In today’s Bulldog wrapup of technology news:
- Do new car-services for women discriminate?
- Uber adds motorbike taxis in Indonesia and also launches service in Argentina
- Amazon unveils a smaller but more expensive Kindle
- Electric car firm Faraday breaks ground on $1 billion production plant
- Women-only car services fill a niche, but are they legal?
Ride-hailing companies catering exclusively to women are cropping up and raising thorny legal questions, namely: Are they discriminatory?
In Massachusetts, Chariot for Women is promising to launch a service featuring female drivers picking up only women and children. Drivers will even have to say a “safe word” before a ride starts.
Michael Pelletz, a former Uber driver, said he started the company with his wife, Kelly, in response to instances of drivers for ride-hailing services charged with assaulting female passengers. Pelletz believes his business plan is legal, and he’s prepared to make his case in court, if it comes to that.
“We believe that giving women and their loved ones peace of mind is not only a public policy imperative, but serves an essential social interest,” Pelletz said. “Our service is intended to protect these fundamental liberties.”
In New York City, the owners of SheRides are also promising a reboot this summer.
Fernando Mateo, who co-founded the company with his wife, Stella, said the company put the brakes on its planned launch in 2014 after spending “tens of thousands” on legal fees as activists and male drivers threatened to sue. The company settled one challenge, he said.
“We were accused of all sorts of things,” Mateo said. “So we went back to the drawing board.”
When the company re-launches as SheHails, men will be permitted as drivers and passengers. It will be left to female drivers to accept male passengers, and for female passengers to accept rides from male drivers.
- Uber starts motorbike taxi service in Indonesian capital
Ride-hailing app Uber on Wednesday launched a motorbike taxi service in the Indonesian capital where Southeast Asian rivals Go-Jek and Grab are already battling for dominance.
Jakarta is one of the world’s most congested cities and motorbike taxis ordered from a smartphone app have exploded in popularity in the past 18 months as a way to beat snarled traffic.
Uber said that its “UberMotor” service would provide cheap and reliable transportation for hundreds of thousands of people.
The company used a local social media and YouTube star Arief Muhammad to launch its service, saying he was the first person in Jakarta to use an Uber motorcycle taxi.
Both Go-Jek, an Indonesian startup, and Grab, which operates in several Southeast Asian countries, claim to be the biggest provider of motorbike taxi rides in Indonesia.
- Uber launches in Argentine capital despite protests
Uber also launched its service in Argentina’s capital Tuesday in defiance of local authorities and despite road blocks set up by protesting taxi drivers that snarled traffic during the evening rush hour.
The company said more than 20,000 Uber drivers were now available in Buenos Aires.Uber said it will be successful because its prices are below tariffs regularly charged by local taxi drivers. It also said thousands of residents of Buenos Aires had already downloaded the ride-sharing app.
The Buenos Aires mayor’s office has warned that Uber is not authorized to operate yet because it doesn’t meet the requirements for transporting passengers.
- Amazon’s latest Kindle smaller, costs more
Will loyal fans of e-books be willing to pay tablet prices for dedicated e-readers? Amazon is about to find out.
The e-commerce giant’s latest Kindle is its smallest and lightest yet. But it’s also themost expensive, at $290 — almost a hundred bucks more than the current champ, the $200 Kindle Voyage. Now the company is betting that its sleek frame and a cover that doubles as a rechargeable battery will attract dedicated e-book users to its eighth generation device, called the Kindle Oasis.
Amazon says the new Kindle is 30 percent thinner and 20 percent lighter than previous Kindles. It’s also asymmetrical, with a grip on one side for one-handed reading. (Lefties can just flip the device over.)
The company’s goal? “To make the device disappear,” said Neal Lindsay, vice president of Amazon Devices, so that people can read without distraction.
- Electric car firm Faraday aims to start Nevada plant by 2018
Upstart electric car company Faraday Future hopes to have its first vehicles rolling off the assembly line in 2018, a company executive said Wednesday, as officials marked the start of construction on a planned $1 billion Las Vegas-area production plant.
“Our aim is to complete a program that would normally take four years and do it in half the time, while still doing it right,” Dag Reckhorn, Faraday Future global manufacturing vice president, said in a statement released as Nevada Gov. Brian Sandoval, company and local officials gathered at the North Las Vegas site.
Nevada has pledged up to up to $335 million worth of incentives toward the project, which Gardena, California-based Faraday promises will employ some 4,500 people over the next decade.
The company, backed by Chinese entrepreneur Jia Yueting, currently has about 700 employees in the U.S. It unveiled a concept car in January, but hasn’t put a vehicle on the market.
Nevada lawmakers held a special session in December, just weeks after Sandoval unveiled and endorsed the project, to promise $215 million in tax breaks and $120 million in infrastructure improvements.