Lyft COO Rex Tibbens steps down - Axios
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Lyft COO Rex Tibbens steps down

Rex Tibbens. Photo via Lyft

Rex Tibbens is stepping down as chief operating officer of Lyft by year-end, Axios has learned from multiple sources. Tibbens, who joined the ride-hail company in 2015 after four years at Amazon and over a decade at Dell, has not yet decided on his future plans.

Why it matters: Lyft reportedly wants to go public next year, but first will need to fill this new hole in its senior executive team.

Below is an email sent on Monday evening by Lyft to company employees, following Axios' inquiries:

Team,

We wanted to share a note of thanks to Rex and provide a leadership team update. After 2+ years with Lyft, helping grow the business over 10x, Rex has decided that at the end of the year he will move on from his role as COO. In the new year, he'll spend time advising companies, reacquainting himself with his family, and figuring out what's next for TRex. He's been an incredible partner helping bring Lyft to every state, and launching strategic initiatives like Express Drive and our Nashville support center.
To lead the charge for Lyft's next phase of growth, we're underway with the search for our next COO. We're extremely thankful for the impact Rex has had on all of us, and excited by the opportunity to bring in new leadership to drive forward our next chapter.
Thanks,
Logan & John
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ICE is seeking a program to monitor the social media of visa-holders

ICE agents at a home in Atlanta, during a targeted enforcement operation. Photo: ICE via AP

Immigration and Customs Enforcement officials said at a tech industry conference last week they are seeking algorithms that can "conduct ongoing social media surveillance" of visa holders that are considered high risk, according to ProPublica.

Why it matters: The announcement of the program, later named "Visa Lifecycle Vetting," spurred backlash from civil liberty groups and immigrants, saying it would be discrimination against Muslim visa holders. Acting deputy association director for information management at ICE Homeland Security Investigations, Alysa Erichs, said the goal is to have "automated notifications about any visa holders' social media activity that could 'ping us as a potential alert.'"

  • But, but, but: According to Alvaro Bedoya, the executive director of Georgetown Law's Center on Privacy and Technology, ICE is "building a dangerously broad tool that could be used to justify excluding, or deporting, almost anyone."
  • A group of engineers, computer scientists, and other academics wrote to acting DHS Secretary Elaine Duke of their "grave concerns" about the program, saying it would likely be "inaccurate and biased."
  • Carissa Cutrell, an ICE spokeswoman, told ProPublica the "request for information...was simply that - an opportunity to gather information...to determine the best way forward."
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The blowback from Uber's data breach

A man exits the Uber offices in Austin, Texas. Photo: Eric Gay / AP

Illinois, Massachusetts, New York, and Connecticut are planning investigations into Uber's recently announced 2016 breach that left 57 million customers' and drivers' data vulnerable to criminals, and the FTC might launch a probe as well, according to Recode.

Why it matters: Most states (48) have some form of a law requiring companies to reveal data breaches to consumers, but Uber did not immediately disclose the details to consumers and reportedly tried to cover up the hack.

The FTC may also launch a probe into Uber, Recode reports, citing two sources who say Uber has already briefed the agency. The FTC said it was looking into the matter.

  • The FTC just penalized Uber in August for other privacy and security practices and had asked Uber to maintain all records related to privacy and security for investigators. This apparent cover-up could throw a wrench in those conclusions issued in August.
  • Sen. Richard Blumenthal urged the FTC to take "swift enforcement action and impose significant penalties" on Uber, and Rep. Frank Pallone is calling for a Congressional hearing on the matter.

Global blowback: Authorities in Australia and the Philippines said they would also be investigating, and the UK's data protection regulator brought up potential penalties for Uber, per Reuters.

Bottom line: The news is not good for Uber on a global scale. It could face penalties and fines in addition to paying the steep legal price associated with suits after a year filled with other headaches related to security, privacy, and its culture.

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At Walmart, watch out for EMMA

EMMA's point of view (Photo: Brain Corp.)

Walmart is moving fast into the autonomous age. Last week, it ordered 15 advanced self-driving semi-trucks from Tesla, and now Linkedin's Chip Cutter reports that a few stores are testing out EMMA, an autonomously driven floor scrubber. EMMA can careen through Walmart aisles at a whiplashing 2.5 miles an hour, evading unalert shoppers, stacks of cereal boxes along her way.

Why it matters: It's another lesson in the reality of robotics. Like iRobots and the Roomba, Brain Corp. started out with heady ideas of commercializing artificial intelligence, but has discovered that, at least for now, the technology and the market is much more prosaic.

EMMA is the invention of Brain Corp., a southern California robotics company that promotes the self-driving cleaner as an alternative to employing human janitors.

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The big layoff in China

At Zhong Tian Steel in Changzhou (Photo: Kevin Frayer / Getty Images)

By the end of the year, some 1.8 million Chinese coal and steel workers will lose their jobs, victims of the government's shift to cleaner industries and a shutdown of small enterprises. To put that in perspective, the two industries employ just 192,000 workers in the U.S.

Why it matters: Ordinarily, China's leadership is most focused on social stability. The party always looks to avoid any outbreak of discontent that could threaten political calm. But now, the priority has shifted to producing higher-value, branded products sold internationally, and owning the future economy of electric and self-driving cars, advanced batteries, robotics and automation equipment.

That's why many of those coal and steel workers are receiving generous long-term payoffs. In one example, per the FT's Emily Feng, workers in Ma'anshan received early retirement worth $600 a month for 35 years.

Bill Bishop, author of the Axios China newsletter (sign up here), tells me that the turn is "all about re-orienting the bureaucracy to focus on greener, more balanced and sustainable development." He says it seemed to gain momentum after the 19th Communist Party Congress in October. The signal was a "very important change to one of its key guiding concepts," he said.

Bill's thought bubble: "The Party has changed the 'principal contradiction' that the Marxists in China believe defines society. Since 1981, near the start of the reform and opening era, the principal contradiction had been 'the ever-growing material and cultural needs of the people versus backward social production,' which effectively justified growth at all costs. For the Xi era, that contradiction is now 'between unbalanced and inadequate development and the people's ever-growing needs for a better life.' This puts much greater emphasis on the quality of how ordinary Chinese live."

He concludes: "It will be painful, it may fail, and it does not mean that China won't be exporting pollution and polluting industries while at the same time trying to clean up its own country."

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CBS will cut off Dish signal for customers over Thanksgiving weekend

AP Photo/Mary Altaffer

CBS will air NFL football on Thursday (Cowboys v. Chargers) and other NFL and SEC games over the weekend, but will black out the signal for Dish customers in 18 markets until their contract dispute with Dish is resolved.

Why it matters: Consumers in affected markets will be unable to access content because of a fight that has nothing to do with them. In this case, consumers will be blocked from mostly sports and family content, but in other instances, these types of fights have resulted in blackouts of programming about weather emergencies in hurricane-ravaged areas.

These types of contract disputes are growing more frequent between Pay-TV providers, like Dish, and broadcast or cable networks, like CBS, as networks increase carriage fees to subsidize rising programming costs. According to the American Television Alliance, 2017 will by far have more TV blackouts than any other year prior.

  • 212 blackouts in 2017 (and counting)
  • 104 blackouts in 2016
  • 193 blackouts in 2015
  • 94 blackouts in 2014
  • 119 blackouts in 2013
  • 90 blackouts in 2012
  • 42 blackouts in 2011
  • 8 blackouts in 2010
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Amazon to partner with Cerner on health care data

Amazon and Cerner will analyze health care data together. Photo: Ted S. Warren / AP

Amazon's cloud-computing division is expected to partner with health care technology giant Cerner to mine patient health care data, CNBC reports. Amazon would work with Cerner, a major developer of electronic health records, to analyze clinical data and predict what treatments are valuable.

Why it matters: Amazon is expected to make a bigger jump into health care. Pharmacies and drug distributors are worried the conglomerate will overhaul prescription drug delivery. But the partnership with Cerner would get at the lower-hanging fruit of health care data analysis, which is attracting gobs of money in the hope of reducing the country's health care spending.

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Facebook will tell users if they followed Russian pages

Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg. Photo: Jeff Roberson / AP

Facebook will tell users whether they followed pages set up by Russian operatives as part of a broad campaign to interfere in the 2016 election. The company, along with Twitter and Google, have faced pressure from lawmakers to be more transparent about how far the Russian ads, pages and propaganda spread on their platforms and who was exposed to it.

The details: The social network said Wednesday that it will create a page on its support website that will tell a user which pages and accounts they followed on Facebook and Instagram that have been linked to a Russian troll farm involved in the election campaign. Users will also be able to see when they followed the account.

  • The announcement coincides with the deadline to respond to a letter from Sen. Richard Blumenthal asking the company to "individually notify any and all users who received or interacted with these advertisements and associated content." He also sent letters to Google and Twitter.

What they're not doing: Telling users whether they were exposed to content from the pages in their Newsfeed, even if they didn't follow them. Users may have seen content that spread organically or as a result of a paid ad. Facebook has argued that it's especially difficult to be able to show that information.

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Report: WeWork to lease retail space

WeWork Toronto. Photo: Arthur Mola

WeWork has earned a $20 billion valuation providing shared workspaces to start-up companies, and now the firm is exploring the idea of leasing retail space as well, The Real Deal reports. Unnamed sources tell the trade publication that "what WeWork's retail business could look like is still unclear," but that "extending the firm's co-working model — furnished spaces on short-term leases — to retailers is a possibility."

Why it matters: WeWork has justified its sky-high valuation on the promise that it has the data and design expertise to help businesses become radically more efficient in their use of office space. The move suggests that WeWork believes it can also make money helping retailers invent the brick-and-mortar store of the future.

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Lyft gets permit to test self-driving cars on California roads

Josh Edelson / AP

Lyft is the latest company to get a permit from the to test self-driving cars on California's public roads, according to the California Department of Motor Vehicles website.

Why it matters: Lyft earlier this year unveiled plans to build its own autonomous driving tech, as well as make its ride-hailing network available to other companies for testing. Getting the California permit suggests it's ready to begin putting self-driving cars on the road.

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Apple publishes self-driving car tech research

Richard Drew / AP

A new clue about Apple's work on autonomous driving technology has emerged in the form of a scientific paper authored by two of the company's engineers, as Reuters first noticed.

Why it matters: Apple is notorious for its secrecy and while rumors floated for years that it was working on an automotive project, its interest in the area wasn't confirmed until it obtained a permit to test self-driving cars in California earlier this year. This new paper is a departure from Apple's secretive culture in that it reveals some of the technological approaches it's developing.

Key tech: Apple's paper reveals that it's been working on software that lets LiDAR sensors perceive pedestrians and other road elements clearly without the help of cameras, and better than other approaches to do the same. LiDAR is among the most common sensors used for autonomous driving at the moment despite its high prices.