Uber’s bike service is cutting into car rides

Uber’s bike service is cutting into car rides


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If you suspected that Uber’s Jump bike sharing would be popular enough to cut into its mainstream car service, you suspected correctly. Jump has revealed that more than 63,000 customers in San Francisco have taken over 625,000 trips since a launch in the city in 2018, and that this popularity is affecting car rides in the area. While an initial study in July showed that bikes were starting to replace cars, Jump noted that the trend had “remained consistent” since then — the more people relied on pedal power, the larger the decrease in car trips. That was particularly true for peak periods.

While the ride numbers might not sound massive given San Francisco’s population, it noted that it had 250 bikes for the first nine months. TechCrunch noted that eight to ten people were using a given Jump bike per day as of October. For context, Ford had 1,200 docked GoBikes that typically saw just one to two rides per day.

It’s not hard to see why bikes might be appealing, at least in San Francisco. Traffic congestion is a problem in the city, and a study suggests that ridesharing might make conditions worse. Uber customers might simply decide that hopping on a bike is faster than spending ages in gridlock. And of course, San Francisco is a haven for tech-savvy travelers. It might be another story in cities with lighter traffic, or where requesting a bike through an app is relatively uncommon.

It won’t be surprising if the trend is consistent with other cities and services, though. And Uber won’t exactly mind. The company is increasingly interested in mixed-mode transportation that includes bikes, scooters and mass transit, and whatever business it loses in cars it might gain elsewhere.

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Uber will give free rides in the city that loses the Super Bowl

Uber will give free rides in the city that loses the Super Bowl


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There’s good news and bad news for people who will spend Sunday watching their favorite teams play in the Super Bowl. The good news is you can get a free ride home from Uber after the game. The bad news is if you’re getting that free ride, it means your team lost. The ride-hailing service is offering Uber Rewards members in Los Angeles or Boston a free lift after the game, but only the losing city will be eligible.

On Super Bowl Sunday, Uber will send a promo code to Uber Rewards members in Boston and LA that can be redeemed for a free ride. The code will only work after the final whistle, and only in the city that loses. Just open the app, apply the promo code in the Payments section and request a ride.

The free ride can be up to 60 minutes long or cost up to $50. (Considering that it will be a busy time in one of two bustling cities and surge pricing will likely apply, it’s possible that $50 won’t get you too far). Anything beyond that and you’ll have to cover the cost. It’s also worth noting the promotion will only work with UberX, UberXL, UberPOOL, Express Pool and WAV trips and will only be available on rides requested within 60 minutes of the game ending.

Uber’s promotion will only be available to Uber Rewards members. There is no requirement for being a member of a certain tier within the program to receive the promo code, you just have to be signed up for Uber Rewards, which you can do through the Uber app.

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Here’s ride-hailing app focuses on shared rides

Here’s ride-hailing app focuses on shared rides


Here Mobility

Most ride hailing apps are strictly focused on getting you from A to B. That’s rather important, but they don’t really acknowledge why you’re going out — you’re heading to a party, a business meeting, a family get-together. Here Mobility thinks it can add that social element with its SoMo app. At its heart, it’s a multi-service hailing app with group planning. You can create one-time or recurring events, invite people and help them find the best way to get around, whether it’s a ridesharing car, a taxi or the bus.

SoMo can also specify that you’re sharing a ride with other people. That won’t matter much to the services themselves, but it could be handy if you want to reassure friends that everyone will arrive on time. You also don’t need to use it for hailing rides in the first place. The app can double as a conventional navigation app, complete with traffic updates. The main additions are support for routes with pickup and dropoff points as well as automatic location sharing.

The app is available on Android and iOS in English, French, German, Portugese and Spanish. It probably won’t usurp individual service apps or a handful of mixed-transportation apps like Transit. With that in mind, it could make a lot of sense if you frequently travel around town with a close-knit social circle.

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Disney’s ‘Star Wars’ theme park trailer takes you inside its rides

Disney’s ‘Star Wars’ theme park trailer takes you inside its rides


Disney

Since it snagged LucasFilm for $4.05 billion in 2012, Disney’s churned out Star Wars movies, shows, toys, VR experiences and games. But in the background it’s been tinkering away on something even more immersive: a full-blown Star Wars theme park. On Christmas Day, Disney dropped a new trailer for the Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge theme park and two of its main attractions, “Millennium Falcon: Smuggler’s Run” and “Star Wars: Rise of the Resistance” — with Disney describing the latter as “the biggest and most immersive Disney Parks attraction ever.”

The rides, like the new movies, offer a mix of old and new elements from the Star Wars universe. You’ll be co-piloting the Millennium Falcon in one attraction and come face to face with Kylo Ren during a battle between the Resistance and First Order in the other. Aside from the hyperbole from Disney and LucasFilm execs — “jaw-dropping,” “incredibly emotional” and “epic” are all thrown about — the clip also features snippets of John Williams’ new score for the park.

Disney previously said the theme park would transport visitors to the “never before seen” Planet Batuu — a remote outpost that once served as a trading port. Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge will open its doors next summer at Disneyland in Anaheim, California and later in the fall at Walt Disney World Resort in Florida.

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Honda’s Sound Sitter lulls fussy children with engine noises

Honda’s Sound Sitter lulls fussy children with engine noises


Honda

Plenty of parents have turned to car rides in order to calm fussy babies and Honda has now developed a gadget based on that concept. But instead of bringing the baby to the car, Honda’s Sound Sitter brings the car to the baby. The company tried out the sounds of 37 different car engines, including various Civic models, Accords and Integras, ultimately determining that the sound of the NSX engine was most effective when it came to soothing babies. And when researchers tried it out on newborns — aged six months to 1.5 years old — 11 out of 12 seemed to experience comfort while seven showed reduced heart rates.

On its website, Honda explains that the induced comfort may be because the low frequencies of the engine sounds are comparable to what babies hear in the womb.

Honda packaged the NSX engine sound into a red, car-shaped plush toy and recently let parents try it out an event. The company, however, doesn’t have plans to produce the toy, but it has made the sounds of three engines — the NSX, the Integra Type R and the S2000 — available online.

Honda isn’t the only car company to try its hand at calming children. Last year, Ford showed off a baby crib prototype that mimics the experience of a car ride. It plays muffled engine noises, has LEDs that simulate street lights and generates movements similar to those felt when riding in a car. Additionally, other companies, like Snoo, have mimicked womb sounds to comfort young children as well.

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Uber enlists outside help to improve wheelchair-accessible rides

Uber enlists outside help to improve wheelchair-accessible rides


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Uber has found itself in hot water multiple times over its lack of wheelchair-accessible vehicles (WAVs), and now it’s teaming up with another company in order to better serve passengers with disabilities. It’s partnering with MV Transportation, a company that provides paratransit services across the US and Canada, and is bringing MV Transportation’s WAV fleet to eight cities.

Uber riders needing a WAV in New York City, Boston, Philadelphia, Chicago, Toronto and Washington, DC will be able to book one through Uber in 15 minutes or less on average. And over the next year, Uber aims to provide WAV transportation with similar wait times in San Francisco and Los Angeles as well. The company says that these eight cities account for half of all Uber trips in North America.

Uber has been sued multiple times for failing to accommodate passengers with disabilities. Rival Lyft has faced lawsuits as well.

Uber says that MV’s WAVs are operated by drivers who have been trained in safe wheelchair securement and it’s working to ensure WAV trips don’t cost more than a comparable UberX trip. “We’re committed to making accessibility a meaningful part of what we do, and we’re proud to be doing our part to enable improved access to transportation for people with disabilities,” Uber CEO Dara Khosrowshahi said. “We know there is still a long way to go — and that we’re at the beginning, not the end, of this journey.”

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The Boring Company’s LA tunnel is poised for December opening

The Boring Company’s LA tunnel is poised for December opening


The Boring Company

The Boring Company’s traffic-dodging LA test tunnel might truly be able to give people free rides this December. Company chief Elon Musk has revealed on Twitter that he’s just walked the full length of the “disturbingly long” tunnel and that it’s on track for its December 10th opening party. He previously promised an opening event for that night followed by free rides for the public the next day.

The company’s tunnels will have Loop shuttles that can carry pedestrians, cyclists and even private vehicles at speeds reaching 150mph. Boring’s goal is to offer people rides on those shuttles for as little as $1 in an effort to alleviate traffic problems in big cities.

Musk is known for being a bit too optimistic when it comes to his companies’ timelines, so some people were understandably skeptical that Boring would be able to stick to its target date. If everything goes well, we might see a glimpse of the firm’s vision in a few weeks.

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Uber offers $10 off Election Day rides to polling stations

Uber offers $10 off Election Day rides to polling stations

Uber is one of several tech companies trying to make sure you’re doing your civic duty by getting out to the polls on November 6th, as it’s offering a $10 discount on rides to polling stations. You’ll need the latest version of the app to get the promo code on Election Day, and you can use it for a ride on the most affordable Uber option in your locale: Express Pool, Pool or UberX, in that order. You’ll also need to use the polling place locator in the app.

The code is only valid for rides to polling stations though, so you’ll either need to pay full fare for the return journey or find another way home or back to work. And if you’re in Utah, Michigan, Puerto Rico or other US territories, you’re out of luck as the promo is not available in those locations because of rules regarding discounted transport during Election Day.

Uber is also working with two organizations that are aiming to get people voting, Democracy Works and #VoteTogether. The latter is encouraging people to take advantage of early voting, and it has sent promo codes to 15,000 folks across the US for rides to and from its poll parties. Lyft, meanwhile, is offering free rides to those in underserved communities and discounted rides to others on November 6th.

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Uber will introduce a ‘clean air fee’ to all London rides

Uber will introduce a ‘clean air fee’ to all London rides


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Uber has been consistently vocal about its green aspirations. From electric scooters to its own EV charging networks, the company’s eco-friendly ambitions reached a pinnacle last year when it announced its “Clean Air Plan” for the city of London. Now, it’s revealed more about what this plan will look like.

Its overarching aim is for every car on the app in the capital to be fully electric by 2025. To support this, a “clean air fee” of 15p per mile will be included on every trip booked through the app in London, starting early next year. According to Uber, this will average out at around 45p per trip in the city — and all of this will go towards helping drivers upgrade their vehicles, as well as other clean air initiatives. Uber says it expects to raise around £200 million this way.

The amount of assistance drivers can receive will depend on the number of miles they’ve driven on the app. Uber hasn’t revealed specifics on how this will work, but says that a driver using the app for an average of 40 hours per week could expect around £3,000 of support towards an EV in two years’ time, and £4,500 in three years. Uber reckons the first 20,000 drivers will have upgraded by the end of 2021.

This support for drivers complements other areas of the plan, which were announced last year. For example, Uber has partnered with home charging suppliers such as BP ChargeMaster, EVox, NewMotion and Swarco EVolt, to help drivers more quickly and easily charge their vehicles at home. And it’s launched a diesel scrappage scheme aimed at removing 1,000 of the most polluting cars from London’s roads.

Uber has had a shaky relationship with London in the past, but after a court ruling over the summer that saw the company reinstated in the city, things seem to be slowly getting back on track, and the Clean Air Plan will only help things along, especially given the city’s ambitious environmental goals. Commenting on the announcement, Uber’s CEO Dara Khosrowshahi said, “The Mayor of London has set out a bold vision to tackle air pollution in the capital and we’re determined to do everything we can to back it.”

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Qualcomm’s Snapdragon 675 rides the multi-camera and gaming trend

Qualcomm’s Snapdragon 675 rides the multi-camera and gaming trend


Qualcomm

It’s only been almost a quarter since Qualcomm launched its Snapdragon 670 mid-range chipset, but today, the company is already bringing out a slightly beefier Snapdragon 675, which is clearly designed with three smartphone trends in mind: Gaming optimization, multiple cameras and AI-enhanced features (including face unlock).

Announced at the 4G/5G Summit in Hong Kong, the Snapdragon 675 features Qualcomm’s brand new fourth-generation Kryo CPU — the Kryo 460 with two high-power 2GHz cores and six low-power 1.7GHz cores — which apparently gives a notable boost to its everyday performance and gaming performance. For instance, compared to the Snapdragon 670, the new Snapdragon 675 is claimed to launch games 30 percent faster and offers 35 percent faster web browsing.

In the case of gaming, the Snapdragon 675 also leverages from further software optimization for smoother gameplay, along with prioritized connectivity to ensure minimal interruption. Qualcomm listed PUBG and King of Honor being two of the handful of games that already benefit from these features, with the latter title even able to run at up to 60 fps — not bad given that the GPU is just a mid-range Adreno 612, though we shall see whether it runs just as well outside of the lab, especially when this chipset is fabricated using an 11nm LPP process instead of the finer 10nm.

Triple camera support on the Snapdragon 675

With smartphone manufacturers adding more cameras to their devices these days, Qualcomm sees this as an opportunity to sell a chipset that rides this trend. To do so, the Snapdragon 675 uses a Spectra 250L image signal processor to support a triple camera — one that can seamlessly switch between telephoto, wide angle and super-wide angle for a 5x optical zoom — on either side of a phone. This wasn’t possible with the earlier Spectra 250, even though it could already connect up to six different cameras in any configuration.

In addition to the same old single-cam 25-megapixel still capture with zero shutter lag (30 fps), this Spectra 250L has gained a 48-megapixel snapshot mode to please manufacturers who want to offer something bolder. Also new here is native support for portrait mode (bokeh) with HDR, as well as limitless 720p slow-motion video capture at a whopping 480 fps — a first for a Snapdragon 600-tier platform. Other than that, you’ll find the same support for hybrid autofocus, 4K video capture at 30 fps, Motion Compensated Temporal Filtering and Multi-frame Noise Reduction with accelerated image stabilization.

Finally, AI. This was the main highlight of the earlier Snapdragon 670 with its multi-core AI engine (consisting of the Hexagon 685 DSP, Kryo CPU and Adreno GPU), and back then the focus was on improving battery management, capturing better photos and enhancing voice recognition for toggling smart assistants. This time round, the Snapdragon 675 is using AI to also enable more secure yet faster face unlock — apparently up to three times faster than the Snapdragon 670, with a one-to-a-million false acceptance rate. Even voice recognition sees a 10 percent higher accuracy here than with the earlier chipset, according to Qualcomm’s own tests.


Style transfer demo powered by SenseTime and Qualcomm’s Snapdragon 675.
Richard Lai/Engadget

In another use case, Qualcomm partnered with AI specialist SenseTime to create a “style transfer” camera demo: You can select one of the many preset artwork styles — be it classic Chinese painting, Picasso, van Gogh or others — and see it come to life in a live camera view. The live demo I saw after the briefing was quite responsive, and it probably would have been even more effective in a better lit environment.

Connectivity-wise, it’s still the same Snapdragon X12 LTE modem with up to Cat 15 (600Mbps) for downlink and up to Cat 13 (150Mbps) for uplink, along with support for dual SIM dual VoLTE. There’s also 802.11ac WiFi and Bluetooth 5.0. If all goes well, the first commercial devices carrying this Snapdragon 675 chipset should show up in Q1 2019 which is soon — manufacturers will definitely want in well before any of these trends die down.

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Lyft Concierge lets businesses schedule flexible rides

Lyft Concierge lets businesses schedule flexible rides

Lyft’s Concierge service, which opened up to all businesses earlier this year, lets companies and organizations hail rides for their customers, patients and employees. While it lets those businesses offer an additional service, it’s not always clear…

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Lyft will offer free rides on Election Day in November

Lyft will offer free rides on Election Day in November

Lyft wants to help you do your civic duty, so it’s giving away free and discounted rides on November 6th. The ride-hailing firm has an existing free ride program for emergency situations and non-emergency ones involving veterans and job seekers. Now,…

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Lyft and Aptiv complete 5,000 self-driving rides in Las Vegas

Lyft and Aptiv complete 5,000 self-driving rides in Las Vegas

Lyft’s experiment with paid self-driving rides in Las Vegas appears to be going as smoothly as you might hope. Lyft and its partner Aptiv have revealed that they’ve completed 5,000 autonomous trips since launching service earlier in 2018. The passeng…

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Lyft offers Avis rentals to drivers who don’t own cars

Lyft offers Avis rentals to drivers who don’t own cars

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Lyft drivers now have another major choice if they want to offer rides without buying their own cars. The ridesharing service has struck a deal that will have the Avis Budget Group offer “thousands” of vehicles through Lyft’s Express Drive program i…

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The Biggest Waves in the World, Explained

The Biggest Waves in the World, Explained,

Forecasting technology and surfer experience create record rides on the planet’s biggest breakers

— Read more on ScientificAmerican.com

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