close proximity view the same virtual content.

As the price of AR/VR headsets declines and software developers create more interactive experiences for the platforms, ride-hailing companies like Lyft will likely be in a better position to add such services to vehicles. Those services eventually may include features like interactive shopping and streaming media, as the technology evolves and consumers grow increasingly accustomed to virtual media. Last week at the Consumer Electronics Show (CES), Carmaker Audi showed off a prototype VR entertainment system for cars that would let passengers play a video game that responds to the car’s actual movements.

Lyft and fierce rival Uber continue to battle for market share in the quickly expanding ride-hailing industry, driving the companies to seek fresh ways to boost loyalty among passengers. Both companies last year introduced loyalty programs that provide incentives for repeat usage. Uber’s program lets passengers earn points to exchange for rides and food orders from its Uber Eats delivery service, while Lyft plans to offer points to redeem for trip upgrades or access to more experienced drivers. Lyft’s latest patent applications suggest that innovative technology is a key part to its strategy to boost loyalty.

However, AR adoption by consumers hasn’t grown as fast as many had anticipated, leading to recent bankruptcy filings, asset sales and layoffs among developers of the technology. AR headset developer Meta this week sold its assets to an undisclosed buyer after earlier attempts to drum up financing fell through, Variety reported. Blippar last month announced it had entered administration, a U.K. form of bankruptcy, as part of being liquidated after an investor dispute. While tech company Magic Leap last year released an AR headset after years of development, it mostly received lackluster reviews from the tech press.

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Uber to Europe: Spend More on Public Transit

Networked cars, like Uber and Lyft vehicles, have already transformed the way millions worldwide get around, and they will continue to reshape the …

Our weekly “New Starts” roundup of new and newsworthy transportation developments worldwide.

Uber Urges Europe to Boost Investment in Public Transportation

Networked cars, like Uber and Lyft vehicles, have already transformed the way millions worldwide get around, and they will continue to reshape the urban mobility picture in the years to come. But not so much as to make public transit obsolete. In fact, public transit will remain the bedrock upon which 21st-century urban mobility rests — that’s the message Pierre-Dmitri Gore-Coty, Uber’s Regional General Manager for Europe, the Middle East and Africa, delivered in an open letter to European public officials.

In the letter, which appears on Medium, Gore-Coty states flatly, “Public transport will continue to be the backbone of the future of mobility. What we currently need to move efficiently through cities won’t change: high-capacity, high-frequency systems running on dedicated rights of way such as metros, light rail lines, and upgraded bus systems.”

Gore-Coty goes on to explain that services from his company together with public transport make getting around without car ownership easier. He cites research that finds that ride-hailing apps not only reduce the number of cars on the road but increases the use of public transport. He uses London as a specific example: there, residents use Uber in conjunction with London Underground’s recently introduced Night Tube service to get around the city late at night.

The letter comes on the eve of the European Commission’s next multi-year budget. It calls on the European Union and member states to “increase support for public transport.”

Smart Cities Dive’s analysis of the letter notes that it’s yet another sign that Uber sees itself as not a disruptor but a partner in an across-the-board reshaping of urban mobility. Noting recent Uber investments in e-bike, scooter and networked car companies, the analysis notes that where it was once seen as a competitor, Uber is increasingly positioning itself as a partner to public transport in advancing more sustainable urban mobility around the world. Uber CEO Dara Khosrowshahi’s recent announcement of the company’s creation of a $10 million “Global Fund for Sustainable Mobility” fits into this strategy as well.

Full Test Runs Begin on Sydney Metro Northwest

Metro Report International reports that trains have begun test runs on the entire 36-km (22.4-mile) Sydney Metro Northwest line. The first train to travel the entire line from Tallawong, in Sydney’s northwest suburbs, to Chatswood,10 km (6.2 miles) north of central Sydney, did so on Jan. 14.

This first segment of Sydney’s first metro line is set to begin revenue service in the second quarter of this year. It uses a converted existing rail line between Chatsworth and Epping, then runs through a new twin-bore tunnel before emerging onto an elevated structure to reach Tallawong.

The following day, the third of five boring machines digging the central underground portion of the Sydney Metro line began work. TBM “Wendy” will dig a 6.2-km (3.9-mile) tunnel from Chatsworth to Blues Point on the north side of Sydney Harbor. Two other machines, “Nancy” and “Mum Shirl,” are already digging twin tubes from Marrickville north to Bangaroo on the south side of the harbor. The last two machines, one of which will dig the tunnel under the harbor, will start boring later this year. The central and southern sections of the Sydney Metro should open in 2024.

Feasibility Study Begins for Bangalore Regional Rail Network

The Karanata state government in India has given the green light to a feasibility study for a proposed suburban rail network serving the state capital of Bangaluru, or Bangalore.

The proposed system would open in 2023 and provide service along four rail corridors, mostly using existing alignments. In some places, existing track would be doubled or even quadrupled to increase capacity. In all, the system would encompass 160.7 km (99.9 miles) and serve 81 stations. Of this total, 42.1 km (26.2 miles) would consist of new elevated structures.

The central Indian government and Karanata state government will each cover 20 percent of the feasibility study’s 320.9 billion rupee (US$3.3 billion) cost. External loans will pick up the remaining 60 percent.

Know of a project that should be featured in this column? Send a Tweet with links to @MarketStEl using the hashtag #newstarts.

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Uber introduce 15p ‘clean air fee’ to London journeys

Ride-hailing app Uber has introduced a 15p ‘clean air’ surcharge to journeys in London. The company first announced the plans in October as part of …

Ride-hailing app Uber has introduced a 15p ‘clean air’ surcharge to journeys in London.

The company first announced the plans in October as part of their Clean Air Plan, with ‘every penny’ going to its drivers as an incentive to switch to cleaner vehicles. The new charges came into effect on Wednesday (January 16).

According to Uber, the surcharge means that drivers using the app for around 40 hours per week could expect around £3,000 of support towards an EV in two years’ time and £4,500 in three years.

The app provider has an aim that all cars registered on the app will be fully electric in London by 2025. It anticipates that the first 20,000 drivers upgrading to electric vehicles to have completed the shift by the end of 2021.

The Uber app is used by an estimated 3.5 million people every year for journeys across the capital, with around 50,000 drivers registered upon the platform.

Uber has also pledged to work with charging point providers including BP ChargeMaster, EO Charging, EVBox, Franklin Energy, NewMotion, Pod Point and Swarco EVolt to assist drivers in installing home charging points to plug in their vehicles.

Another element of Uber’s Clean Air Plan is a diesel scrappage scheme aimed at removing 1,000 of the most polluting cars from London’s roads which will also launch this year. The first 1,000 people in London to scrap a pre-Euro 4 diesel vehicle and provide an official scrappage certificate will receive up to £1,500 of credit to spend on Uber or uberPOOL rides.

In December Uber commissioned a report that said a widespread take-up of shared e-bikes in London could reduce CO2 emissions by 184 tonnes a day. The tech giant recently acquired bike sharing app JUMP.

Speaking in October, Dara Khosrowshahi, CEO of Uber, said: ‘The Mayor of London has set out a bold vision to tackle air pollution in the capital and we’re determined to do everything we can to back it.

‘Our £200m Clean Air Plan is a long-term investment in the future of London aimed at going all electric in the capital in 2025.

‘Over time, it’s our goal to help people replace their car with their phone by offering a range of mobility options – whether cars, bikes, scooters or public transport – all in the Uber app.’

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Man ends up stuck on railroad tracks after sideswiping Uber driver, police say

HOUSTON – A man is in custody after police say he drove onto train tracks after an incident with an Uber driver just north of the Theater District in …

HOUSTON – A man is in custody after police say he drove onto train tracks after an incident with an Uber driver just north of the Theater District in downtown.

According to police, the Uber driver was driving in downtown around 2 a.m. when he was sideswiped by another vehicle.

The driver of the other vehicle took off and the Uber driver called 911 and followed him around downtown until they ended up at the Amtrak train station parking lot, officers said.

Police said the driver of the second car did not see where he was going and ended up driving on the railroad tracks until his vehicle got stuck.

He and the passenger of the vehicle jumped out and took off on foot, police said.

According to authorities, they set up a perimeter when they arrived and were able to locate the two men, who were hiding behind a police station property building.

Both men were taken into custody and are facing failure to stop and give information charges.

In addition, the driver will be charged with DWI and evading arrest.

Copyright 2019 by KPRC Click2Houston – All rights reserved.

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