Weekly Roundup: October 2-6. Latest Rideshare News and Posts

This week, our has been focused on delivering valuable information about safety for rideshare drivers and riders. Safety is something that should be considered on both sides of the rideshare relationship and at every stage of the driving process.

Whether you’re trying to decide how to get a safe and qualified car for driving, making sure you have a holistic understanding of the app, or you’re just wanting to know the legality of rideshare around the world, we’ve got the answers you’re looking for.

Rideshare News

Does rideshare Reduce Drunk Driving?

A study conducted by Christopher Morrison, a postdoctoral fellow at the University of Pennsylvania’s Injury Science Center, is inconclusive.  The study focused on just four cities, Reno, Las Vegas, Portland and San Antonio.  Those cities were selected because they were cities where Uber had operated for a time, was kicked out and then reinstated.

CBS News reports that Morrison was unable to find any meaningful correlation between the presence of rideshare services and the number of accidents involving alcohol or drugs.  Morrison speculates that it is because there are many other factors, including how the people of each city use transportation differently, that were not taken into account for the study.

It seems Mothers Against Drunk Driving (MADD) and common sense have the best answer.  While there may not be a study that correlates a reduction in drunk driving accidents with the availability of rideshare services, their presence surely can’t hurt.  Amy George, a senior vice president of MADD says rideshare services make it “easier than ever to make the safe choice to not drink and drive.”  And anything that makes it easier, is a good thing.

Related: Everything you need to know about Uber background checks

Uber App Caught Recording iPhone Screens

Once again Uber is caught doing something shady but as always they had an explanation.  They were caught using a secret backdoor into Apple’s iOS that gave them the ability to record everything that could be seen on the screen.

Apple expert and jailbreak author Luca Todesco told ZDNet that it was an “extremely dangerous use case.”  He said, “it’s the equivalent of giving keylogging ability to apps.”  Keylogging is the ability of an app to record every keystroke, tap and mouse click, made by a computer user.  Keylogging apps are generally used as spy software or to gain access to one’s usernames and passwords.  This ability would give Uber unprecedented access to every iPhone Uber user’s personal computer usage and data.

Will Strafach, a security researcher who discovered this week that Uber had been granted this private app permission by Apple, says that to his knowledge, Uber is the only third-party app that Apple had given this access to.  So, it’s a mystery as to why Apple gave Uber access and it’s a mystery what Uber did with it.

Uber claims they had a legitimate purpose.  They say early Apple watches were not able to render a GPS map, so they used this screen recording capability to fetch the map on the user’s iPhone and then draw the map onto the user’s watch.

No one has reported any evidence that Uber did anything underhanded with its unprecedented access to iPhone users’ screens.  Obviously the potential was there, but so far there is no allegation that it was used.

Just What Does Uber Know About Its Drivers?

The above story brings up the question of what exactly Uber knows about its drivers.  Drivers have long speculated that Uber might access their camera or microphone through the app and listen in or watch them when they have passengers in the car.  As far-fetched as that seems, perhaps it’s becoming a little less far-fetched as we discover that they had access to the screens of every Apple user who used their app.

Ridester has obtained evidence from a New York driver this week that Uber accesses and tracks the built-in gyroscope.  This is something that was already known because Uber sends drivers “acceleration”, “braking” and “speed” reports through the app.  However, this driver sent in a screenshot of a message he received on the driver app telling him his phone was not in a holder.  It then urged him to put the phone in a holder for the safety of his riders.  He was walking to his car with the phone in his hand.

What may be just as scary as what Uber actually accesses, is how they interpret the information they receive.  They assumed he was driving dangerously with his phone out of a holder and apparently didn’t consider the possibility that he wasn’t in his car at all.  A wrong interpretation of data can be just as dangerous as accessing private data.

Lyft Makes it Easier for Drivers to Talk to Support

Lyft has added live driver phone support, in an attempt to keep up with Uber’s 180 Days of Change.  Uber added the same feature a few weeks ago.  They have also added a “Call Me” button and promise that drivers will be called back within two minutes.

The question now is, how good will their support be?  Uber drivers are complaining that Uber’s new phone support isn’t helpful because the call centers are located in foreign countries and the support people have a good deal of trouble understanding drivers’ questions.

“I’m gonna get your stuff destroyed this afternoon btw.”

Those words were zapped from Otto’s head of HR to Anthony Lewandowski, the man at the center of Google’s lawsuit against Uber for allegedly stealing its intellectual property (IP) on autonomous vehicles.

Otto is the name of the company Lewandowski founded in May, 2016 for the purpose of building the first self-driving truck.  It is also the company at the center of the Waymo v. Uber lawsuit.

Uber purchased Otto form Lewandowsky for nearly $700 million – in July, 2016 – just two months after Otto was founded.

Otto’s founder, Anthony Lewandowsky, had previously been the co-founder and technical lead on Google’s self-driving car project, (now called Waymo).  And take note of this: he wasn’t just some guy who worked for Google’s autonomous car division, he was the co-founder and tech lead of it!  As such, he had access to all the key documents and designs for the program.  And he had saved tens of thousands of those documents on various computers, phones and hard drives.

He and Travis Kalanick, co-founder and then CEO of Uber, met clandestinely in-person several times over a period of weeks prior to Uber’s purchase of Lewandowsky’s company.  Each meeting is described as lasting many hours.

To a casual observer, it would appear obvious that Kalanick well-knew what knowledge and information Lewandowski could bring to his new position as head of Uber’s autonomous car division.  It seems clear that that’s why Kalanick was willing to spend the better part of a billion dollars to purchase Lewandowski’s two-month-old startup.  (By the way, if you’ve wondered how Uber could be losing so much money, this is a big part of it).

But, the courts are anything but casual observers, so Waymo’s lawsuit against Uber will drag on.  Waymo claims Uber knew about the IP Lewandowski was in possession of and that they had plans to use it in the building of their autonomous cars.  Uber says, no way they knew anything about it at all.  And that is the essence of this lawsuit.

The latest on this lawsuit is that Google has acquired an overwhelming amount of new information in recent discovery.  Namely, they have obtained the “due diligence” report that Uber conducted on Lewandowski and Otto, before acquiring Otto and naming Lewandowski the head of Uber’s autonomous car project.  That report contains damning information and shows that Uber had to know beforehand exactly what they were getting.

The crux of this case is not whether Lewandowski took IP files from Google.  He did.  The issue is whether Uber was aware of it.  The due-diligence report shows pretty strong evidence that they did.  That is why Google has asked the court for an extension of time so they can go through all the new documents before proceeding on to the next step in the case.

New Posts and Content

Check out this week’s content to discover how you can make rideshare the safest and smartest choice every time you drive.

1. Should You Buy, Rent, Or Lease An Uber Car?

Before you can get started driving, you obviously need a car. Deciding how to get that car can be trickier — should you buy, rent, or lease? Taking into consideration cost, reliability, and insurance options, here’s a guide to decide how you should secure your first Uber car…. Read more…

2. rideshare Safety Examined as British Columbia Looks at Legalization

Can rideshare improve public safety? In British Columbia this question has come front and center. Officials there have expressed concerns over the promotion of rideshare apps at the expense of the taxi industry. At its heart, British Columbia has to decide how to balance the needs of the taxi industry, the needs of the consumers, and how rideshare safety fits into the conversation…. Read more…

3. How Uber Car Insurance Works In An Accident

No one plans to get into an accident, but you should still know what to do just in case. Getting into an accident while driving for a rideshare company can be complicated. However, Ridester has broken down the facts step by step. From when rideshare insurances applies, to when you may have to cover out-of-pocket, you can Read more…

4. The State of the rideshare Industry

rideshare industry future

There’s no doubt that Uber has long been the catalyst for the rideshare industry. From its initial conception, Uber has reshaped the transportation marketplace. While Uber’s CEO stepped down amid wild headlines and unfavorable press, investing giants aren’t shying away from the company. It’s difficult to predict what the future holds for Uber and others. However, here’s the current state of the rideshare industry…. Read more…

5. Every Feature of the Uber Driver App Explained

If you’re only using your Uber driver app to accept and cancel rides, you’re not using it to its full potential. While all the extra and useful features of the app may not have been thoroughly explained during driver onboarding, Ridester can explain what you’ve been missing… Read more…


What have you learned about rideshare safety this week? Let us know in the comments below.