Travis Kalanick’s deposition, Uber’s Garrett Camp goes rogue, man evades reporter while dressed as car seat
|Ali Griswold||Aug 8, 2017|
I’m with the news, dude.
What if it turned out that all the driverless cars being tested by all the driverless car companies weren’t actually driverless, but just cars with human drivers hidden inside of them, say inside the front seat? Hahahaha I mean that would be truly crazy, that is straight out of Jalopnik, there is no way that would ever happen, right?
A van that appeared to have no driver made headlines when it was spotted in Arlington, Virginia, last week. But when News4's Adam Tuss saw the van on Monday and looked inside, he saw that it did have a driver: a man dressed in a costume made to look like just a car seat.
From the road, the unmarked gray van eerily looks like it's moving without a driver. The entire front seat looks empty. But when Tuss looked inside, he saw a man wearing a beige and black costume that covered his entire torso.
Yes, ok, so that is exactly what happened last week in Arlington, Virginia. Undeterred, Tuss knocked on the rain-streaked car window and said the line that will earn him a place in local news reporting history: “I’m with the news, dude.” Sadly the dude did not respond and Tuss was left in the dark until yesterday afternoon when, after multiple inquiries, the Virginia Tech Transportation Institute admitted the van and driver were part of a study it’s been conducting on the design of autonomous vehicles.
A description of the study, “VTTI Automated Vehicle-Related Testing in Arlington, VA,” can be found on the institute’s website. “The driver’s seating area is configured to make the driver less visible within the vehicle, while still allowing him or her the ability to safely monitor and respond to surroundings,” reads one bullet point. It is unclear whether the meaning of “monitor and respond” is closer to “drive the car” or “takeover if absolutely necessary” and my emails to the Virginia Tech Transportation Institute did little to clear up the matter (they referred me back to that web page). “Development of the test vehicle focused on ensuring driver safety and included several months of pilot testing the vehicle,” the bullet points continue, “first in controlled areas, then in low-density areas and finally in an urban area.”
We here at Oversharing don’t throw around the term “hero” lightly, but it is not every day you come across a man who dresses as a car seat to drive (or monitor, it is unclear) a car around Virginia, and who refuses to break character even after being approached by a local news reporter and chased down the street by that reporter for several minutes.
A month after he was deposed as chief executive of Uber, Travis Kalanick was deposed by Google. A redacted transcript of that encounter was released over the weekend in which we learn, among other things, that Travis claims to have never read the complaint filed by Waymo against Uber. Despite not reading it, Travis felt “a little bullied by Google generally with how the initial complaint was,” which is why he claims not to have fired Anthony Levandowski, the former Waymo engineer accused of stealing trade secrets from Google, any faster. “You know, I just—I felt that he had done something that was F'ing stupid. I—I didn’t feel like he had stolen anything,” Travis says. In his telling, Levandowski downloaded Google files to “work from home,” a practice more common at Uber than Travis would like. Travis felt “pretty passionately” that Levandowski should cooperate and testify rather than stonewalling the court’s investigation by taking the Fifth.
Other stuff we learned: The deposition was long and during the breaks Travis watched videos on YouTube. He used to have a 30-day auto-delete setting on his phone but changed it a few weeks before being deposed, which would also be around when he was being ousted by the Uber board. Travis’s texts keep “forever now.” Levandowski didn’t send a lot of emails, communicating mostly in meetings and phone calls. One of the code names for Uber’s purchase of Otto, the startup founded by Levandowski after he left Google, was “Project Dollar Sign,” from “Uber super-duper,” from “U.S.D.” (“And why did you call it Uber super-duper,” asks Waymo’s attorney, hopefully in the tone you would use to coax information from a small child. “I don’t know,” says Travis. “You thought it was a super-duper deal?” says the attorney, encouragingly. “Yeah, I just—you know, I’m always having fun,” says Travis.) The deal was later renamed “Project Zing.” The lawsuit was not discussed when Travis resigned from Uber.
Elsewhere, Garrett Camp, Uber’s other co-founder and board chairman, emailed staff yesterday saying Travis Kalanick is done Steve Jobs-ing it. “It’s time for a new chapter, and the right leader for our next phase of growth,” Camp wrote. “Despite rumors I’m sure you’ve seen in the news, Travis is not returning as CEO.”
Oh but is he not? From the Wall Street Journal:
The note came as a surprise to other board members, who hadn’t seen its contents or been briefed on it prior to it being sent to all staff, according to people familiar with the matter. Though chairman, Mr. Camp doesn’t sit on the five-member executive search committee, these people noted.
Oh Uber, oh Garrett, oh Travis. If Camp isn’t on the search committee and the other members of the board were uncomfortable with his email, is it because they actually are thinking about bringing back Travis as CEO? What internal power struggles are going on such that Camp sent that email in the first place? One day it will all make a great movie.
The war against Airbnb continues in New York, where a state senator has proposed legislation that would force home-sharing hosts to behave more like hoteliers:
The bill by Sen. Tony Avella (D-Queens) will require Airbnb and others who rent their homes or apartments to require photo identification when guests arrive and to keep their records on guests for three years in case the information is needed by investigators and regulators.
“If Airbnb wants to act like a hotel, then it must be subject to the same basic transparency and disclosure requirements that all legal lodging establishments in the City of New York are responsible for,” Avella said.
Airbnb contends that Avella has received tens of thousands of dollars in contributions from the hotel industry and that his legislation would harm “hardworking New Yorkers for using their own homes to earn enough to stay in the neighborhoods they love.” You know, same old, same old. I am pretty sure you could randomly select a proposal by the anti-Airbnb faction in New York and then randomly select a response from Airbnb and pair them together and it wouldn’t be much different from if you had the actual proposal and response paired together correctly. The talking points rarely vary and lately it seems like only the company and the politicians care.
Dim sum with Jason Calacanis.
I went to the dinner, which was to promote his new book, Angel:
The dim sum was held at 6:30pm in the second-floor dining room of Golden Unicorn, a gaudy restaurant in Manhattan’s Chinatown with golden drapes, gold-upholstered chairs, and a “B” grade from the New York City health department. The price of admission was buying a copy of Angel ($30). “Everybody, whether you have the book or not, you have to buy a book,” a woman from Books on Call NYC, an independent bookseller, told me when I arrived. There were a dozen hardcover copies of Angel stacked in front of her. The online r.s.v.p. form for the dinner had explained that buying a book was expected, but as a journalist covering the event I assumed it was optional, especially since I already had a review copy from the publisher. After a brief discussion—it was not, it turned out, optional—the woman called over Alvey, Calacanis’s close friend and Weblogs co-founder, who agreed to let me join his table anyway.
It was fun, we had fun, you can read more about it here.
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