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Microsoft Partners with Southeast Asian Ride Hailing Firm, Grab

Microsoft Corporation has invested an undisclosed sum in Singapore-based GrabTaxi Holdings Pte. Ltd to advance their common interests in technology projects such as art6iificial intelligence (AI).

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Arthur J. Villasanta – Fourth Estate Contributor

Redmond, WA, United States (4E) – Microsoft Corporation has invested an undisclosed sum in Singapore-based GrabTaxi Holdings Pte. Ltd to advance their common interests in technology projects such as art6iificial intelligence (AI).

Grab is better known in Asia as a ride-hailing and ride-sharing firm. It has a virtual monopoly on these services in the Southeast Asian countries of Malaysia, Indonesia, the Philippines, Vietnam, Thailand, Myanmar and Cambodia.

It bought out Uber’s Southeast Asian operations last March. Grab now operates in 235 cities in eight countries in Southeast Asia.

Since its founding in 2012, Grab has transitioned into a tech company and a few years ago opened a $100 million research and development facility in the Central Business District of Singapore. It also operates a development center in Seattle but has no intention of competing against Uber in ride hailing in the United States.

The partnership with Microsoft will allow Grab to continue its transformation into a consumer technology group. In this role, Grab will offer services such as electronic money transfers, micro-loans, mobile payments and food and parcel deliveries.

Under their five year-long deal, Grab will work with Microsoft to advance mobile facial recognition, image recognition and computer vision technologies to improve the pick-up experience. Among the partners’ goals is to allow Uber ride hailing passengers to take a photo of their current location and have the photo translated into an actual address for the Grab driver.

Grab will adopt Microsoft’s Azure as its preferred cloud platform and use it for data analytics and fraud detection services.

Southeast Asia is turning into an epicenter for global technology giants such as Alibaba, Tencent Holdings Ltd, JD.com, Google and SoftBank. The prize being sought lies in ride-hailing, online payments and e-commerce.

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Finance

Uber and Lyft are Worsening Traffic Congestion in San Francisco

San Franciscans will be “delighted” to learn that ride-hailing firms Uber Technologies, Inc. and Lyft are playing an important role in the worsening traffic congestion in their fair city.

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Arthur J. Villasanta – Fourth Estate Contributor

San Francisco, CA, United States (4E) – San Franciscans will be “delighted” to learn that ride-hailing firms Uber Technologies, Inc. and Lyft are playing an important role in the worsening traffic congestion in their fair city. Both Uber and Lyft are headquartered in San Francisco.

The San Francisco County Transportation Authority (SFCTA) reported that ride-hailing companies are responsible for up to one-fourth of the increase in traffic congestion in San Francisco. Jobs and population growth also play a major role in the daily gridlock.

The SFCTA report reveals that from 2010 and 2016, ride-hailing services accounted for:

* 55 percent of the average speed decline;

* 51 percent of the increase in daily vehicle hours of delay;

* 47 percent of the increase in vehicle miles travelled and

* 25 percent of total vehicle congestion citywide

Traffic congestion has really gotten worse in some districts, thanks to Uber and Lyft.In District 6 that includes the tech company-packed SoMa (South of Market) neighborhood, ride-hailing services account for 45 percent of the increased delay.

It gets worse in District 3, which includes tourist-heavy areas like The Embarcadero and North Beach. Uber and Lyft account for 73 percent of increased delays.

SFCTA utilized data from INRIX, a commercial dataset that combines numerous real-time GPS monitoring sources with data from highway performance monitoring systems. It also worked with Northeastern University for its transportation network services trip data set.

This report comes at a time when San Francisco is trying to manage and regulate emerging modes of transportation like bike-share and scooter-share.

“To the extent we believe all of these things will shape our future, then we want to wrestle with them,” said Joe Castiglione, the study’s co-author and SFCTA Deputy Director for Technology, Data and Analysis.

“We’re working with the SFMTA to determine how to look at all these on-demand delivery services.”

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U.S. Steel Agrees to 14% Pay Hike for USW Workers

United States Steel (USS), the country’s second largest steel producer, and the United Steelworkers (USW) bargaining committee have reached a tentative deal that guarantees a 14% pay hike for union members until 2021, plus other benefits.

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Pennsylvania, PA, United States (4E) – United States Steel (USS), the country’s second largest steel producer, and the United Steelworkers (USW) bargaining committee have reached a tentative deal that guarantees a 14% pay hike for union members until 2021, plus other benefits.

“We have a tentative agreement with USS and unanimous recommendation from the bargaining committee,” said the USW in an update to members. “Thank you for support and solidarity.”

The four-year contract agreed upon includes a 4 percent raise the first year; 3.5 percent raises in 2019 and 2020, and a 3 percent raise in 2021 for a total increase of 14 percent in pay. There’s also a $4,000 signing bonus.

The proposed deal will also preserve existing healthcare benefits and incentives formulas. It will include a second healthcare option and there will be no premium increases for retirees.

Union representatives will explain the proposal in detail during meetings at union locals.

“We are pleased to have reached a tentative agreement with the USW we believe is fair and in the best long-term interests of our employees and their families, as well as U.S. Steel’s customers, stockholders and other stakeholders,” said USS President and CEO David Burritt.

“Together, we’ve agreed on terms that will create certainty and stability for our many stakeholders, enable our company to implement our long-term business strategy, which includes continued, responsible investments in our people and plants, and position U.S. Steel to remain a leader in the highly competitive global steel industry.”

Last month, USS workers overwhelmingly voted to authorize a strike because of concerns about the company taking away healthcare and retiree benefits. These moves would have also burdened steelworkers with thousands of dollars a year in out-of-pocket healthcare costs.

The union and steelmaker returned to the bargaining table in Pittsburgh, and the two sides were finally able to hammer out an agreement months after negotiations started this summer.

“We are relieved that the company came to their senses,” said Michael Young, president of USW Local 6103, which represents steelworkers at the Midwest Plant in Portage. “I think this agreement is an agreement the members deserve and we are proud to bring it home to the membership for ratification.”

Negotiations between USW and ArcelorMittal, the world’s largest steel maker, continue. ArcelorMittal and U.S. Steel account for nearly 25 percent of U.S. steel production.

Last month, 15,000 members of the USW at ArcelorMittal unanimously voted to authorize a nationwide strike at plants operated by the company if negotiations over new contracts flounder. ArcelorMittal also wants concessions from workers despite recently reporting its highest quarterly profit in seven years.

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First Spaceflight for SpaceX Dragon 2 Reset to 2019

The first uncrewed orbital test mission of the Dragon 2 spacecraft made by SpaceX has been re- scheduled for launch in January 2019.

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Arthur J. Villasanta – Fourth Estate Contributor

Hawthorne, CA, United States (4E) – The first uncrewed orbital test mission of the Dragon 2 spacecraft made by SpaceX has been re- scheduled for launch in January 2019.

The mission designated “SpX-DM1 (SpaceX Demonstration Mission 1)” will test the approach and automated docking procedures of Dragon 2 with the International Space Station (ISS). According to the mission profile, the Dragon 2 spacecraft will remain docked at the ISS for a few weeks.

Thereafter, the spacecraft will conduct the full re-entry, splashdown and recovery steps to provide data needed to qualify for flights transporting humans to the ISS. The same Dragon 2 will be re-used for an in-flight abort test.

The mission was originally scheduled to fly in December. The re-scheduling follows misgivings by Hans Koenigsmann, SpaceX’s vice president of build and flight reliability, about scheduling issues that might push the test flight into 2019.

“The hardware might be ready, but we might still have to do some paperwork on the certification side of it,” said Koenigsmann. “It’s going to be a close call whether we fly this year or not.”

Despite the delay, both SpaceX and NASA still intend to have all systems prepared for launch in December,

“Having completed a number of additional milestones including substantial training and numerous integrated mission simulations, end-to-end Dragon checkouts at the Cape, complete Falcon 9 vehicle integration review, and installation of the crew access arm at LC-39A, SpaceX is on track for launch readiness in December,” said SpaceX spokesperson Eva Behrend.

“We look forward to launching our first demonstration flight of Crew Dragon — one of the safest, most advanced human spaceflight systems ever built — as part of the Commercial Crew program and working with NASA to identify the specific launch target date soon.”

The uncrewed test flights are preparation for crewed test flights. SpX-DM2 (SpaceX Demonstration Mission 2) will be the first crewed test flight of SpaceX’s Crew Dragon spacecraft, and is scheduled fror June 2019. This mission will carry a crew of two astronauts. It will be the first manned flight of an American spacecraft into orbit since STS-135 in July 2011.

STS-135 was the final mission of the iconic Space Shuttle Program. It was flown by the shuttle Atlantis on July 8, 2011.

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