Weekly Brief: Uber’s problems could spark ride-hailing customer grab

Plagued by scandals and a leadership vacuum, Uber has opened the door for other carmakers and tech companies. Andrew Tolve reports.

Travis Kalanick, the hard-charging founder and CEO of Uber, resigned last week, capping off a remarkable six months of turmoil that has left the largest ride-hailing company on the planet reeling for new direction. More than anyone else, Kalanick showed the world how connected cars could usher in an entirely new type of mobility, with rides always at the ready at the tap of a smartphone. The fact that so many carmakers have launched ride-sharing platforms of their own and are pursuing autonomous vehicles in Uber's wake has much to do with Kalanick's legacy and vision.

Yet Kalanick was also a controversial figure and the dog-eat-dog start-up culture, ultimately, swung back around and bit him. He was confronted at a Chicago hotel by surprise last week by two of Uber’s chief venture capitalists who insisted, along with four of Uber’s other largest investors, that he step down by the end of the day. In addition to replacing its CEO, Uber is now tasked with finding a new chief operating officer, chief financial officer, chief marketing officer and chief diversity officer, all while continuing to grow its business, retain its employees and fend off competitors like Lyft, which have been quick to seize upon Uber’s recent scandals and setbacks. Kalanick will remain on Uber's board and its largest shareholder.

In other news, the US government may finally be on the precipice of publishing regulations for self-driving cars. A bipartisan group of US senators published a framework last week for what the legislation should look like, and House Republicans followed suit with a draft legislation that would pre-empt existing local and state regulations. The proposal would ensure that automakers and tech companies are reporting to federal regulators first and foremost. It also would allow up to 100,000 self-driving cars without steering wheels and brake pedals on public roads, up from the current 2,500 that are exempt from NHTSA requirements, in an attempt to encourage more testing of autonomous technology in the US. Legislation is expected to reach the House floor before the end of year and perhaps as early as this summer.

Renault launched a business accelerator called CityMakers for start-ups who are experimenting with solutions on the cutting edge of urban mobility. The 10-month open innovation programme will select seven start-ups in its initial cohort and encourage them to work on a host of transportation related challenges, from deploying electric vehicle infrastructure to harnessing the data of unused cars to synchronising multiple forms of transportation. Renault is partnering with the City of Paris, Nissan and start-up accelerator NUMA on the project.

Continental created a new Smart City Solutions unit whose aim is deliver innovative mobility solutions to make cities safer, more environmentally responsible and more productive. Continental already has work underway in this sector; for example, a smart intersections solution in Columbus, Ohio, that combines advanced sensing with vehicle-to-vehicle and infrastructure-to-vehicle communication technology. It's also working on a smart parking application in Singapore. All of this will roll into the new unit as Continental ramps up its activity across the sector.

INRIX partnered with Live Earth to turn dense transportation data into real time visual maps that organisations can use to understand a situation quickly and act fast. Live Earth synchronises multiple data streams in its Situational Awareness Platform and provides instant replay to allow play, pause and rewind of various data layers on a map. With the swipe of their finger, INRIX customers will now be able animate traffic congestion over multiple hours at multiple different playback speeds. They'll be able to visualise weather data, parking availability and public transit.

People feel safer with the idea of space travel, supersonic travel and flying cars than they do with autonomous vehicles, according to the annual Allianz Travel Insurance Vacation Confidence Index. The study found that only 22% of Americans are very interested (and 32% "somewhat" interested) in self-driving cars being developed by the major automakers and Silicon Valley companies like Google, Uber and Tesla, with 65% of those not interested citing worries over "safety concerns." Such attitudes reveal how much work companies like Uber and Waymo will have to do before sceptical travellers hop in a car with no one behind the wheel.

Finally, Caruma Technologies partnered with Accuscore to create what they are hailing as "the most accurate driver scoring system in the telematics arena" — the Intelligent Connected-Vehicle Platform. Caruma monitors a driver's actions behind the wheel with a windshield-mounted device that monitors the driver for drowsy or distracted driving and the road for near misses, tailgating, lane departure and other factors that directly impact safety. Accuscore will take this data and score it on a per-second measurement, rather than waiting for a triggering event like a driver slamming on the brakes, as is industry standard.

The Weekly Brief is a round-up of the week’s top telematics news, combining TU-Automotive analysis with information from industry sources.

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