Tag Archives: Uber

Uber heads to court in fight for London survival
December 11, 2017 12:36 am|Comments (0)

LONDON (Reuters) – Uber [UBER.UL] will defend its right to operate in London in a court hearing on Monday after the app was deemed unfit to run a taxi service and stripped of its license in its most important European market.

FILE PHOTO: A photo illustration shows the Uber app on a mobile telephone, as it is held up for a posed photograph, in London, Britain November 10, 2017. REUTERS/Simon Dawson/File Photo

Regulator Transport for London (TfL) shocked the Silicon Valley firm by rejecting its license renewal bid in September, citing its approach to reporting serious criminal offences and background checks on drivers.

Uber’s 40,000 drivers, representing around one in three of all private hire vehicles on the British capital’s roads, can continue to take passengers until the appeals process is exhausted, which could take years.

The legal battle pitches one of the world’s richest cities against a tech giant known for its forays into new markets around the world that have prompted bans, restrictions and protests, including by drivers of London’s famous black cabs.

Uber’s lawyers will begin their appeal at Westminster Magistrates’ Court on Monday, in what is expected to be a largely administrative hearing designed to set a date for a fuller hearing next year.

Chief Executive Dara Khosrowshahi has apologized to Londoners and met TfL Commissioner Mike Brown in October for what both sides described as constructive talks.

Brown told Reuters in November that “there are some discussions going on to make sure they are compliant.”

Months of legal wrangling are likely unless the Silicon Valley app, valued at around $ 70 billion with investors including Goldman Sachs (GS.N), can come to a new arrangement with the regulator.

“We continue having constructive discussions with Transport for London in order to resolve this,” an Uber spokesman said ahead of the hearing. “As our new CEO Dara Khosrowshahi has said, we are determined to make things right.”

Losing its London license was just one of many blows to Uber this year as a stream of executives left amid controversies involving allegations of sexual harassment and issues surrounding data privacy and business practices.

In Britain, Uber is looking to appoint a new boss after Jo Bertram announced her departure less than two weeks after London’s decision.

It also faces potential problems in the northern English city of Sheffield where its license has been suspended and in Brighton, southern England, where local officials extended the firm’s license for only six months to give them more time to consider the outcome of the dispute in London.

Reporting by Costas Pitas; Editing by Keith Weir

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Exclusive: Uber paid 20-year-old Florida man to keep data breach secret – sources
December 7, 2017 12:29 am|Comments (0)

SAN FRANCISCO/WASHINGTON (Reuters) – A 20-year-old Florida man was responsible for the large data breach at Uber Technologies Inc last year and was paid by Uber to destroy the data through a so-called “bug bounty” program normally used to identify small code vulnerabilities, three people familiar with the events have told Reuters.

FILE PHOTO – The logo of Uber is seen on an iPad, during a news conference to announce Uber resumes ride-hailing service, in Taipei, Taiwan April 13, 2017. REUTERS/Tyrone Siu

Uber announced on Nov. 21 that the personal data of 57 million passengers and 600,000 drivers were stolen in a breach that occurred in October 2016, and that it paid the hacker $ 100,000 to destroy the information. But the company did not reveal any information about the hacker or how it paid him the money.

Uber made the payment last year through a program designed to reward security researchers who report flaws in a company’s software, these people said. Uber’s bug bounty service – as such a program is known in the industry – is hosted by a company called HackerOne, which offers its platform to a number of tech companies.

Reuters was unable to establish the identity of the hacker or another person who sources said helped him. Uber spokesman Matt Kallman declined to comment on the matter.

Newly appointed Uber Chief Executive Dara Khosrowshahi fired two of Uber’s top security officials when he announced the breach last month, saying the incident should have been disclosed to regulators at the time it was discovered, about a year before.

It remains unclear who made the final decision to authorize the payment to the hacker and to keep the breach secret, though the sources said then-CEO Travis Kalanick was aware of the breach and bug bounty payment in November of last year.

Kalanick, who stepped down as Uber CEO in June, declined to comment on the matter, according to his spokesman.

A payment of $ 100,000 through a bug bounty program would be extremely unusual, with one former HackerOne executive saying it would represent an “all-time record.” Security professionals said rewarding a hacker who had stolen data also would be well outside the normal rules of a bounty program, where payments are typically in the $ 5,000 to $ 10,000 range.

HackerOne hosts Uber’s bug bounty program but does not manage it, and plays no role in deciding whether payouts are appropriate or how large they should be.

HackerOne CEO Marten Mickos said he could not discuss an individual customer’s programs. “In all cases when a bug bounty award is processed through HackerOne, we receive identifying information of the recipient in the form of an IRS W-9 or W-8BEN form before payment of the award can be made,” he said, referring to U.S. Internal Revenue Service forms.

According to two of the sources, Uber made the payment to confirm the hacker’s identity and have him sign a nondisclosure agreement to deter further wrongdoing. Uber also conducted a forensic analysis of the hacker’s machine to make sure the data had been purged, the sources said.

One source described the hacker as “living with his mom in a small home trying to help pay the bills,” adding that members of Uber’s security team did not want to pursue prosecution of an individual who did not appear to pose a further threat.

The Florida hacker paid a second person for services that involved accessing GitHub, a site widely used by programmers to store their code, to obtain credentials for access to Uber data stored elsewhere, one of the sources said.

GitHub said the attack did not involve a failure of its security systems. “Our recommendation is to never store access tokens, passwords, or other authentication or encryption keys in the code,” that company said in a statement.

‘SHOUT IT FROM THE ROOFTOPS’

Uber received an email last year from an anonymous person demanding money in exchange for user data, and the message was forwarded to the company’s bug bounty team in what was described as Uber’s routine practice for such solicitations, according to three sources familiar with the matter.

Bug bounty programs are designed mainly to give security researchers an incentive to report weaknesses they uncover in a company’s software. But complicated scenarios can emerge when dealing with hackers who obtain information illegally or seek a ransom.

Some companies choose not to report more aggressive intrusions to authorities on the grounds that it can be easier and more effective to negotiate directly with hackers in order to limit any harm to customers.

Uber’s $ 100,000 payout and silence on the matter at the time was extraordinary under such a program, according to Luta Security founder Katie Moussouris, a former HackerOne executive.

“If it had been a legitimate bug bounty, it would have been ideal for everyone involved to shout it from the rooftops,” Moussouris said.

Uber’s failure to report the breach to regulators, even though it may have felt it had dealt with the problem, was an error, according to people inside and outside the company who spoke to Reuters.

“The creation of a bug bounty program doesn’t allow Uber, their bounty service provider, or any other company the ability to decide that breach notification laws don’t apply to them,” Moussouris said.

Uber fired its chief security officer, Joe Sullivan, and a deputy, attorney Craig Clark, over their roles in the incident.

“None of this should have happened, and I will not make excuses for it,” Khosrowshahi, said in a blog post announcing the hack last month.

Clark worked directly for Sullivan but also reported to Uber’s legal and privacy team, according to three people familiar with the arrangement. It is unclear whether Clark informed Uber’s legal department, which typically handled disclosure issues.

Sullivan and Clark did not respond to requests for comment.

In an August interview with Reuters, Sullivan, a former prosecutor and Facebook Inc (FB.O) security chief, said he integrated security engineers and developers at Uber “with our lawyers and our public policy team who know what regulators care about.”

Last week, three more top managers in Uber’s security unit resigned. One of them, physical security chief Jeff Jones, later told others he would have left anyway, sources told Reuters. Another of the three, senior security engineer Prithvi Rai, later agreed to stay in a new role.

Reporting by Joseph Menn in San Francisco and Dustin Volz in Washington; Additional reporting by Heather Somerville and Stephen Nellis in San Francisco; Editing by Jonathan Weber and Bill Rigby

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Uber, Yandex ride services can merge in Russia, regulator FAS rules
November 24, 2017 12:07 pm|Comments (0)

MOSCOW (Reuters) – Uber [UBER.UL] and Yandex’s ride-sharing businesses can merge in Russia, anti-monopoly regulator FAS ruled on Friday, but stipulated that the combined company not bar drivers from working for competitors.

FILE PHOTO: A taxi with the logo of Russian online taxi service Yandex Taxi drives past a terminal of the Domodedovo Airport outside Moscow, Russia, November 2, 2017. REUTERS/Maxim Shemetov

Uber and Yandex, often referred to as the “Google of Russia”, announced plans in July to combine operations in 127 cities in Russia, Armenia, Azerbaijan, Belarus, Georgia and Kazakhstan.

San Francisco-based Uber has agreed to invest $ 225 million while Yandex will contribute $ 100 million into a new joint company in which Yandex will own 59.3 percent.

The two companies must allow their partners, drivers and passengers to work for or use competitors’ services and fully inform users of the legal entity providing the service, the FAS said in a statement.

Yandex said consumers would be able to use both Yandex.Taxi and Uber apps, while their driver apps will be integrated, leading to shorter passenger wait times, increased driver utilization rates, and higher service reliability.

The companies aim to close the deal in January 2018, after the New Year holidays in Russia, Yandex said in a statement.

Moscow-listed Yandex was up 3.47 percent as of 1123 GMT.

It said the anti-monopoly regulator in Belarus had also approved the deal while a decision by the Kazakh regulator was pending.

Reporting by Maria Kiselyova; editing by Jason Neely

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Uber CEO says company failed to disclose massive breach in 2016
November 22, 2017 12:03 am|Comments (0)

(Reuters) – Uber Technologies Inc [UBER.UL] failed to disclose a massive breach last year that exposed the data of some 57 million users of the ride-sharing service, the company’s new chief executive officer said on Tuesday.

FILE PHOTO: Uber CEO Travis Kalanick speaks to students during an interaction at the Indian Institute of Technology (IIT) campus in Mumbai, India, January 19, 2016. REUTERS/Danish Siddiqui

Discovery of the company’s handling of the incident led to the departure of two employees who led Uber’s response to the incident, said Dara Khosrowshahi, who was named CEO in August following the departure of founder Travis Kalanick.

Khosrowshahi said he had only recently learned of the matter himself.

The company’s admission that it failed to disclose the breach comes as Uber is seeking to recover from a series of crises that culminated in the Kalanick’s ouster in June.

FILE PHOTO: The logo of Uber is seen on an iPad, during a news conference to announce Uber resumes ride-hailing service, in Taipei, Taiwan April 13, 2017. REUTERS/Tyrone Siu/File Photo –

According to the company’s account, two individuals downloaded data from a third-party cloud server used by Uber, which contained names, email addresses and mobile phone numbers of some 57 million Uber users around the world. They also downloaded names and driver’s license numbers of some 600,000 of the company’s U.S. drivers, Khosrowshahi said in a blog post.

He said he had hired Matt Olsen, former general counsel of the U.S. National Security Agency, to help him figure out how to best guide and structure the company’s security teams and processes.

The chief executive of Uber Technologies Inc, Dara Khosrowshahi attends a meeting with Brazilian Finance Minister Henrique Meirelles (not pictured) in Brasilia, Brazil October 31, 2017. REUTERS/Adriano Machado

“None of this should have happened, and I will not make excuses for it,” Khosrowshahi said in the blog post.

“While I can’t erase the past, I can commit on behalf of every Uber employee that we will learn from our mistakes,” he said. “We are changing the way we do business, putting integrity at the core of every decision we make and working hard to earn the trust of our customers.”

(Corrects paragraph 1 to data instead of date)

Reporting by Jim Finkle in Toronto; Editing by Tom Brown

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Uber fights proposed rule in Mexico's Cancun barring cash fares
November 20, 2017 6:02 pm|Comments (0)

MEXICO CITY (Reuters) – Uber Technologies Inc, which has been facing a wave of regulations in Latin America, is fighting proposed rules in Cancun that the ride-hailing service says could drive it out of the top Mexican beach resort.

The logo of Uber is seen on an iPad, during a news conference to announce Uber resumes ride-hailing service, in Taipei, Taiwan April 13, 2017. REUTERS/Tyrone Siu

Legislators in Quintana Roo, the southeastern state that includes Cancun, are considering a proposal that would bar drivers from accepting cash and set minimum value and age criteria for the cars used for trips.

Accepting cash from users is often seen as making drivers robbery targets.

Federico Ranero, general manager for Uber in Mexico, said the law would have grave implications for the company’s operations in the tourist destination, where 40 percent of trips are paid for in cash.

“This regulation, if it is passed as it is, would so limit the service and so drastically affect the experience of our users and driver-partners that Uber would feel obligated to suspend its operations in the state of Quintana Roo,” Ranero said in an interview.

Fernando Zelaya, president of the state legislature’s transportation commission and one of the lawmakers who presented the initiative, could not be reached for comment. But his staff said legislators could discuss it as soon as this week.

Last month, lawmakers in the central Mexican state of Puebla approved new rules aimed at stricter vetting and monitoring of ride-share drivers working for companies like Uber and Cabify after the recent murders of two female college students.

Senators in Brazil scrapped parts of a bill last month that would have treated ride-hailing companies like traditional taxi services after a lobbying effort by Uber that included a trip there by new Chief Executive Officer Dara Khosrowshahi.

By specifying the value and age of drivers’ cars, the regulation in Quintana Roo is among the more onerous in Mexico, said Carlos Martinez, who heads the Center for Citizens and Consumers, a group that has studied the proposals.

“You have here a clear barrier to entry in the market,” he said.

Ranero warned that tourism in Cancun, a relatively small but growing market for Uber, could take a hit if the company leaves.

“The tourists trust Uber,” he said.

Cash payments have proved to be a thorny issue for Uber as it pursues growth in emerging markets where many consumers do not have credit cards. After a wave of attacks on drivers in Brazil, Uber began using social security numbers to verify the identity of riders who pay with cash.

After testing various methods in Mexico, Uber has been authenticating such riders through their Facebook profiles, Ranero said.

Reporting by Julia Love; Editing by David Alire Garcia and Lisa Von Ahn

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Uber board strikes agreement to pave way for SoftBank investment
November 13, 2017 12:00 am|Comments (0)

SAN FRANCISCO/NEW YORK (Reuters) – Uber Technologies Inc’s [UBER.UL] warring board members have struck a peace deal that would allow a multibillion-dollar investment by SoftBank Group Corp to proceed, and would resolve a legal battle between former Chief Executive Travis Kalanick and a prominent shareholder.

A photo illustration shows the Uber app on a mobile telephone, as it is held up for a posed photograph, in London, Britain November 10, 2017. REUTERS/Simon Dawson

Venture capital firm Benchmark, an early investor with a board seat in the ride-services company, and Kalanick have reached an agreement over terms of the SoftBank investment, which could be worth up to $ 10 billion, according to two people familiar with the matter. The Uber board first agreed more than a month ago to bring in SoftBank as an investor and board member, but negotiations have been slowed by ongoing fighting between Benchmark and Kalanick. The agreement struck on Sunday removes the final obstacle to launching the tender offer.

SoftBank, a Japanese conglomerate that has become a heavyweight in Silicon Valley tech investing, is leading a consortium of investors that plans to invest $ 1 billion to $ 1.25 billion in Uber, and in addition, will buy up to 17 percent of existing shares from investors and employees in a secondary transaction. The terms are expected to be signed on Sunday, one of the people said, although the tender offer would likely take weeks to complete.

Uber is valued at $ 68 billion, the most highly valued venture-backed company in the world. SoftBank’s roughly $ 1 billion investment of fresh funding is expected to be at the same valuation. The secondary transaction, or the purchases from employees and existing investors, would be at a lower valuation.

A spokeswoman for Benchmark did not immediately respond to a request for comment, and a spokesman for Kalanick declined to comment. Uber did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

Completing the SoftBank deal would allow Uber to open a new chapter after a year of controversy, including the resignation of Kalanick, the ouster of several top executives, sexual harassment and discrimination allegations, and multiple federal criminal probes. The deal is also tied to new governance rules that aim to more equally distribute power and bring more oversight to the company.

“Uber had a remarkable first six or seven years, a bumpy past two years, and now the Softbank deal allows for a full reset,” said Bradley Tusk, an Uber investor and political strategist who works with tech companies.

The logo of SoftBank Group Corp is displayed at SoftBank World 2017 conference in Tokyo, Japan, July 20, 2017. REUTERS/Issei Kato

It would also be a major victory for Uber’s new CEO Dara Khosrowshahi, who often served as a mediator to help broker the agreement, according to a third person familiar with the matter.

To allow the deal to go forward, Benchmark has agreed to immediately suspend its lawsuit against Kalanick, which it filed in August in an effort to diminish the ex-CEO’s power at the company and force him off the board, one of the sources said.

Upon the successful completion of the SoftBank investment, Benchmark would drop the lawsuit entirely, the person said.

In turn, Kalanick must receive majority board approval should he want to replace the board seats over which he has control, according to the source. In addition to his own seat, Kalanick controls two more, which are occupied by Ursula Brown, the former Xerox Corp CEO, and former Merrill Lynch & CO Inc [BACML.UL] CEO John Thain. Kalanick appointed them in September without first consulting with the board.

“Ending the litigation is a big step forward if it finally ends the specter of Kalanick retaking control,” said Erik Gordon, an entrepreneurship expert at the University of Michigan’s Ross School of Business.

Uber’s board already approved a slate of governance reforms that are contingent on completion of the SoftBank deal. They include removing super-voting rights that gave Kalanick and his allies outsized power, adding new independent directors and increasing the size of the board to 17.

Uber plans to run newspaper ads informing investors about the share purchase, and SoftBank will propose a price at which it will buy stock. The company has threatened to invest in ride-hailing rival Lyft if it doesn’t get the Uber deal done.

The deal gives early investors such as Benchmark, whose Uber stake is worth nearly $ 9 billion, the opportunity to cash out a very lucrative investment.

Reporting by Heather Somerville in San Francisco and Greg Roumeliotis in New York. Additional reporting by Liana Baker in San Francisco.; Editing by Diane Craft

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Uber opens up Paris travel database to help city planners
October 20, 2017 12:00 pm|Comments (0)

BRUSSELS (Reuters) – Uber [UBER.UL] said on Friday it would open up its trove of travel data in Paris to the public to help city officials and urban planners better understand transportation needs, as the company seeks to woo national authorities.

FILE PHOTO: The Uber logo is seen on mobile telephone in London, Britain, September 25, 2017. REUTERS/Hannah McKay

The U.S. ride-hailing app collects huge amounts of data from the billions of trips taken by customers which it uses to improve its services and has recently started to make it available for a number of cities including Washington D.C., Sydney and Boston.

“We get asked all the time ‘Is there any way you can share more data? We’d love to see where people are traveling in our city’,” Adam Gromis, who is responsible for environmental sustainability at Uber, told Reuters.

The service, called Uber Movement, shows how long it takes to make a journey between two points in a city at different times of the day.

Uber is making the data available via a free website which can be accessed by anyone with an Uber account, but it is aimed particularly at city planners. (movement.uber.com)

To respect users’ privacy, Uber Movement uses only aggregated anonymised data.

Uber, which launched in Paris in 2011, has had a rocky relationship with regulators across Europe who have accused it of flouting their traditional licensing rules.

Protests by taxi drivers against the smartphone app turned violent in 2015 when Paris cabbies overturned cars and burned tyres.

Uber has suffered a tumultuous few months that led to former CEO and co-founder Travis Kalanick being forced out after a series of boardroom controversies and regulatory battles in a number of U.S. states and around the world.

Uber’s new CEO Dara Khosrowshahi has struck a less confrontational approach than his predecessor – particularly in London where Uber is challenging a decision by the transport regulator to strip it of its operating license in the city.

“As a technology company we can play a role in helping cities make data-driven decisions for the benefit of the environment and its citizens,” Alexandre Droulers, Uber’s general manager for new mobility in western Europe, said.

Transport planning usually relies on expensive household travel surveys which are conducted on average every 10 years in the Paris region, making Uber’s data a lot more up to date.

Reporting by Julia Fioretti; Editing by Adrian Croft

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Uber board votes in favor of SoftBank deal, governance changes
October 4, 2017 12:00 am|Comments (0)

SAN FRANCISCO (Reuters) – Uber Technologies Inc directors on Tuesday voted to allow Japan’s SoftBank Group to invest in the ride services company and approved a series of governance changes that increases the independence of the board and decreases the influence of former Chief Executive Officer Travis Kalanick.

The company is seeking to shore up its reputation after a series of scandals and to move beyond a battle between Kalanick and Uber investors spearheaded by Silicon Valley’s Benchmark Capital.

The company in a statement said the board had agreed to move forward with the SoftBank (9984.T) deal in coming weeks and governance changes at Uber “that would strengthen its independence and ensure equality among all shareholders.”

One person familiar with the matter said that a group of investors including SoftBank, Dragoneer Investment Group and General Atlantic would be allowed to buy $ 1 billion to $ 1.25 billion of new Uber shares at a company valuation of $ 69 billion and 14 to 17 percent of stock from current investors at a discounted valuation.

The person and a second source said governance changes include expanding the size of the board to 17 directors from 11. The board would include three independent directors, an independent chairperson and two seats controlled by SoftBank once its investment closes.

Shareholders will now have one vote per share, ending a class of supervoting shares in a move that substantially decreases the power of Kalanick and some other early investors.

Reporting By Paresh Dave and Liana Baker in San Francisco, Costas Pitas in London; editing by Peter Henderson and Cynthia Osterman

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Immelt Backs Out of Chaotic Uber CEO Search
August 27, 2017 5:55 pm|Comments (0)

Uber made it easy to catch a ride, but the company sure can’t catch a break.

Outgoing GE CEO Jeff Immelt, considered a frontrunner to replace founder Travis Kalanick as CEO, announced on Twitter this morning that he will no longer seek the position.

Uber’s board of directors was expected to vote on a new CEO for the stumbling giant today, and Immelt was the favorite as recently as last night. But a report from Recode’s Kara Swisher also suggested that the board was courting a prospect who has already rebuffed them – Hewlett Packard Enterprise CEO Meg Whitman.

Whitman, according to Recode, has been the preferred choice of Benchmark Capital. The venture capital fund has in recent weeks been trying to wrest power from founder and former CEO Travis Kalanick. Kalanick retains his own board seat, and Benchmark claims he also sought to improperly stack the board with loyalists on his way out of the top job.

Swisher’s reporting seems to uphold Benchmark’s claims that Kalanick is undermining the CEO search process. Kalanick apparently preferred Immelt to succeed him, but others – specifically, Benchmark – saw Immelt as too accommodating to Kalanick, who reportedly has said he wants to retain influence and eventually return to the CEO role.

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That could have continued the culture and PR issues that have bedeviled Uber for the better part of a year now, potentially threatening an eventual IPO. To try and cut off Kalanick, Swisher says Benchmark and others have been aggressively courting Whitman, despite her past declarations that she wasn’t interested in the job. Enticements include revamping the makeup of the board itself, which one source close to Whitman said “needs a massive overhaul.”

But the big roadblock to Whitman accepting any offer has been Kalanick himself, whose hard-driving style both grew his brainchild into a colossus, and left it with core weaknesses. One source told Swisher that Whitman is unlikely to accept the CEO job with Kalanick still involved, and he’s unlikely to entirely cede power.

Immelt’s surprise announcement reshuffles the deck, though. It may mean Whitman will get what she wants, or it may indicate the board is going an entirely different direction – at least one still-unknown candidate is also in the running.

A better chance for Whitman, though, is good news for Uber investors. While Immelt would have brought stable leadership, Whitman has a much more solid track record in the tech sector and as an innovator. Her hiring would also send a clearer public message about the company’s response to the litany of sex scandals that have made up a sizable portion of its woes.

The board is expected to announce its decision to employees as soon as mid-week.

Update: This piece has been updated in light of Immelt’s announcement.

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Uber vs Google: And now, the self-driving car war gets nasty
July 31, 2017 11:35 am|Comments (0)

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Even the biggest, most powerful companies in the world are at the mercy of a grade-school concept: supply and demand.

That’s how a person like Anthony Levandowski can get paid $ 120 million by Google, leave to start his own company, watch that company get acquired by Uber just months later, and then find himself barred from working on self-driving car technology by a U.S. court.

That goes to show just how important Levandowski—and other engineers like him—truly are to the arms race around self-driving cars. 

“It’s not like [you] can hire any one of the thousands or tens of thousands of people who have a particular certification,” said Nidhi Kalra, who heads the RAND Corporation’s self-driving car policy work. “They’re looking for people who are innovators in the fields of machine learning, deep learning, LIDAR design—and there aren’t a lot of those people out there.” Read more…

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