May 17, 2020

Uber rented out recalled vehicles in Singapore

Uber
singapore
Honda
Honda Vezel
Fran Roberts
2 min
Uber has said it could have done more to pull unsafe cars off the road in Singapore, amid allegations it rented out faulty vehicles to drivers.

The Wal...

Uber has said it could have done more to pull unsafe cars off the road in Singapore, amid allegations it rented out faulty vehicles to drivers.

The Wall Street Journal said Uber managers in Singapore bought more than 1,000 Honda Vezel SUVs and rented them to drivers even though they knew the model had been recalled in April 2016 over concerns that an electrical part that could overheat and catch fire. 

The ride-hailing company borrowed US$1bn in capital from Goldman Sachs Group Inc. and other banks in the purchase of the defective vehicles from importers.

One of these cars caught fire in January after an Uber driver dropped off a passenger, melting the interior and leaving a hole in the windscreen.

“As soon as we learned of a Honda Vezel from the Lion City Rental fleet catching fire we took swift action to fix the problem, in close coordination with Singapore’s Land Transport Authority as well as technical experts,” said Uber in a statement.

“But we acknowledge we could have done more – and we have done so.

“Since the beginning of the year, we’ve proactively responded to six vehicle recalls and will continue to do so to protect the safety of everyone who uses Uber.”

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Lion City Rental is a car-leasing company affiliated with Uber.

The leasing arrangement was designed to meet strong demand in the country where the cost of owning a vehicle is extremely high.

Indeed, Singapore is the most expensive country in the world to own a car – the average cost of a car is around S$106,000 (US$78,171) in 2017.

Bloomberg reported last year that Uber’s lease contracts shackled some subprime borrowers to vehicles they couldn’t afford.

To guarantee there is no repeat of this incident, Uber said it had hired three in-house experts at the company to ensure it was responsive to safety recalls.

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Jun 14, 2021

Amazon tests new technology to improve employee safety

Technology
Amazon
robots
Innovation
3 min
Amazon is testing new technologies in an effort to make handling packages safer for employees

At the Amazon Robotics and Advanced Technology labs in Boston, and Northern Italy, team members are testing and developing new technologies in order to help to make employees’ jobs safer, these include technologies that help move carts and packages through Amazon facilities.

Recently the safety of Amazon's warehouses has drawn scrutiny. On June 1, the Washington Post's Jay Greene and Chris Alcantara published findings from an analysis of Occupational Safety and Health Administration data showing Amazon's serious injury rates are nearly double those at other companies' facilities.

A spokesperson from Amazon said the company spent more than $1 billion last year on safety measures, and hired more than 6,200 employees to a group dedicated to workplace health and safety.

Motion-capture technology

One innovation being tested by Amazon, which is in early development, is the use of motion-capture technology to assess the movement of volunteer employees in a lab setting. These employees perform tasks that are common in many Amazon facilities, such as the movement of totes, which carry products through robotic fulfillment centers.

The motion-capture software enables Amazon scientists and researchers to more accurately compare data captured in a lab environment to industry standards rather than other modelling tools traditionally used by ergonomists.

“With this data, visualisations, and employee feedback, we are looking to identify relatively simple changes that can make a big impact,” said Kevin Keck, worldwide director of Advanced Technology at Amazon. “Something as simple as changing the position of handles on totes may help lower the risk of injuries to our employees at a massive scale.”

Autonomous Robots creating new paths to safety

In order to reduce the need for employees to reach up or bend down when retrieving items, Amazon is testing a new workstation system called “Ernie.” According to the company Ernie takes totes off of a robotic shelf and uses a robotic arm to deliver it to employees, so they can remain in a more comfortable and stable position.

“We’re known for being passionate about innovating for customers, but being able to innovate with robotics for our employees is something that gives me an extra kick of motivation each day,” said Keck. “The innovation with a robot like Ernie is interesting because while it doesn’t make the process go any faster, we’re optimistic, based on our testing, it can make our facilities safer for employees.”

“Bert” is one of Amazon’s first Autonomous Mobile Robots (AMRs), and is being tested to autonomously navigate through facilities with Amazon-developed advanced safety, perception, and navigation technology. In the future, it is thought that an employee would be able to summon Bert to carry items across a facility. 

‘Scooter’ and ‘Kermit’ are two other robots that also operate autonomously, and are both transport cars. The carts are used to carry empty totes and packages through our facilities. 

In a blog post the company said: ‘By having Autonomously Guided Carts (AGCs) like Scooter and Kermit perform physical tasks, we believe we can make our facilities safer and enable our employees to focus on jobs that require their critical thinking skills. In addition, using an AGC like Scooter to pull carts through our facilities reduces the risk of strains on our employees, or even collisions. We currently plan to deploy Scooter to at least one Amazon facility this year.’ 

Amazon began using robotics in its facilities in 2012, and since then they have added more than 1 million jobs worldwide while simultaneously deploying 350,000 mobile drive unit robots. 

“The role robotics and advanced technology can play in not only innovating for customers, but helping make our facilities safer, is a massive motivation for me and my team,” said Keck. “The health and safety of our employees is our number one priority. By listening to them, innovating on their behalf, and driving new technologies into our facilities over the coming months and years, I’m confident we’ll make a big contribution to our goal of reducing recordable incidents by 50% by 2025.”

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