Shifting Gears: Uber’s safety report is finally here, Elon Musk takes the stand, and a shakeup at United

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Courtroom sketch shows Elon Musk during the trial in a defamation case filed by British cave diver Vernon Unsworth, who is suing the Tesla chief executive for calling him a ‘pedo guy’ in one of a series of tweets, in Los Angeles, California, U.S., December 4, 2019. REUTERS/Mona Shafer Edwards

Hello and Happy Friday!

It’s finally December, which means a busy holiday travel season overlapping with potentially nasty weather. Add to that mix a shortened holiday season for all of your online shopping to arrive, and it’s the transportation team’s Super Bowl!

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What did we miss? Let me know at [email protected]. Let’s dive in:


Uber’s long-awaited safety report is finally out

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Uber’s chief legal officer Tony West speaks at the ride-hailing company’s Uber Elevate summit in Washington D.C. on June 11, 2019. Tasos Katopodis/Getty Images for Uber Elevate

The ride-hailing giant on Thursday evening disclosed nearly 6,000 sexual assaults in 2017 and 2018 combined. The 84-page report also maintained that 99.9% of trips were safe.

“It’s important to understand the scale of Uber’s business in interpreting this data,” the report said. “This year, nearly 4 million Uber trips happened every day in the US – more than 45 rides every second.”

You can read the executive summary here. And the full report here (pdf).


Elon Musk heads to court

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Plaintiff attorney L. Lin Wood is shown with Elon Musk and Judge Stephen Brown looking on, in a courtroom drawing during the trial in a defamation case filed by British cave diver Vernon Unsworth against Musk, in Los Angeles Reuters

Tesla’s chief executive was back in court this week, this time for a defamation lawsuit brought by the British cave explorer he called a “pedo guy” on Twitter back in 2018 after the dramatic rescue of a Thai soccer team trapped in a flooded cave.

During an explosive two days on the witness stand, Musk defended his tweet, saying it wasn’t intended in the literal sense of “pedophile.”

Vernon Unsworth, the target of the attack, said the sting of the ordeal remained with him. “Feels very raw,” he said in his first day of testimony. “Feel humiliated, ashamed, dirtied.”

“I feel very vulnerable,” he added. “It hurts to talk about it.”


United calls for a crew change

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Oscar Munoz will step down as chief executive of United Airlines in May, the airline said this week. He’ll transition to chairman of the board and Scott Kirby, the company’s president who was recruited from American Airlines in 2016, will take over as CEO.

United has seen strong performance this year under Munoz’s leadership, despite strong industry headwinds. Still, the 2017 scandal in which police dragged a doctor off of an oversold flight – and the airlines’ response – is likely to be another hallmark of his time at the helm.


GM inks a big battery deal

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General Motors and LG Chem said this week that they will form a joint-venture to build a new battery factory in Ohio. The 50-50 collaboration is expected to total as much as $US2.3 billion in investment from the US’ top automaker and the South Korean energy company.

The new plant is anticipated to create 1,100 jobs and break ground in 2020.


Last call for rising stars nominations

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One of the test vehicles from Argo AI, Ford’s autonomous vehicle unit, navigates through the strip district near the company offices in Pittsburgh. AP Photo/Keith Srakocic

We’re beginning to cull the list of rising stars of autonomous driving. Is there anyone in the self-driving field we should consider? Now is your last chance to make sure they’re nominated.Details can be found here.


Everything else:

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