DoorDash and Uber face full-time gigs

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New York and London have delivered another twist to definitions of the gig economy today.

Delivery app DoorDash has broken its own gig worker model to hire some couriers as employees for the first time, as part of a move to enter the crowded race for under 15-minute deliveries in the Big Apple. In London, Uber has lost a High Court case that means all drivers can seek workers’ rights protections, according to unions.

Sixty couriers will now work full-time for DoorDash’s pilot launch in New York, with set pay and benefits. Dave Lee explains DoorDash is opening hyperlocal “dark” stores to match the speed of the vertically integrated convenience deliveries offered by Gopuff and others. The flexible gig worker model employed for restaurant deliveries appears to have met its limit with the “instant needs” sector, because delivery drivers have to be available at the warehouse before an order is placed to shave off crucial minutes.

In London, the High Court ruled it was unlawful for a private hire vehicle (PHV) operator to act as an “agent” between a driver and a passenger. This means that Uber and other ride-hailing companies, not individual drivers, will enter into contracts directly with passengers and will be held liable for anything that goes wrong with the service.

The decision means that drivers are in effect working for the operator. “It clears the way for all drivers in the sector to seek worker rights protection,” said James Farrar, general secretary of the App Drivers and Couriers Union.

The sting in the tail for Uber is that the ruling could also mean it is liable for 20 per cent value added tax (VAT) on gross bookings or its service fee, a bill that could come to more than £1bn.

The Internet of (Five) Things

1. Facebook and academia, Trump and Truth Social A growing number of researchers who are seeking to understand the potentially harmful social effects of Facebook say their work is being stifled, The Big Read reports. Meanwhile, Trump Media and Technology Group said it had raised $1bn for its social media venture, but did not name any investors. In October, the former US president announced the launch of Truth Social and said it would list through a Spac merger in New York.

DoorDash and Uber face full-time gigs

2. ESA chief: Musk ‘making the rules’ in space Josef Aschbacher, the new director-general of the European Space Agency, said that Europe’s readiness to help the rapid expansion of Elon Musk’s Starlink satellite internet service risked hindering the region’s own companies from realising the potential of commercial space.

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3. Big Tech dominates ad marketGoogle, Facebook and Amazon have doubled their share of ad revenues in the past five years to more than half the global advertising market outside China, according to estimates from media buyers GroupM. Overall, digital defied the contraction in other advertising channels in 2020 and is expected to surge another 30.5 per cent globally this year to $491bn, dwarfing other categories.

4. SoftBank sinks on poor-performing portfolioSoftBank shares fell 8 per cent on Monday, their seventh consecutive day of losses, as mounting problems at its portfolio companies Didi Chuxing and Arm revived concerns over the Japanese technology conglomerate’s business model. Alibaba is another sliding SoftBank investment and longtime finance chief Maggie Wu is stepping down as the Chinese ecommerce giant shakes up its organisation to reverse slowing growth and halt the fall of its share price to a five-year low.

5. SenseTime set for Hong Kong IPOSenseTime, the Chinese artificial intelligence company specialising in facial recognition software, is seeking a valuation of up to $17bn in an initial public offering, in what would be Hong Kong’s largest listing in months.

Tech tools — Eight Sleep Pod Pro Cover

Temperature can be all-important in tackling sleep problems and one option, other than installing air conditioning in the bedroom, is a mattress or cover that cools underneath you. Jonathan Margolis tested the Chilisleep Ooler mattress pad in the summer and I have been trying another US solution, now available in Europe this autumn — the Eight Sleep Pod Pro Cover.

Eight Sleep also does a full cooling mattress, but this option allows you to adapt an existing one. It took over two hours to unpack the three boxes the kit comes in and install it. You first put an encasement layer over your existing mattress and then zip on the Active Grid cover that contains piping for the water coolant. Then attach it to a hub, which looks like a PC tower but is still stylishly unobtrusive, and prime the whole system by adding distilled water and a dash of hydrogen peroxide.

If this is a bit of a palaver, there is little to do once everything is in place, other than top up the water when prompted by the accompanying app and add hydrogen peroxide periodically. I was impressed with the high standard of materials and clear instructions, the quiet operation of the hub, while the app adds another level of sophistication.

You can control the temperature through the night for different sides of the bed, set timers, allow the cover to wake you up and gather a host of data about your sleep phases, quality and general wellbeing. These include heart rate variability, which can indicate your overall heart health; sleeping heart rate and breathing rate. There are other sleeping tools in the app, helping you to meditate, breathe, listen to soothing natural sounds or get instruction from sleep trainers.

The Pod Pro Cover costs between $1,600 and $1,900, depending on bed size, but some might consider this a small price to pay for a better night’s sleep. My wife, who suffers from insomnia, felt the cover helped create the optimum cool conditions for what sleep she gets (it will also warm the bed if you want it to), but it was by no means a cure-all. Eight Sleep’s website has multiple testimonials from professional athletes and other users saying their sleep has been improved by the technology.

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