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TECHNOLOGY, DISCOVERY & INNOVATION. UPDATED 14 MINUTES AGO.
You are here: Home / Automotive Tech / Tasks for Uber's New CEO To Address
Top Tasks for Uber's New CEO To Address
Top Tasks for Uber's New CEO To Address
By Rob Davies Like this on Facebook Tweet this Link thison Linkedin Link this on Google Plus
PUBLISHED:
SEPTEMBER
01
2017
As Dara Khosrowshahi takes the chief executive's chair at Uber, his in-tray is groaning with issues in urgent need of addressing. In no particular order, here are [some] of the problems on his extensive to-do list.

Deal With the 'Kalanick Problem'

Uber founder Travis Kalanick might have resigned as chief executive but he still looms large: he has a seat on the board and the right to fill two more chairs. Rumors abound that he wants the top job back one day -- a situation that will surely be intolerable for a new boss with a job to do.

Heal the Boardroom Rift

Kalanick's not-quite-departure has left boardroom harmony in a parlous state. He is in a legal dispute with investor Benchmark Capital, which also has a seat on the board. The firm is suing him for fraud in an attempt to oust him from the boardroom. Address sexism concerns

Kalanick's legacy includes a sexual harassment scandal centered on claims by a former engineer and documented in a report by former US attorney general Eric Holder. More than 20 staff were sacked but the whiff of “tech bro” culture remains.

There were also reports of executives -- including Kalanick -- visiting escort bars in South Korea, and an interview with GQ in which Kalanick referred to his supposed desirability among women.

Shed 'Creepy' Image

Uber is also trying to clean up its act on privacy. It has just announced it will stop its controversial practice of tracking users' phones for five minutes after they leave the Relevant Products/Services. This gave the company useful information but was of questionable benefit to users. It also spawned a distracting row with the technology world's alpha tech bro, Apple.

A former employee also testified that Uber spied on celebrities and politicians thanks to its ability to track phones.

Most seriously of all, concerns about Uber's prying eyes reached their zenith when a senior executive was fired over reports he obtained the medical records of a woman who was raped by an Uber driver in India. He reportedly shared that information with Kalanick.

Driver Behavior

Uber faces serious concerns about the behavior of its drivers. Police in the UK have accused the firm of failing to report sex attacks by drivers, which the company said was down to a misunderstanding. Separately, Transport for London's statistics show car accidents in the capital are up since the ride-hailing app arrived on the scene.

Employee Relations

Sticking with drivers, the company is battling a tribunal ruling in the UK that they should be treated as employees, a status conferring rights such as minimum wage and holiday pay. Its appeal against the ruling is due in mid-September.

In the US, Kalanick didn't help labor relations by being filmed berating one of the company's drivers.

Make a Profit

Despite a reported valuation of $70bn (£54bn) and its global presence, the company has never made a profit. Uber lost $2.8bn in 2016, the largest in a string of annual losses.

This, Uber would argue, is because it is in a phase of rapid growth, requiring billions of dollars of investment. Others say its growth is founded partly on subsidizing cheap fares to undercut the competition, a practice that cannot continue forever. Go on a hiring spree

Uber has been without a finance chief since 2015. This is particularly pressing if the company is to float on the stock market. There should be plenty of applicants.

It also needs a chief operating officer, an engineering chief, a driverless car tech boss and a new company president. The last on, Jeff Jones, quit after six months because he said Uber was incompatible with his values.

Tackle Political Opposition

National and municipal governments around the world have lined up to put legal roadblocks in Uber's way, spurred on by vocal taxi lobby groups. From Brussels to Berlin and Rome to Rio de Janeiro, the San Francisco-based firm has been shelling out eye-watering sums on lawyers.

Fend Off Competition

Uber may be the best known ride-hailing service but it faces stiff competition from the likes of Lyft, which is quietly wooing customers while Uber acts as a lightning rod for criticism of their shared industry.

In China, Uber gave up the ghost and surrendered its business to domestic champion Didi Chuxing.

Fighting Bribery Allegations

Closer to home, the fearsome US Department of Justice is investigating whether Uber executives breached the stringent Foreign Corrupt Practices Act, which deals with bribery of foreign officials.

Dealing with Greyball Inquiry

As if one DoJ investigation was not enough, prosecutors are also examining whether Uber misused software known as "Greyball," which it uses to block potentially fraudulent or dangerous customers. Uber allegedly used Greyball to deny rides to officials who might have been investigating its compliance with regulations.

War with Waymo (Google)

Waymo, the self-driving car division of Google's parent company, Alphabet, is suing Uber. It claims former employee Anthony Levandowski took trade secrets to Uber after leaving Waymo and the joining self-driving truck firm Otto, which Uber then bought. A driverless future?

The Waymo suit raises questions about how far and how fast Uber is heading towards a driverless future. Uber has struck deals with auto firms including Ford to research driverless technology but how much of its money should be spent on developing tech it could simply buy at a later date?

Settle SoftBank Investment Issue

Japan's SoftBank, known for its fondness for technology start-ups, has been pondering whether to invest in either Uber or Lyft. The change of chief executive could tip the balance in Uber's favor.

Take on Trump

Donald Trump can send company's share prices into a nosedive with a single tweet. Uber is not listed but Khosrowshahi could still feel the force of the US president. Like Kalanick before him, Khosrowshahi has been a vocal critic of Trump -- but it doesn't pay to have the White House as an enemy.

To Fly or Not to Fly?

Supposedly, Uber could be testing flying cars in Dallas and Dubai by 2020. Now Uber is under new management, will that be pie in the sky or something to spend investors' money on?

Uber Freight

Uber Freight allows companies to hire independent truck drivers to make deliveries. Now Uber owns Otto, it will have to decide how big the opportunity for driverless freight really is.

Make Nice with the Neighbors

Uber has been weighing up plans to move away from its HQ from San Francisco, across the Bay to Oakland. It now appears likely to scale back this plan. That might be a blessing, as locals were complaining that an influx of tech employees would gentrify the area and push up prices.

© 2017 Guardian Web under contract with NewsEdge/Acquire Media. All rights reserved.

Image credit: Headshot of Dara Khosrowshahi by Expedia, Inc. YouTube video.

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