Tag Archives: Uber

Uber will reportedly pay for commercial driver’s licenses to avoid German ban

Uber is no stranger to legal battles, but the tough-negotiating startup appears to be making a rare concession in Germany. The ride-sharing company will pay the government fees for its drivers in the country to obtain commercial driver’s licenses, according to a report in German business magazine Wirtschafts Woche.

Uber’s German chief, Fabien Nestmann, was quoted saying that the company will pay the €100 to €200 cost for a license. He added, “We will also pay the €150 to €200 it would cost our partners to have the Chamber of Commerce license them as taxi companies.”

The news comes just over a week after a Frankfurt district court banned the company’s low-cost Uberpop service across the country. The court ruled that, per German law, Uber’s drivers were required to obtain commercial licenses.

In Nestmann’s comments to Wirtschafts Woche, the executive explained that Uber would start a new low-cost service in Germany this summer, likely called Uber X, that would comply with the commercial license regulations.

UBER HAS FOUGHT HARD TO AVOID COSTLY COMMERCIAL LICENSES

Uber has long maintained that drivers for its low-cost programs like Uber X and Uberpop don’t require commercial licenses. These drivers typically use their own vehicles, unlike drivers in the standard Uber (or “Uber Black”) service, who are professionals connected with taxi firms and commission-approved vehicles.

Commercial licenses can be costly and difficult to obtain, and since Uber X drivers don’t work for licensed taxi operators on the side, in regions like Germany they can also be required to register themselves as a private taxi company.

Such companies have a whole host of complications, like expensive insurance obligations and complex regulations — that’s why Uber has always called itself a technology company, not a taxi operation.

In the past Uber has seen government efforts to mandate commercial licenses as a threat to its popular Uber X services. Earlier this year, both Uber and competitor Lyft vehemently opposed a California DMV ruling that mandated commercial plates.

The DMV’s decision was then quickly reversed. Meanwhile, just a few days ago, Uber’s offices in Paris were raided by police following a ruling that its Uberpop service was illegal because its drivers didn’t hold chauffeur licenses.

In Germany, Uber has vowed to appeal the commercial license ruling that resulted in the ban, but today’s report suggests the company is ready to swallow the license fees if it must in order to keep its low-cost service on the roads in Germany.

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Biking the streets of Paris during today’s wild Uber protest

Outside the ‘peripherique,’ a sense of calm — By Amar Toor

Every few days, I ride my bike from my apartment near the Louvre to Paris’ 6th arrondissement, just across the Seine River. It’s a short, ten-minute ride, and it’s usually the most enjoyable slice of my day — a chance for me to space out on SoundCloud and think Deep Thoughts.

But I also leave my place around 5 PM, which means that for some stretches, I have to weave in and out of the early rush hour bottleneck. It’s always worst along the three-lane road that runs along the right bank, just in front of a tree-lined sidewalk full of tourist-trap book stands.

But this afternoon was a little different. My lane was full of the buses and bicycle rickshaws I normally share it with, but I didn’t see a single taxi — no silver cars racing to overtake me or making abrupt stops to pick up passengers. And it was great.

I wasn’t all that surprised, because I knew that every taxi was on strike today to protest against Uber. Early this morning, Paris’ taxi unions launched what they call a “snail” operation, which basically involves a bunch of cars forming a blockade along major highways to halt all traffic. It’s the same stunt they pulled last January, during another anti-Uber strike, but this time things escalated quickly.

With all the images of burning tires and overturned cars that flooded Twitter this morning, you could be forgiven for thinking that Paris had suddenly turned into a war zone — or “Baghdad,” as Courtney Love so eloquently put it during a strange Twitter rant this morning.

But the truth is that aside from my unusually roomy bike ride, things inside the city were surprisingly normal. Tourists were still gawking with their selfie sticks, and cafes were still full of the usual Happy Hour smokers, staring out at nothing in particular.

THIS IS FRANCE — THERE’S ALWAYS SOMEONE ON STRIKE

That’s because all the Grand Theft Auto stuff on Twitter and TV was largely relegated to the outskirts — either along the peripherique highway that encircles Paris, or at its two major airports, both of which are a good 45 minutes outside of the city. Fatigue may also explain it. This is France, after all — there’s always someone on strike.

But this wasn’t just another strike. In the seven years I’ve lived here, I don’t remember ever seeing a protest turn as violent as quickly as this one did. And only in extreme, prolonged circumstances do strikes lead every major newscast.

Maybe that’s because the symbolism behind this strike was so impossible to ignore. Most work stoppages here are launched over relatively arcane disputes — pension plans, work hours, that sort of thing.

Rarely do they so brazenly confront France’s economic ideology. This was the big-swinging-dick of Silicon Valley disruption running head-first into the Kafkaesque monolith that is French bureaucracy.

It had all the makings of a cataclysmic collision, and it certainly produced fireworks. But nothing really changed. A group of workers with very legitimate gripes decided to take a stand against what they see as unfair business practices — UberPop drivers don’t have to pay the nearly $300,000 license fee that every other cab driver does — and they did it in aggressive, sometimes violent fashion.

Maybe it backfired, maybe it forced the state to take action. What really matters is that the issue will now be decided by The System, which is exactly how things always are in France.

HEAD FIRST INTO THE MONOLITH OF FRENCH BUREAUCRACY

As I was walking back from Luxembourg Gardens later this evening, I walked past a taxi stand in front of the Boulevard St. Germain. It was empty save for a single, silver cab that was parked with its driver-side door swung open.

The engine was off, and the driver was sitting with one leg perched on the curb, listening to the radio. I approached him and asked if the strike would run through tomorrow.

“I’m waiting for the news,” he replied gruffly, gesturing to his radio. He said he’d participated in today’s strike, but declined to elaborate further. He looked very tired.

“Right now it doesn’t seem like there will be a strike,” he said. “But I’m sure there will be more things to come.”

French Uber protests block Paris and Marseille transport

French taxi drivers have blocked the roads to Paris airports and the main ring road around the city in a protest against Uber, prompting riot police to fire tear gas at some.

The drivers set up blockades and burned tires as part of a nationwide strike.

Közvetlen hivatkozás a képhez

Barriers also appeared around Marseilles and Aix-en-Provence in southeast France.

Uber, a US taxi app, has been expanding its UberPOP ride-sharing service in France despite government objections.

Images from Marseille and Paris showed cars overturned and tires burning in the street.

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Riot police responded to protests in Paris after French taxi drivers overturned cars and set fire to tires in protest against taxi app Uber

Aeroports de Paris, the operator of the French capital’s Charles de Gaulle (CDG) and Orly airports, warned passengers to travel by train.

“Access by road is completely blocked,” the company said on its website. “The only way to get to CDG is (by train).”

With traffic at a standstill in places, some travellers walked along the side of the motorway to reach the airport.

paris uber protest

Musician Courtney Love Cobain appeared to have been caught up in the violence. She tweeted saying her taxi had been ambushed and protesters were “beating the cars with metal bats”. She also shared an image of the window of her taxi spattered with egg.

Taxi drivers also blocked access to Marseille and Aix train stations and protested on the main access to Marseilles-Provence airport.

Közvetlen hivatkozás a képhez

The drivers – who have to pay thousands of euros for a licence – say they are being unfairly undercut by Uber, which is not licensed by the authorities.

Prosecutors have cracked down on Uber, filing almost 500 legal cases involving complaints about UberPOP. About 100 attacks on Uber drivers and passengers have been reported in recent weeks.

“Many taxis drivers are infuriated,” Abdelkader Morghad, a representative of the FTI taxi union, told Bloomberg.

Közvetlen hivatkozás a képhez

“We’re demanding that the Thevenoud law, which clearly forbids unlicensed drivers, be implemented. There’s a lack of political will to do it.”

The law, which came into force in October, bans services that put passengers in touch with unregistered drivers. Uber has appealed against the rule, arguing that it gives licensed taxis an unfair advantage.

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The nationwide protests saw violence in Marseille as well as Paris

According to Mr Morghad, France’s licensed drivers have lost between 30% and 40% of their income over two years because of the growth of Uber.

The San Francisco-based firm says it has a million users in France, including 250,000 for its basic UberPOP service. Uber also operates a luxury service which is not banned.

paris uber protest
French riot police secure the Porte Maillot during a demonstration by French taxi drivers, who are on strike, to block the traffic on the Paris ring road during a national protest against car-sharing service Uber, in Paris, France, June 25, 2015.

Uber has faced similar teething problems in cities all over the world, with traditional taxi drivers protesting against being undercut by the unlicensed company.

But licensed taxi drivers have been criticised for being slow to adopt the app-based geolocation technology behind Uber’s success.

Uber drivers fined in Hungary

Budapest—The Hungarian tax authority fined Uber drivers in its first probe against the ride-sharing service which the economy ministry said Saturday “ignores passenger safety” and must be made to follow regulations.

The taxmen used Uber services randomly and said they found several irregularities: drivers did not have tax numbers, nor did they give receipts after the ride, and they did not possess taxi licenses.

The economy ministry statement said drivers could face up to 200.000 forints (650 euros, $717) in fines, but did not specify how many drivers were checked or fined.

The authorities vowed “to make the company operating Uber network — which drains the budget and ignores passenger safety — adhere to the rules,” the ministry statement said, adding that the probe will continue.

The popular but controversial taxi app for mobile phones puts customers in touch with private drivers at prices lower than those of traditional taxis, but it is facing legal challenges and limits on its activities in the European Union.

Uber said efforts by national governments to shut it down breached EU laws on competition and the single market.

Taxi firms say Uber should be regulated the same way as taxi services.

THE $10 BILLION CLUB: Meet the 9 most valuable startups in the world

Drew Houston
Drew Houston, co-founder and CEO of Dropbox

There used to be a time when a $1 billion valuation was considered a massive success for tech startups. Then it was $5 billion.

But in recent months, there have been so many huge rounds raised that these numbers almost seem routine.

So we’ve raised the bar yet again. Looking at recent media reports and the WSJ’s “The Billion-Dollar Startup Club” list, we’ve created a list of tech startups that are worth more than $10 billion — or will be very soon.

#9 Dropbox: $10 billion

#9 Dropbox: $10 billion

CEO: Drew Houston

Founded: 2007

What it does: Dropbox allows users to easily store and share files on the web. It has over 200 million users worldwide.

Total funding: $1.1 billion

Notable investors: Accel Partners, Benchmark Capital, Greylock Ventures

#8 Airbnb: $10 billion

#8 Airbnb: $10 billion

CEO: Brian Chesky

Founded: 2008

What it does: Airbnb offers a marketplace for people to rent out their homes to temporary residents. It’s currently available in 190 countries.

Total funding: $794.8 million

Notable investors: Andreessen Horowitz, Founders Fund, Sequoia Capital, Greylock Partners

#7 Pinterest: $11 billion (seeking)

#7 Pinterest: $11 billion (seeking)

Valuation: The company was valued at $5 billion in its last round in May 2014, but is reportedly seeking a new round at a valuation of $11 billion.

CEO: Ben Silbermann

Founded: 2008

What it does: Pinterest allows users to share/store stuff online by “pinning” images and content.

Total funding: $762.5 million

Notable investors: Andreessen Horowitz, Bessemer Venture Partners, Rakuten

#6 Flipkart: $11 billion

#6 Flipkart: $11 billion

CEO: Sachin Bansal

Founded: 2007

What it does: Flipkart is an e-commerce site specializing in electronics and content like books and music.

Total funding: $2.5 billion

Notable investors: Digital Sky Technologies, T Rowe Price, Morgan Stanley, Vulcan Capital, Tiger Global Management

#5 SpaceX: $12 billion

#5 SpaceX: $12 billion

SpaceX CEO Elon Musk speaks after unveiling the Dragon V2 spacecraft in Hawthorne, California May 29, 2014

Valuation: $12 billion

CEO: Elon Musk

Founded: 2002

What it does: Space Exploration Technologies, or SpaceX, designs, builds, and launches vehicles for space exploration.

Total funding: $1.2 billion

Notable investors: Founders Fund, Draper Fisher Jurvetson, Google

#4 Palantir: $15 billion

#4 Palantir: $15 billion

Valuation: $15 billion

CEO: Alexander Karp

Founded: 2004

What it does: Palantir is a software and services company that specializes in data analysis. Some of its biggest clients are government agencies like the CIA and FBI.

Total funding: $1 billion

Notable investors: Founders Fund, Tiger Global Management, Glynn Capital Management, Jeremy Stoppelman

#3 Snapchat: $16 to $19 billion (seeking)

#3 Snapchat: $16 to $19 billion (seeking)

Valuation: Snapchat was valued at $10 billion in its last round in December, but is reportedly seeking a new round at a valuation between $16 million and $19 million.

CEO: Evan Spiegel

Founded: 2012

What it does: Its photo messaging app allows users to send photos and videos that get deleted after a set period of time.

Total funding: $648 million

Notable investors: Yahoo, Kleiner Perkins, Benchmark Capital, Lightspeed Venture Partners, Coatue Management, SV Angel

#2 Uber: $41.2 billion

#2 Uber: $41.2 billion

Valuation: $41.2 billion

CEO: Travis Kalanik

Founded: 2009

What it does: Uber’s taxi-hailing app connects its users with drivers of private vehicles under Uber’s contact. It offers different types of cars, from full-size luxury cars to smaller vehicles.

Total funding: $5.9 billion

Notable investors: Benchmark Capital, Menlo Ventures, Google Ventures, KPCB

#1 Xiaomi: $46 billion

#1 Xiaomi: $46 billion

Valuation: $46 billion

CEO: Jun Lei

Founded: 2010

What it does: Xiaomi is one of the biggest Chinese electronics brands that makes smartphones. They’re considered among the best Android smartphones, and the company has hardcore loyalists a lot like Apple in the U.S.

Total funding: $1.4 billion

Notable investors: Digital Sky Technologies, HOPU Investment Management Company, DST Global, IDG Capital Partners, Qualcomm Ventures, Morningside Group

PETER THIEL: Uber Is ‘The Most Ethically Challenged Company In Silicon Valley’

peter thiel

In a rather truncated, but still insightful interview with Alexia Tsotsis at TechCrunch Disrupt 2014 this year, legendary Silicon Valley investor Peter Thiel spoke about many things he has become famous (or infamous) for, including anti-aging research, the HBO show “Silicon Valley” and his opinions on education.

When someone becomes such a cult of personality that TV shows start creating comedic, fictionalized versions of them–as HBO did with Thiel on “Silicon Valley” with its character “Peter Gregory”–you find yourself simply writing down their quotes as they speak.

Here are some of the more interesting things I caught while at the interview.

About HBO’s “Silicon Valley”: “It’s a Good Show.” Thiel said he is flattered by the character played by deceased actor Christopher Evan Welch, on the show. In one scene Thiel–excuse me, Gregory— gives a lecture on why young people shouldn’t go to college.

“I’m skeptical of a lot of what falls under the rubric of education…. People are on these tracks. They are getting these credentials and it’s very unclear how viable they are in many cases.

 It wouldn’t be a Peter Thiel interview if he didn’t express concerns about the American education system. This one was no different. Thiel said his “fundamental” view on this is that there is no “one size fits all” education for every person.

Ironically, when asked what he might have been had he not gone into investing, Thiel said he might have been a teacher.

“Anti-aging is an extremely under-explored field.” The discussion about “atoms and bits” mixed into a brief mention of the growing field of anti-aging. It was obvious through his brief comments that he thinks this area, which Google is already exploring, has tremendous potential.

Thiel agreed when Tsotsis asked if he thought someone alive today would live to be 2,000 years old, but when she asked if he thought he would live that long, he said he was “too superstitious” to say.

“I’m short on New York, long on Silicon Valley.” Thiel talked for a few minutes about the investment dynamics in both New York and San Francisco.

While he feels great about the Big Apple’s ongoing growth in tech, he feels the Bay Area is the true center of the tech world and will stay that way. Silicon Valley, to his mind, will be “the center of the U.S. Economy” through the next two decades.

Re: Silicon Valley: “We’re better than the rest of the country but we shouldn’t believe it too much.” Thiel admonished Valley entrepreneurs who get too cocky or smug about their success.

He said that only hard work and continuing innovation in the next 10-20 years can ensure the Valley keeps its position as the center of tech on Earth. He also mentioned that the next 10-20 years could be more about connecting “the world of atoms and bits” through biotech, self-driving cars and others.

Uber is “way more” evil than Google: In a discussion about the fierce competition between Uber and Lyft, Thiel, referenced the oft-criticized business practices of Uber.

He prefaced his comments by noting he is an investor in Lyft, and said Uber is “the most ethically challenged company in Silicon Valley.”

“Great investments may look crazy but really may not be.” That’s the lesson Thiel took from considering investment in Elon Musk’s SpaceX in 2008. He said some investors thought it might look like too crazy an idea to invest in, but in retrospect, wasn’t.

Thiel and his Founders Fund did make the investment. He cited the fact that the rockets worked well even then as well as a big NASA contract as indications that the company was headed on the right track.

Uber banned in Germany by Frankfurt court

Uber

Car pick-up service Uber has been banned across Germany.

A court in Frankfurt ruled that the firm lacked the necessary legal permits to operate under German law.

It has emerged that the firm was told last week that its “low-cost” UberPop service could no longer take passengers and faced a fine if it continued.

But an Uber spokesman said it had decided not to suspend the service, adding that the ban was not enforceable while an appeal process was ongoing.

“Germany is one of the fastest growing markets for Uber in Europe,” he said.

“We will continue to operate in Germany and will appeal the recent lawsuit filed by Taxi Deutschland in Frankfurt.

“You cannot put the brakes on progress. Uber will continue its operations and will offer UberPop ridesharing services via its app throughout Germany.”

A check of the firm’s software confirms that drivers continue to offer UberPop pick-ups in Munich, Berlin, Hamburg, Frankfurt and Dusseldorf.

UberPop
UberPop vehicles include the Volkswagen Golf, Audi A4 and BMW 3ER

UberPop was launched earlier this year and involves drivers – who are not directly employed by the company – over the age of 21 using their own cars to transport passengers.

Taxi Deutschland suggested that Uber could face up to a 250,000 euro ($327,840; £198,342) fine per trip if the American firm loses the case.

The body described its rival as a “form of locust share-economy” indulging in “anarchy capitalism” that could leave passengers exposed in the case of an accident.

“In Germany there’s insurance that applies to private drivers,” explained spokeswoman Anja Floetenmeyer.

“But if your insurer learns that you are driving for an app and you want to make money on that, they say this is a multiple risk and refuse to [pay] insurance on that.

“Uber doesn’t care because security costs money. We don’t believe it has the interests of [German] drivers and citizens at heart.”

But Uber’s spokesman in Germany, Fabien Nestmann, has previously blogged that safety is one of his firm’s key concerns, adding that “all the rides – and thus all travellers – are insured by Uber”.

European protests

The summary judgment follows a decision by London’s transport authorities not to pursue a case against Uber in June this year.

The San Francisco-based firm allows passengers to summon cars using an app on their smartphones and calculates the fare en route. It is often significantly cheaper than rival taxi companies.

Berlin protest
Taxi driver in Berlin held a protest against ride-sharing apps in June

But taxi drivers argue that Uber has fewer regulatory burdens placed upon it than they do, and poses unfair competition.

The company – which is backed by Google and the bank Goldman Sachs, among others – has been the subject of protests by taxi drivers in many European cities, including Berlin, Paris and London.

Only last week, Uber said it was planning to rapidly expand its German operation.
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