TIME Uber

Why the Disabled are Suing Uber and Lyft

Uber
Bloomberg—Bloomberg via Getty Images Uber

The ride-sharing services are being sued for allegedly denying service to passengers with wheelchairs and guide dogs.

Ride hailing services Uber and Lyft are on the same side for once: They both deny accusations they discriminate against disabled passengers.

The two companies are named as defendants in a smattering lawsuits from California to Texas alleging they violated the Americans with Disabilities Act by failing to make their cars handicapped accessible. In some courts, Uber and Lyft are even named as co-defendants in a single case—putting the rivals, awkwardly, in the same boat.

The complaints paint the car service companies—or at least their drivers—as callous to the disabled. One lawsuit by the National Federation of the Blind of California, for example, says an UberX driver stuffed a blind passenger’s guide dog in the trunk, and refused to stop the car to let the animal out. Other drivers allegedly refused to pick up blind customers accompanied by dogs.

Another physically disabled woman, Jennifer McPhail of Austin, says in a lawsuit that a Lyft driver left her on the curb because her wheelchair couldn’t fit in the car. The driver then failed to provide alternative transportation.

Meanwhile, other disabled app users are airing their own grievances outside of court. Kristin Parisi, 30-year-old Boston woman who uses a wheelchair, told The Daily Beast that an Uber driver refused to pack her chair into the trunk, for example. So Parisi had to maneuver herself and the chair into the back seat with no assistance, while the driver berated her as an “invalid.”

Uber denies any responsibility by saying it doesn’t discriminate against the disabled and that it can transport blind and wheelchair-bound passengers. It told The Daily Beast that drivers accused of discrimination are usually suspended or fired. Lyft has a similar policy:

It is Lyft’s policy that passengers that use wheelchairs that can safely and securely fit in the trunk of the vehicle or backseat of the car without obstructing the view of the driver should be reasonably accommodated by drivers on the Lyft platform, and drivers should make every reasonable effort to transport the passenger and his or her wheelchair.

Lyft says it is also willing to accommodate service animals. But it recommends that passengers who need them call the driver in advance and let them know–and has a hotline for drivers to call if they have a “medically documented reason” that would prevent them from taking the animal.

Still, the heart of Uber’s defense against the discrimination allegations could not only define its identity as a firm, but set a new precedent for how it and other disruptive tech-based businesses are viewed in the eyes of the law.

Uber argues that as a technology company, it is not subject to laws regulating public transit and other transportation providers, such as the ADA, or “required to provide accessible vehicles or accommodations.”

Still, the U.S. Justice Department recently intervened in the blind plaintiffs’ case to urge that the discrimination accusations be taken seriously. It also requested that the court interpret whether the laws governing other transportation providers should apply to Uber as well.

A decision against Uber could be costly to it and other upstart tech firms that may find themselves classified as belonging to a more traditional industry.

In a Texas case, Uber has already indicated that the cost of making the necessary modifications would be “extraordinary.” The plaintiff in that lawsuit said a driver refused him service and that he could not order an accessible vehicle through the app.

“It would have to modify the Uber App, modify its policies and procedures, and provide wheelchair accessible vehicles in numerous cities,” according to an October court filing.

Indeed, Uber has recently added the ability to order a wheelchair-accessible vehicle using its app in certain major cities like New York and San Francisco. But it’s unclear if or when the option will be available elsewhere.

In the meantime, Eric Lipp, executive director of the Open Doors Organization, which advocates for accessible transportation for disabled passengers, offered this advice in The Daily Beast:

“I think that many in the community do not understand that Uber has nothing against access and the ADA,” says Lipp. “The big problem is that until the courts settle whether Uber is a software company or transportation company the disability community will just have to be patient and try to work with Uber, not against them.”

TIME Innovation

Watch: This Real-Life Hoverboard Is Almost Impossible to Believe

But it's real, according to the Guinness Book of World Records

Eat your heart out Marty McFly.

According to the Guinness World Record organization, this video shows the furthest recorded flight ever made on a overboard. (You know, in real life as opposed to in the movies.) This “astonishing world record,” according to Guinness, was set by Canadian inventor Catalina Alexandru Duru.

In the video above, Duru rises 16 feet in the air and then flies forward 905 feet and 2 inches. Under him, only air and a lake. To set the Guinness World Records title, Duru had to achieve a distance of more than 50 meters. The inventor travelled over five times that distance.

“I wanted to showcase that a stable flight can be achieved on a hoverboard and a human could stand and control with their feet,” he told Guinness.

TIME Microsoft

Here’s Why Microsoft Didn’t Buy Salesforce

The Davos World Economic Forum 2015
Simon Dawson—Bloomberg/Getty Images Marc Benioff, chairman and chief executive officer of Salesforce.com Inc., center, and Michael Dell, chairman and chief executive officer of Dell Inc., right, wave from inside an elevator following a Bloomberg Television interview on day two of the World Economic Forum (WEF) in Davos, Switzerland, on Jan. 22, 2015.

Negotiators couldn't close a $15 billion price gap

Microsoft had 15 billion reasons to back out of talks to acquire business software giant Salesforce.

Early this spring, Microsoft offered to pay $55 billion for the company, raising the potential of a blockbuster tech merger, but Salesforce countered with a demand for as much as $70 billion.

Sources familiar with the talks told CNBC News that the two sides failed to narrow the gap in their negotiations. Microsoft’s offer was met with a series of counteroffers from Salesforce CEO Marc Benioff.

Salesforce shares soared last month after Bloomberg News reported that an anonymous buyer had approached the company. Microsoft insiders have since told Reuters that the company has made no recent offers, implying that the negotiations have ended.

 

TIME innovations

Watch What It’s Like to Get Blasted to 100MPH in 1.2 Seconds

We'd almost definitely vomit

If you ever wondered what it’s like to get blasted off a launch pad going at 100 miles per hour, this SpaceX video does the trick.

The video, posted Friday, shows point-of-view footage of SpaceX’s May 6 pad abort test of its Crew Dragon vehicle. Essentially, the private space company, headed by Tesla CEO Elon Musk, was testing a system that could safely eject astronauts aboard a just-launched rocket should anything go wrong.

The Dragon vehicle reached 100mph in 1.2 seconds, before topping out at a peak velocity of 345mph.

“The successful Pad Abort Test was the first flight test of SpaceX’s revolutionary launch abort system, and the data captured here will be critical in preparing Crew Dragon for its first human missions in 2017,” SpaceX wrote following the successful test.

In March, SpaceX launched the world’s first completely electric satellites into space.

TIME Apple

Here’s Great News if You Have an Old iPhone

Apple Announces New iPhone At Developers Conference
Justin Sullivan—Getty Images The new iPhone 4 is displayed at the 2010 Apple World Wide Developers conference June 7, 2010 in San Francisco, California.

iPhone 4S owners, rejoice

The newest version of Apple’s mobile operating system is reportedly being optimized to run well on devices as old as the iPhone 4S and iPad Mini, company insiders told 9to5Mac.

Rather than saddle older, underpowered phones with increasingly powerful features, Apple has reportedly built a stripped-down “core” version of its new mobile operating system for older devices. Meanwhile, newer phones, like the iPhone 6 and 6 Plus, will get access to iOS 9’s more powerful, processor-intensive new features.

The move may surprise Apple users who have seen performance steadily decline on outdated devices, raising theories that Apple was deliberately pushing users to buy the latest model.

Apple is expected to unveil the latest version of iOS 9 at the Worldwide Developers Conference in June.

Read more at 9to5Mac.

TIME Apple

Why Apple’s New TV Service May Be Delayed

Tim Cook
Eric Risberg—AP Apple CEO Tim Cook speaks in San Francisco on March 9, 2015

Another setback in Apple's quest to deliver your TV shows.

Apple’s long quest to get a slice of the television business may have just gotten a bit longer.

According to a report in Re/code, Apple’s rumored TV service–which would bundle TV shows people would normally get through a cable provider–will not be unveiled this fall, “as it had told programmers it would like to do.”

The reason? Apple is hoping to differentiate itself from competitors like Dish’s Sling TV by offering local television content. This however, will be a time-consuming process, as most local television content is owned by local affiliates, rather than parent networks like CBS or ABC. According to Re/code:

Clearing the rights to show local programs and commercials takes some time — ABC, for instance, spent two years getting the rights to show live programming via its Watch ABC app, and its livestreams remain limited to viewers in eight cities. Also, some executives say that providing digital feeds of the programming from dozens of affiliates will also require the broadcasters to build new streaming infrastructure.

TIME Tech

This Swiss Company Just Totally Burned the Apple Watch

Apple Watch Consumer Reports
David Paul Morris—Bloomberg Customers look at Apple Watches on display at an Apple Store in Palo Alto, Calif., on April 10, 2015.

The company says its products are timeless

Swiss watchmaker Montblanc is the latest company to pick a fight with Apple over its newly created smartwatch. The luxury watchmaker really wants consumers to know that its new smart wristband, which attaches to Swiss watches, is timeless by comparison.

A new electronic watchband was developed by the company and comes with a pedometer, email capabilities and helps takes selfies, according to Bloomberg. Alexander Schmiedt, Montblanc’s managing director for watches, told Bloomberg in an interview that electronics makers, like Apple, don’t focus on making items that last. “Our products should have very long life cycles,” he said. “That is not to say the Apple Watch is not a great product. I predict it will do very well, but I don’t think that customers are going to be ecstatic to throw away watches in one to two years when the technology is obsolete.”

The Montblanc device costs $349 for a basic version and up to $17,000 for a high-end version, which are price points similar to the Apple Watch. “The pricing is reasonable,” said analyst Patrik Schwendimann of Zuercher Kantonalbank to Bloomberg. “If it turns out to be just a fad, at least the consumer still has a nice, normal watch they can continue to wear.”

Per the article, Montblanc’s product does the following:

When connected to a smartphone, Montblanc’s device can select songs and jump through playlists. It has an activity tracker that allows users to set targets for calories burned and steps taken. The e-Strap can also trigger the phone’s camera, facilitating easier ‘selfie’ shots and group photos.

The product is compatible with Samsung and Apple phones, among others.

TIME apps

Facebook Adds Caller ID to Messenger App

New feature helps screen messages from new contacts

Facebook is making it easier to figure out who’s trying to contact you.

The company announced a new Caller ID feature for its Messenger app that will give users more information when people try to contact them. The revamped interface will show a larger photo of the person sending the message, as well as pull context about their occupation, city of residence and who your mutual friends are. If the person contacting you isn’t your Facebook friend, only the information they share publicly will be viewable. The upgrade will be available for the iOS and Android versions of Messenger in the U.S., U.K., France and India in the next few weeks.

Facebook

Facebook released an app with similar functionality in April called Hello. The Android app serves as a replacement for the generic phone app and uses Facebook data to provide users information about incoming callers.

[Mashable]

TIME Google

The Real Reason Google Loves Big Phones

US-TECHONOLOGY-GOOGLE
JEWEL SAMAD—AFP/Getty Images Journalists take a look at Google's newest smartphone nexus 6 during a media preview in New York on October 29, 2014.

For the search giant, size definitely matters

The trend towards bigger smartphones isn’t just a boon to the fat-fingered and farsighted among us — Google loves it too.

In an interview with The Wall Street Journal, Google’s head of advertising Sridhar Ramaswamy said larger phones are helping Google hold the line on how much it charges for search ads. Google’s search ad business has been taking a hit as more and more web traffic has been migrating towards mobile. Mobile-based searches are more difficult to monetize because smaller screens make it harder to show effective ads or have customers complete purchases.

“As phones get bigger the space issue becomes less challenging,” Ramaswamy told the Journal. ” Referring to his Nexus 6 smartphone, he said, “This is essentially a tablet. People’s ability to navigate sites and fill out forms and such goes up tremendously.”

TIME innovations

This Bionic Lens Could Give Everybody Perfect Vision

173505156
Tim Flach—Getty Images

"When you get the Bionic Lens you can see the clock at 30 feet away"

A British Columbian optometrist has invented an artificial lens that he says not only corrects a patient’s sight, but offers a level of clarity three times greater than natural 20/20 vision.

Garth Webb, an optometrist in British Columbia, has spent eight years and more than $3 million in funding to develop the Ocumetics Bionic Lens, CBC News reports. The bionic lens, which was designed to replace the eye’s natural lens, is surgically implanted in the eye in an eight-minute procedure.

“If you can just barely see the clock at 10 feet, when you get the Bionic Lens you can see the clock at 30 feet away,” Webb told CBC News.

Webb said arrangements for clinical trials on animals and blind patients were already underway. He expects the product to become commercially available within two years.

 

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