TIME Companies

Peter Thiel: Uber Is the ‘Most Ethically-Challenged Company in Silicon Valley’

The Hamptons Lure Uber Top Drivers Amid NYC Slow Summer Weekends
Th Uber Technologies Inc. car service application (app) is displayed for a photograph on an Apple Inc. iPhone in New York, U.S., on Wednesday, Aug. 6, 2014. Bloomberg—Bloomberg via Getty Images

Uber is "right on the cusp of going too far," the investor said

Billionaire investor Peter Thiel warned in an interview with CNNMoney that Uber is “right on the cusp of going too far” as the car service tacked on another ethical controversy to its ever-growing list this week.

Thiel, an investor in Uber competitor Lyft, called Uber the “most ethically-challenged company in Silicon Valley” in a segment filmed before reports surfaced that an Uber exec floated an idea to dig up dirt on journalists critical of the company, CNN said.

“It’s always a question how far you push the envelope in business. Sometimes the people who break the rules win, and sometimes they push it too far,” Thiel said in the interview. “And I think Uber’s right on the cusp of going simply too far on many of these things.”

The PayPal co-founder added that he thinks companies like Napster were too disruptive in breaking the rules. Napter, a music sharing company, was shut down in 2001 after a legal battle over copyright infringement.

“Most companies in tech, you take some risks. You push the envelope a little bit,” Thiel said. “But Uber’s been in a class of its own.”

TIME Companies

Uber Investigating Executive Over Use of ‘God View’ to Spy on User

After spate of bad publicity

Uber said Tuesday that it’s investigating one of its top New York executives for tracking a reporter without her permission.

The ride-sharing App has a system known as “God View,” BuzzFeed reports, in which the location of Uber vehicles and waiting customers are “widely available to corporate employees.” BuzzFeed reports that an executive used this system to track one of its reporters while she was working on a story about the company that has put it under fire for revelations that an executive raised the prospect of investigating journalists.

Early this November, one of the reporters of this story, Johana Bhuiyan, arrived to Uber’s New York headquarters in Long Island City for an interview with Josh Mohrer, the general manager of Uber New York. Stepping out of her vehicle — an Uber car — she found Mohrer waiting for her. “There you are,” he said, holding his iPhone and gesturing at it. “I was tracking you.”

Mohrer never asked for permission to track her.

[BuzzFeed]

TIME Transportation

What Happened to the Car Industry’s Most Famous Flop?

A 1958 Edsel Convertible
A 1958 Edsel convertible made by Ford Underwood Archives / Getty Images

Market researched failed in a major way

Any crossword puzzler knows there’s a five-letter word for a Ford that flopped: Edsel.

At the heart of any big flop–like when Ford ended the Edsel 55 years ago, on Nov. 19, 1959–lies high expectations. The Edsel was named after Henry Ford’s son, no small honor, and it had its own division of the company devoted to its creation. As TIME reported in 1957 when the car debuted, the company had spent 10 years and $250 million on planning one of its first brand-new cars in decades. The Edsel came in 18 models but, in order to reach its sales goals, it would have to do wildly better than any other car in 1957 was expected to do. The September day that the car first went on the market, thousands of eager buyers showed up at dealers, but before the year was over monthly sales had fallen by about a third.

When Ford announced that they were pulling the plug on the program, here’s how TIME explained what had gone wrong:

As it turned out, the Edsel was a classic case of the wrong car for the wrong market at the wrong time. It was also a prime example of the limitations of market research, with its “depth interviews” and “motivational” mumbo-jumbo. On the research, Ford had an airtight case for a new medium-priced car to compete with Chrysler’s Dodge and DeSoto, General Motors’ Pontiac, Oldsmobile and Buick. Studies showed that by 1965 half of all U.S. families would be in the $5,000-and-up bracket, would be buying more cars in the medium-priced field, which already had 60% of the market. Edsel could sell up to 400,000 cars a year.

After the decision was made in 1955, Ford ran more studies to make sure the new car had precisely the right “personality.” Research showed that Mercury buyers were generally young and hot-rod-inclined, while Pontiac, Dodge and Buick appealed to middle-aged people. Edsel was to strike a happy medium. As one researcher said, it would be “the smart car for the younger executive or professional family on its way up.” To get this image across, Ford even went to the trouble of putting out a 60-page memo on the procedural steps in the selection of an advertising agency, turned down 19 applicants before choosing Manhattan’s Foote, Cone & Belding. Total cost of research, design, tooling, expansion of production facilities: $250 million.

A Taste of Lemon. The flaw in all the research was that by 1957, when Edsel appeared, the bloom was gone from the medium-priced field, and a new boom was starting in the compact field, an area the Edsel research had overlooked completely.

Even so, the Edsel wasn’t a complete loss for Ford: the company was able to use production facilities build for Edsel for their next new line of, you guessed it, compact cards.

Read the full report here, in the TIME Vault: The $250 Million Flop

TIME Body Image

The New ‘Normal Barbie’ Comes With an Average Woman’s Proportions — and Cellulite-Sticker Accessories

"I wanted to show that reality is cool," says the creator of the Lammily doll

Screen shot 2014-11-19 at 3.57.10 AMIt’s a month before the holidays and you’re grappling with a serious toy buyer’s dilemma: 0n the one hand, you kind of just want to get your kid a Barbie; on the other hand you’d rather not perpetuate the peddling of anatomical ideals that are so impossible to achieve — and impractical. (Were Barbie human, she’d have to walk on all fours because of her tiny feet and because she would only have room for half a liver.)

That’s why graphic designer turned toymaker Nickolay Lamm created the Lammily doll — what the Barbie would look like if she actually had the measurements of an average 19-year-old woman’s body (based on CDC data). And brown hair. (She also comes with a sticker-extension pack, complete with cellulite, freckles and acne, but we’ll get to that later.)

What started as an art project in July 2013 became available for purchase and delivery Wednesday. “Parents and their kids were emailing and asking where they could buy the ‘normal Barbie’ — but they didn’t exist,” Lamm, 26, tells TIME. And so he decided to crowdfund his creation, raising $501,000 for his $95,000 target goal. “To be honest, I knew it was either going to bomb or blow up, there was no in between,” Lamm says.

Lamm also created a video that transforms a Lammily doll into a Barbie to really get his point across:

“I wanted to show that reality is cool,” Lamm says. “And a lot of toys make kids go into fantasy, but why don’t they show real life is cool? It’s not perfect, but it’s really all we have. And that’s awesome.”

But real proportions and movement weren’t enough. Before putting the $24.99 dolls on sale — 19,000 dolls are going to backers, but 25,000 more are ready to be shipped before the holidays — Lamm decided to take things a step further.

Enter the $5.99 sticker-extension pack, available in January. Lamm says it took four months to find the proper sticker material, that gives the doll’s face acne, freckles, moles and the ability to blush:

Lammily
Lammily
Lammily

Lamm also decided to include scrapes and bruises. “Some people were like ‘Oh my God,’ as if I’m promoting domestic violence or something,” says Lamm, before assuring TIME that that was far from his intention. “Look, we all get boo boos and scratches. Life isn’t perfect, we all sometimes fall down but we get back up.”

Lammily

Lamm’s aunt recommended he add scars, he says, “because, you know, some kids have scars and are really shy about them.”

Lammily

But then there’s the cellulite and the stretch marks:

Lammily
Lammily

Unleashing a doll with stretch marks on the Internet is basically asking for trouble. But Lamm insists that it came from a sincere place, and that some people will welcome the option. “Demi Lovato even tweeted about it,” he says:

“You know, people were saying this whole project was a joke from the beginning, so I have no doubt some people will take it as a joke,” Lamm says. “But I hope there are enough people who believe what I believe. I think 25% to 30% will think the stickers are stupid and the rest will think it’s good.”

The Lammily will have other fashion options in January:

Lammily

“This is the doll people have been waiting for,” Lamm says. Stretch marks and all.

See More: Watch Little Girls React to the Realistic Barbie Alternative

Read next: New GoldieBlox Doll Takes Aim at ‘Barbie’ Beauty Standards

TIME Companies

Nielsen Will Measure Viewing Figures for Netflix and Other Video Streaming Sites

AWXI - Day 2
Senior Correspondent at CBS News, Anthony Mason (L) and CEO at Nielsen, Mitch Barns speak onstage at The Future of Measurement panel September 30, 2014 in New York City. Monica Schipper—2014 Getty Images

The firm aims to gather concrete numbers for online-only shows such as Netflix's Orange is the New Black and House of Cards

Nielsen says it will begin monitoring viewership numbers of online subscription video services (SVOD) from next month, including industry leaders such as Netflix and Amazon’s Prime Instant Video.

Despite Netflix and other streaming sites refusing to disclose viewership figures, Nielsen can analyze each program’s audio components to determine which show is being streamed, according to documents seen by the Wall Street Journal.

This means Nielsen can apparently gather concrete numbers for shows that are only available to watch online, such as Netflix’s Orange is the New Black and House of Cards.

“Our clients will be able to look at their programs and understand: Is putting content on Netflix impacting the viewership on linear and traditional VOD?” Nielsen Senior Vice President Brian Fuhrer told the Journal.

Both Netflix and Amazon declined to comment on the report.

Online streaming sites have seen their subscriptions rise from 34% of U.S. homes in January to 40% in September.

As more people transition from traditional TV viewing to Internet video subscriptions, Nielsen’s data could have a huge impact on negotiating licensing deals for online streaming.

[WSJ]

TIME Companies

Toronto Wants to Kick Uber Out of the City

Uber Toronto
The Uber Technologies Inc. logo and website are displayed on an Apple Inc. iPhone 5s and laptop computer. Bloomberg/Getty Images

"Uber's operations pose a serious risk to the public"

Toronto is the latest city trying to give Uber the red light.

The City of Toronto has filed an application for injunction against Uber Canada, requesting the end of the company’s activities in the Ontario city, officials announced in a Tuesday statement. The statement said that Uber has been operating in Toronto without a license since 2012.

Like other major cities cracking down on Uber, Toronto is concerned that “Uber’s operations pose a serious risk to the public, including those who are signing on as drivers.”

The City is specifically worried that a lack of vehicle inspection and driver training is threatening both passenger and driver safety. Officials also say Uber’s insurance covering passengers and drivers in the event of an accident is below what’s required by the Municipal Code. Outside of safety concerns, the City cites unregulated fares and Uber’s “possible threat to the taxi industry.”

“With Uber, Torontonians have enjoyed real competition and greater choice,” an Uber spokesman told Bloomberg in an e-mail. “It’s disappointing that city bureaucrats have deployed expensive legal tactics to attempt to halt progress.”

Similar claims have successfully banned the car service in two German cities, major losses that Uber has managed to avoid in major hubs like New York and London.

Cities’ opposition to Uber is only one of many problems being tackled by the company, which is known for its ability to overcome several dead-serious controversies. Most recently, Uber CEO Travis Kalanick offered a Twitter apology after reports that an Uber exec said he wanted to hire researchers to dig up dirt on journalists criticizing the company.

 

 

TIME Autos

Feds Demand Nationwide Recall for Millions of Cars Over Air Bag Problem

The Takata Corp. logo is displayed outside the company's headquarters in Tokyo.
The Takata Corp. logo is displayed outside the company's headquarters in Tokyo. Bloomberg/Getty Images

Regulators say they'll enforce the recall if Takata doesn't agree

Federal regulators said Tuesday they are calling for a nationwide recall of millions of cars with Takata driver’s-side air bags after an incident occurred outside a previous recall’s parameters.

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) said its push for a recall expansion was prompted by an incident involving a defective air bag in a car in North Carolina. North Carolina wasn’t covered by a previous recall which targeted the Gulf Coast region due to safety problems related to high humidity.

“We now know that millions of vehicles must be recalled to address defective Takata air bags and our aggressive investigation is far from over,” NHTSA Deputy Administrator David Friedman said in a statement.

High levels of airborne moisture can cause the propellant in the Japanese-manufactured air bags to burn too quickly, causing them to inflate with excess force, potentially causing injuries to drivers and passengers. Some victims have also suffered from shrapnel wounds due to the explosion of the air bags, which are found in over a dozen major automotive brands.

NHTSA said that it will use its regulatory authority to enforce the nationwide recall if Takata does not voluntarily agree to the recall.

TIME Money

Millennials Will Make These 15 Companies Tons of Money

Bags of tortilla chips sit in a row at a Chipotle Mexican Grill Inc. restaurant in Hollywood, California on July 16, 2013.
Bags of tortilla chips sit in a row at a Chipotle Mexican Grill Inc. restaurant in Hollywood, California on July 16, 2013. Patrick T. Fallon—Bloomberg / Getty Images

Where Millennials choose to spend their money could pay off serious dividends

The question on every Wall Street trader’s mind these days: “What do millennials like?”

Or at least it should be, according to a new report released Tuesday by Morgan Stanley’s equity strategy team. The report paints a pretty compelling picture of the millennial generation’s spending power five years out.

First, in terms of sheer size, millennials outnumber baby boomers as the largest demographic group. But more importantly, they are aging into some of the spend-happiest years of their lives. In the average lifecycle of the American shopper, spending tends to spike between the ages of 25 and 39:

Screen Shot 2014-11-18 at 3.54.45 PM
Morgan Stanley Research

 

Where they choose to spend that money could pay serious dividends to a few savvy stock pickers. Which brings us back to the question, “What do millennials like?”

“Fast casual dining, hotels, buying online, gaming (social and online, less so casinos), eating organic and healthy, and working out more,” writes Morgan Stanley’s consumer stock researchers. They winnowed down a shortlist of 15 companies that hit those millennial sweet spots, and presented them as a “millennial basket” for investors’ consideration before the flood:

Screen Shot 2014-11-18 at 3.52.44 PM
Morgan Stanley Research

 

 

 

 

TIME Transportation

Why Subway Systems Haven’t Installed More Safety Tech Yet

NYC Subway Safety
Wendy Connett/flickr—flickr Editorial/Getty Images

The only safety measure of most subway systems is simple: fear

If you’re already a bit anxious on subways without platform edge doors, the story of people being pushed to their death onto subway tracks isn’t going away anytime soon.

Some variation of that incident—nothing new, despite its shock factor—probably comes to mind nearly every day: when someone teeters off the platform’s edge, for instance, or when you step past the yellow line to circumvent a crowd. The fears over subway deaths, already high after a sensationalized subway murder in 2013, only grew this week with reports of New York’s latest subway accident. In the same way you can’t avoid gawking at a car crash, you can’t avoid reading about a subway death, either.

Hard numbers about subway safety data — New York had only 53 subway fatalities in 2013, a year when it carried 6 million riders — don’t always have a sobering effect on the hysteria following transportation tragedies. Unlike other transportation accidents that get mass media coverage, like a plane crash, a subway accident, especially one so brutal as this week’s in New York City, has a distinct immediacy for a city’s residents. It is not far off in a foreign country, or the result of an extraordinary circumstance. Instead, it’s a few inches and a push, trip or slip away.

That’s a strange concept in an era when new technologies are emerging every day to protect us from death before we’ve even harmed, like cars with radar-based brakes or airplanes with ground proximity warning systems. So why hasn’t technology made subways more safe? Cost.

“[The lack of subway safety] is driven by a cost culture rather than a safety culture,” says former National Transportation Safety Board chairman James Hall. “You will invariably have innocent individuals literally fall through the holes of that type of structure. It’s a matter of priorities, and making safety your most important priority.”

Among the most effective subway safety measures are platform edge doors, which blocks off access to the tracks until a train arrives. However, the cost of installing such doors throughout the New York City subway system is “in the billions,” according to Kevin Ortiz, a spokesman for the Metropolitan Transportation Authority, which oversees New York City’s subway. Ortiz said a contractor has been designing a door system since last month, while new technologies to detect objects or people on the tracks are being tested in the city’s subway. However, the MTA has no timelines for rolling out the new systems on a broader scale.

Platform edge doors are common sights in major cities around the world, including St. Petersburg, Beijing and Tokyo. But those systems are relatively young, and they were built with the platform doors to begin with. Many subway systems in America (and London’s Tube) are old: New York’s dates back to 1904, Boston’s to 1901, and Chicago’s to 1897. Retrofitting older systems to feature platform doors is a much costlier proposition than building a new one with the doors from the get go. Interestingly, New York City’s “Airtrain,” a light rail-style system connecting John F. Kennedy International Airport with the city’s subway system, has platform doors — but it’s only been open since 2003.

Instead of spending money on costly safety technology to make the subway systems safer, the organizations that run them tap into riders’ fears to ensure they stay safe around the trains. In New York, for example, the MTA for decades has run a poster campaign informing riders how many fatalities have occurred in the past year, a reminder to stay well clear of the tracks when a train isn’t in the station. And last year, members of MTA’s largest employee union distributed flyers designed as fake blood-stained subway cards to demand slower trains, improved braking mechanisms and protective barriers.

And platform doors might not be a necessary expense, anyway, as the data shows subways are actually pretty safe.

“Obviously one [fatality] is one too many,” said the MTA’s Ortiz. “But in the grand scheme of things, when you move six million people a day, you have a greater likelihood of being hit by lighting twice than being struck by a subway train.”

Still, there are statistics to support the other side, too. In New York City, one-third of subway deaths are ruled suicides made possible by the tracks’ easy access; subway operators are trained to expect one death per week; if an operator’s train strikes a person, he or she is given just three days off to recover from the trauma.

As a result, most people who care about subway safety fall into one of two camps: either the subway seems like one of the most dangerous form of transportation, or one of the safest. But if there’s one aspect that’s agreed upon by nearly all subway riders, personnel and experts, it’s that a safer subway system, however expensive, is an expectation within reach.

“Cars without drivers, parking assist, collision avoidance—we’re able to do all these kinds of technologies,” said Carl Berkowitz, a transportation and traffic engineering expert. “We should be able to solve some of the problems we have in the subway system.”

 

TIME Companies

Uber CEO Offers Epic, Rambling Twitter Apology

Kalanick does not suggest controversial VP has been suspended or fired

Uber CEO Travis Kalanick on Tuesday afternoon offered up his first public comments since reports surfaced that company senior vice president Emil Michael floated the idea of hiring opposition researchers to dig up dirt on journalists that are critical of the company.

Here is what Kalanick had to say:

Kalanick does not suggest that Emil Michael has been suspended or fired, nor did he address simultaneous reports that Uber employees have accessed certain user data in violation of Uber’s terms of service.

This article originally appeared on Fortune.com

Your browser, Internet Explorer 8 or below, is out of date. It has known security flaws and may not display all features of this and other websites.

Learn how to update your browser