TIME Uber

Uber Denies There Are ‘Phantom’ Cars In Its App

Uber was responding to a recent Vice article

Although there’s nothing too spooky about the possibility of phantom cars showing up in Uber’s app, it does come across as somewhat sneaky.

Researchers are arguing that the app has cars appear when a user opens up the service, but there are actually none in the area. Uber, however, vehemently denies the accusation of “phantom” cars.

In a Vice article, Alex Rosenblat and Luke Stark, who are researchers from the Data & Society think tank, said an Uber representative 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,” the representative continued, according to the article. “This is more of a visual effect, letting people know that partners are searching for fares. 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.”

“Our goal is for the number of cars and their location to be as accurate as possible in real time,” an Uber spokesperson said in an interview with The Guardian. “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. 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.”

TIME harley-davidson

Harley-Davidson Is Recalling More Than 185,000 Bikes

Harley Davidson Unveils Electric Motorcycle
Andrew Burton—Getty Images A Harley Davidson Livewire motorcycle.

It's because of a saddlebag problem

Harley-Davidson is recalling over 185,000 bikes in the U.S. due to a saddlebag issue.

The saddlebag can fall off, upping the chance of a crash.

The recall includes models from the 2014 and 2015 years, including the Road King, Street Glide, Electra Glide Ultra Classic, Ultra Limited, Police Road King, Police Electra Glide, and CVO Ultra Limited bikes. Also affected are the 2014 CVO Road King, and the 2015 Electra Glide Ultra Classic Low, Ultra Limited Low, Road Glide, CVO Street Glide, and CVO Road Glide Ultra motorcycles.

The motorcycle company uncovered the issue after sifting through warranty claims, according to the Associated Press. The part will be replaced for free beginning July 27.

In April, Harley-Davidson issued a recall of 46,000 bikes due to a gear issue.

Meanwhile, the company is trying to woo younger consumers in order to boost sales.

TIME self-driving cars

Self-driving Cars Just Got A Huge Endorsement

Google self-driving car
Harry McCracken / TIME

The cars have the government's backing.

Mark Rosekind, the administrator of the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, wants you to know the government approves of self-driving cars.

The government is backing the technology needed for the emerging technology, not hoping to block it from developing, according to recent statements made by Rosekind.

“NHTSA is not interested in erecting roadblocks to safety innovations. We want to encourage that,” according to Rosekind, who spoke recently at the Automated Vehicle Symposium.

“We will have to help people who can’t tell LIDAR [a remote sensing technology] from a coffee maker,” Rosekind added. “Whether for profit or for malicious intent we know these systems will become targets for bad actors. We must reassure vehicle owners that their data is secure, their vehicles are secure.”

But Rosekind added that those developing the technology must ensure safety and the ability to be safe from cyber attacks. For more on cyberysecurity threats while driving, check out this recent Fortune piece.

The statements come days after Google’s self-driving car got into a another crash.

TIME

The Most Important Consumer Victory You Know Nothing About

Would you knowingly forfeit your right to sue?

A week ago, the FTC issued a ruling that was hailed by consumer advocates as a victory for car buyers and owners everywhere — but this is a bullet most consumers probably don’t even know they dodged.

If you have no idea what this is about, that’s not surprising. The agency’s action followed a review of the “Interpretations of Magnuson-Moss Warranty Act,” which, admittedly, sounds like a snoozer. This ruling covers a few different elements of car warranties. In brief, they need to be easily understandable and accessible to customers, and they have to let owners use parts and mechanics of their choice (rather than stipulating only “authorized” parts or technicians).

But the part that has groups like the National Consumer Law Center and the National Association of Consumer Advocates so excited pertains to binding arbitration, which is one of those phrases that tends to make people’s eyes glaze over. Technically, the rules “set standards for any informal dispute settlement provisions in a warranty.” In plain English, this means the FTC has reaffirmed — over the auto industry’s objections — that it put the kibosh on sticking fine print in warranty contracts that require an owner to sign away their right to sue if things go awry.

Binding arbitration has become an increasingly used tactic in all kinds of contracts, from telecommunications to financial services. Businesses say it saves everybody the time, expense and hassle of a lawsuit, but consumer advocates contend that the little guy tends to get the short end of the stick, since arbitrators are paid by the companies and have a strong financial incentive not to bite the hand that’s feeding them. Consumers lose arbitration proceedings a whopping 95% of the time, one study from 2007 found.

“Secret, unreviewable arbitration proceedings before arbitrators paid by industry could keep unsafe cars on the road,” National Consumer Law Center attorney David Seligman said in a statement about the rulings.

The FTC came to its conclusion by looking at previous legal language that addressed the use of arbitration. Basically, they decided the option for suing has to be preserved because the verbiage used refers to arbitration as being the first step available to a wronged consumer, not the only one. “Arbitration should precede but not preclude a subsequent court action,” the agency says.

Encouraged by this victory, these consumer groups — as well as some lawmakers — say regulators like the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau should implement a similar rule striking down the use of forced arbitration in financial services products. Nearly three dozen members of Congress also recently got involved, sending a letter to CFPB director Richard Cordray urging him to ban the practice in financial services contracts, saying, “These clauses …are designed to stack the deck against consumers.”

In a report the agency released in March, the CFPB found that the prevalence of arbitration clauses is especially high in prepaid cards and payday loans, financial products that typically target lower-income and financially unsophisticated people. Likewise, the vast majority of private student loan and prepaid cell phone contracts also demand that consumers waive their right to sue.

“Forced arbitration is simply unfair and everywhere in consumer financial services,” Christine Hines, consumer and civil justice counsel with advocacy group Public Citizen, said in a statement about the findings urging lawmakers to ban the practice.

TIME Careers

These Jobs Are Most Likely To Be Taken by a Computer

SPAIN-TECHNOLOGY-ROBOT
Gerard Julien—AFP/Getty Images A man moves his finger toward SVH (Servo Electric 5 Finger Gripping Hand) automated hand made by Schunk during the 2014 IEEE-RAS International Conference on Humanoid Robots in Madrid on November 19, 2014.

Great news, dentists!

Telemarketers’ jobs have the highest chance of being automated, according to recent report. Other positions with huge potential for being overtaken by robots? Cashiers, tellers and drivers, among others, according to this new NPR interactive.

While telemarketers have a 99% chance of one day being totally replaced by technology (it’s already happening), cashiers, tellers and drivers all have over a 97% chance at being automated. Many positions within the “production” category put together by NPR, including packaging and assembly jobs, tend to rank highly as well.

The job with the lowest shot at being overtaken by technology in the future? Mental health and substance abuse social workers. They have a 0.3% chance, according to the data. Occupational therapists also rank at 0.3%, while dentists, surgeons and nutritionists appear pretty safe at just 0.4%.

Per NPR:

The researchers admit that these estimates are rough and likely to be wrong. But consider this a snapshot of what some smart people think the future might look like. If it says your job will likely be replaced by a machine, you’ve been warned.

To play around with the complete data, check here. But beware, it’s pretty addicting.

TIME Uber

Here’s Uber’s Plan for a New Sci-fi Headquarters

Photo courtesy of Uber

Fast-growing company will be moving into fancy new offices

Ride sharing service Uber is planning a fancy new headquarters to go with its recent stratospheric $50 billion valuation.

Futuristic buildings will be connected by glass walkways, according to designs recently released by the company.

The new headquarters, located in San Francisco’s Mission Bay, is expected to open by late 2017 or early 2018, according to Quartz. It will be comprised of a six-story building at 1515 Third St. as well as an 11-story building at 1455 Third St.

The buildings were designed by Shop Architects PC, a New York City firm. The structures measure approximately 423,000 square feet, which the San Francisco Chronicle reported last year will triple Uber’s footprint in the city.

Business software giant Salesforce previously occupied the space.

It will be the eighth move for Uber, according to the Chronicle.

Here are a couple more images of the designs:

Uber headquarters
Photo courtesy of Uber
Uber headquarters 3
Photo courtesy of Uber

 

TIME Autos

Watch BMW Test Driverless Cars and Virtual Reality

With tech companies on its heel, the top premium car maker taps the Internet to try and win the next race

Automakers have never had so much in common with Silicon Valley. Car makers are increasingly relying on technology to develop, market and sell cars to consumers. In fact, most of the world’s major auto companies established research and development labs of one sort or another in the Bay Area. BMW and Volkswagen set up shop there in 1998, General Motors in 2006, Toyota and Ford in 2012, Renault-Nissan in 2013. The automotive industry spends some $100 billion globally on R&D annually, about 16% of the world’s total for all industries.

Likewise, Bay Area firms are also increasingly interested in autos. Ever since the dawn of the personal computer, Silicon Valley has been inventing or reinventing new gadgets: the music player, the phone, the computer first as a phone and, later, as a tablet. Amazon remade the mall. Netflix and YouTube remade TV. Elon Musk’s Tesla notwithstanding, the last great remaining American preoccupation that tech hasn’t widely tackled is the automobile.

MORE: See Inside BMW’s Secret Design Lab

But automakers have a significantly more difficult task integrating technology into their vehicles. Where a new version of an Android phone, for example, might be reasonably expected to last its owner two or three years, most cars are on the roads for decades. That means built-in technology has to last over a much longer time fame. Legislation, as the fights over Tesla’s dealership model and Google’s self-driving cars have shown, can be limiting. And some high-tech bells and whistles simply never take. For every innovation like GPS navigation, there’s a numeric key pad.

In this video, TIME looks at how the top-selling premium manufacturer BMW is exploring new technology ranging from self-driving vehicles to virtual reality in an effort to keep pace with the competition.

TIME Apple

Apple Exec: The Car Is the ‘Ultimate Mobile Device’

Amid rumors of an Apple Car

Apple Senior Vice President of Operations Jeff Williams hinted on Wednesday the company is interested in doing more with cars.

At the Code Conference in California, an Apple shareholder asked Williams if Apple has its sights set on the auto industry. “The car is the ultimate mobile device, isn’t it?” said Williams, according to Business Insider. “We explore all kinds of categories. We’ll certainly continue to look at those, and evaluate where we can make a huge difference.”

Williams’ response comes amid rumors that Apple may want to take on Tesla with an electric car of its own. The efforts are supposedly nicknamed Project Titan.

Still, Apple has other car plans in the works, too: Its new CarPlay software replaces vehicles’ infotainment systems with an iPhone-style interface.

Williams also spoke on Wednesday about third-party apps coming to the Apple Watch this fall.

TIME Auto

Why Tesla Is Cutting Jobs in the World’s Biggest Auto Market

Tesla Earns $46 Million In Q4 As Stock Soars Amid Apple Rumors
Joe Raedle—Getty Images People look at a Tesla Motors vehicle on the showroom floor at the Dadeland Mall on February 19, 2014 in Miami, Florida.

The electric car company has been struggling in China

Tesla may be running out of gas in the world’s largest auto market.

The electric car maker confirmed to the Wall Street Journal that it’s cutting jobs in China amid slow sales and sluggish rollouts of electric vehicle infrastructure.

According to research firm JL Warren Capital, less than 2,500 Teslas were registered in China in the last nine months of 2014. 469 of the company’s vehicles were registered in January. Tesla CEO Elon Musk had previously said that selling 5,000 vehicles in China in 2014 would be deemed a success. Tesla declined to comment to the Journal on its sales figures.

One challenge for Tesla in China is the reliance of its electric vehicles on chargers. Because many city residents in China live in apartments, it’s harder for them to keep chargers at home.

Like all automakers, Tesla is eager to establish a strong foothold in China, which became the largest auto market in the world in 2009. More than 21 million cars are expected to be sold in the country this year, an 8% increase from 2014. However, only a tiny fraction of these vehicles use alternative energy sources–in 2014, only 50,000 such cars were sold.

China wants to have 5 million electric cars on the roads by 2020 as a means of reducing rampant pollution problems in the country.

The news of Tesla’s job cuts in China comes after the company actually added more than 4,000 global positions last year.

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