Yep, I’m on a plane again. Returning to San Francisco after a whirlwind trip to D.C. to do some planning with our tech team. We have some cool ideas I look forward to implementing over the coming year.
Of course, if you have ideas I’m always open. Just hit reply or drop a note to firstname.lastname@example.org.
1 big thing: Racing to become the all-in-one transport app
As new transportation options like bike and scooter rental services proliferate, ride-hailing companies are rushing to outfit their mobile apps with as many services as possible, including public transit, Axios' Kia Kokalitcheva reports.
“Just like Amazon sells third-party goods, we are going to also offer third-party transportation services,” Uber CEO Dara Khosrowshahi said last year. “So, we wanna kinda be the Amazon for transportation.”
Yes, but: They still have to compete with Google Maps — the 800-pound gorilla in this realm, and also their business partner.
For years, both Uber's and Lyft's U.S. apps offered only their various car ride services.
- Over the years, the companies gradually added more options, including higher-end ride services as well as carpooling.
- They also experimented with special discounts and drop-off locations for riders heading to major public transit hubs.
With the boom in bike and scooter rentals last year, both companies started adding new transportation options to their apps.
- In February 2018, Uber inked a partnership with Jump in San Francisco and made its electric bike rentals available to some customers via its app.
- Shortly after, Uber acquired Jump, announced it would add scooters to its arsenal, and even inked a partnership with Lime to include its scooters in its own app in some cities.
- Meanwhile, Lyft acquired bike-sharing operator Motivate, and has begun to roll out Lyft-branded scooters in a small number of cities. (At one point, Lyft was also exploring a partnership with scooter startup Spin, as Axios reported.)
- Uber has also experimented with car rentals via a partnership with startup Getaround, though it recently suspended a pilot rental service for Uber riders. It continues to offer rentals to Uber drivers who need a car.
- In September, Lyft started adding public transit information in its app, now available in a handful of cities, while Uber made its first foray last month, starting with Denver.
The big picture: Expanding their apps' services only makes these companies’ relationships with Google Maps more complicated.
Payments for transportation also remain a tricky area.
- A year ago Uber inked a partnership with Masabi, which handles ticket payments for 30 public transit agencies, but has yet to make that available. (The company says that's coming soon — it'll first be in Denver, where it integrated transit data.)
- In 2017 Google Maps announced it would provide the ability to book and pay for an Uber ride via its own app, but the short-lived experiment ended the next year. A separate app for Android, Google Pay, does let users pay for some local transit services.
The bottom line: Uber and Lyft have an opportunity to broaden their apps' value by integrating more information and services with them. But they'll have to improve fast to best Google and persuade users that their apps are good for more than summoning a car.
Go deeper: Kia has more here.
2. Inside a San Francisco tech factory
Last April, we told you about Tempo Automation, which was building out a short-run manufacturing plant in San Francisco, one of the most tech-laden but also expensive cities in the country.
What we're seeing: My colleague, Kaveh Waddell, recently got a tour of the facility. Here's some of what he had to say...
"The factory floor was far from empty when Axios visited. Employees in white coats twiddled with imposing machines or typed at standing desks in a corner of the cavernous space."
While tech firms still turn mostly to China and other places with cheaper manufacturing for large-scale manufacturing, Tempo is trying to carve a niche making small batches and prototypes for companies that will trade a slightly higher cost for the benefit of getting the job done locally.
How it works: Tempo's customers upload their plans and select parts on an online form. It works a bit like a car website that lets you choose color and options before spitting out an instant quote.
- For now, Tempo can build up to 250 boards at a time, and it can prepare orders in a day or two. Mark Thirsk, founder of Linx Consulting, says Tempo's capabilities rival those of advanced manufacturers.
- Tempo makes boards for clients like NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory, Hitachi Metals and GE Life Sciences.
Read more of Kaveh's piece here.
3. How smartphones became indispensable
The U.S. is home to Uber and Lyft, but Brazil, India and Mexico are among the places where consumers say they use their phones most to hail a ride or taxi, according to a new survey from Adobe.
By the numbers: A higher percentage of people in those countries also say they rely on their phones for food delivery than in the U.S., which ranked fourth in both categories among the 9 countries where people were surveyed.
The bottom line: Adoption of smartphone-based services various by geography based on a variety of factors, including the prevalence of smartphone-based options, societal norms, and the cost and availability of competing services.
Among other findings:
- Consumers are getting more comfortable using their voice to dictate messages and their fingerprints to unlock their phones.
- 20% of U.S. millennials surveyed said they couldn't live without their phones for 2 weeks, as compared to 24% in the U.K. and 34% in India.
4. A new FTC antitrust team targets tech
The Federal Trade Commission said Tuesday it was setting up a task force that could review already-approved tech mergers, Axios' David McCabe reports.
Why it matters: It reflects a new level of federal scrutiny for a tech sector dominated by companies like Google, Facebook and Amazon — each of which made major acquisitions along the way to becoming a giant.
- The agency said the group of lawyers will monitor "competition in U.S. technology markets, investigating any potential anticompetitive conduct in those markets, and taking enforcement actions when warranted."
- It also said the move would include "prospective merger reviews in the technology sector and reviews of consummated technology mergers," raising the possibility that earlier Silicon Valley deals could come under the microscope again.
Yes, but: The FTC has been criticized as not doing enough to check corporate power and regulators are constrained by U.S. antitrust law that makes it hard to accuse a company of hurting competition with a free product.
5. Take Note
- Incompas is holding its policy summit in Washington, D.C.
- Boeing nominated former UN ambassador Nikki Haley to its board of directors.
- A federal judge upheld AT&T's Time Warner deal, rejecting the Justice Department's argument it should be blocked on antitrust grounds. The government said it doesn't plan to litigate the issue further. (Axios)
- The U.S. Cyber Command reportedly disrupted internet access for a Russian troll farm on the day of last year's midterm election. (The Washington Post)
- The "Shot on iPhone" photo contest winners are worth checking out. It's pretty amazing what's possible in smartphone photography. (Apple)
- VMware and Microsoft are talking about a broader partnership connecting VMware customers to Microsoft's Azure cloud. (The Information)
- Tesla CEO Elon Musk is still tweeting despite recent regulatory trouble, this time stating there will be "news" on Thursday. (Bloomberg)
- IBM apologized yesterday for having racially insensitive terms, which had apparently included "yellow" and "coloured," on its job application website. (Fortune)
6. After you Login
Check out the photographer who captured modern life, then photoshopped out the smartphones.