Uber Avoids Legal Battle With Family of Self-Driving Vehicle Victim

The family of a woman killed by an Uber Technologies Inc self-driving vehicle in Arizona has reached a settlement with the ride services company, ending a potential legal battle over the first fatality caused by an autonomous vehicle.

Cristina Perez Hesano, an attorney with the firm of Bellah Perez in Glendale, Arizona, said “the matter has been resolved” between Uber and the daughter and husband of Elaine Herzberg, 49, who died after being hit by an Uber self-driving SUV while walking across a street in the Phoenix suburb of Tempe earlier this month.

Terms of the settlement were not given. The law firm representing Herzberg’s daughter and husband, whose names were not disclosed, said they would have no further comment on the matter as they considered it resolved.

An Uber spokeswoman declined to comment.

The fallout from the accident could stall the development and testing of self-driving vehicles, designed to eventually perform far better than human drivers and to sharply reduce the number of motor vehicle fatalities that occur each year.

Uber has suspended its testing in the wake of the incident. Toyota Motor Corp and chipmaker Nvidia Corp have also suspended self-driving testing on public roads, as they and others await the results of investigations into the Tempe accident, believed to be the first death of a pedestrian struck by a self-driving vehicle.

Nvidia’s chief executive, Jensen Huang, said Uber does not use the chipmaker’s self-driving platform architecture.

Toyota North America Chief Executive Jim Lentz said the company expects to “soon” resume testing of self-driving vehicles, while warning that the ongoing risks will affect the industry’s progress.

“There will be mistakes from vehicles, from systems, and a hundred or 500 or a thousand people could lose their lives in accidents like we’ve seen in Arizona,” Lentz said Thursday at a Reuters Newsmakers event connected with the New York auto show.

“The big question for government is: How much risk are they willing to take? If you can save net 34,000 lives, are you willing to potentially have 10 or 100 or 500 or 1,000 people die?” he said. “And I think the answer to that today is they are not willing to take that risk – and that’s going to really slow down the adoption of autonomous driving.”

The March 18 fatality near downtown Tempe also presents an unprecedented liability challenge because self-driving vehicles, which are still in the development stage, involve a complex system of hardware and software often made by outside suppliers.

Herzberg was pushing a bicycle while walking across a four-lane road outside a crosswalk when she was struck. Video footage from a dash-mounted camera inside the vehicle, released by Tempe police, showed the SUV traveling along a dark street when the headlights suddenly illuminated Herzberg in front of the SUV.

Other footage showed that in the seconds before the accident, the human safety driver behind the wheel was mostly looking down, not at the road.

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Soybean Acres to Exceed Corn for the First Time in 35 Years

Corn has been dethroned as the king of crops as farmers report they intend to plant more soybeans than corn for the first time in 35 years.

The U.S. Department of Agriculture says in its annual prospective planting report released Thursday that farmers intend to plant 89 million acres (36 million hectares) in soybeans and 88 million acres (35.6 million hectares) in corn.

The primary reason is profitability. Corn costs much more to plant because of required demands for pest and disease control and fertilizer. When the profitability of both crops is close, farmers bet on soybeans for a better return.

The only year that soybean acres beat corn in recent memory was 1983, when the government pushed farmers to plant fewer acres to boost prices in the midst of the nation’s worst farm crisis.

Iowa is the top corn-producing state, followed by Illinois, Nebraska and Minnesota. Top soybean states are Illinois, Iowa, Minnesota and North Dakota.

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Soybean Acres to Exceed Corn for the First Time in 35 Years

Corn has been dethroned as the king of crops as farmers report they intend to plant more soybeans than corn for the first time in 35 years.

The U.S. Department of Agriculture says in its annual prospective planting report released Thursday that farmers intend to plant 89 million acres (36 million hectares) in soybeans and 88 million acres (35.6 million hectares) in corn.

The primary reason is profitability. Corn costs much more to plant because of required demands for pest and disease control and fertilizer. When the profitability of both crops is close, farmers bet on soybeans for a better return.

The only year that soybean acres beat corn in recent memory was 1983, when the government pushed farmers to plant fewer acres to boost prices in the midst of the nation’s worst farm crisis.

Iowa is the top corn-producing state, followed by Illinois, Nebraska and Minnesota. Top soybean states are Illinois, Iowa, Minnesota and North Dakota.

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Russia Orders Expulsion of US Diplomats in Tit-for-Tat Move

Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov says Moscow will expel 60 U.S. diplomats after Washington announced it was ordering the expulsion of dozens of Russian diplomats over the poisoning of a former Russian spy in Britain.

Lavrov said Thursday Russia will also close the U.S. consulate in the city of St. Petersburg.

The U.S., along with more than 20 other nations, ordered the expulsion of Russian diplomats after Moscow was blamed for the nerve agent attack on former Russian double agent Sergei Skripal and his daughter earlier this month in the British town of Salisbury.

Russia denies it was responsible for the nerve agent attack and has alleged the it was carried out by British intelligence services in order to make Russia look bad. Britain dismisses that allegation.

In a phone call this week with U.S. President Donald Trump, British Prime Minister Theresa May praised the “very strong response” by the United States in the wake of the poisoning.

The White House said “both leaders agreed on the importance of dismantling Russia’s spy networks in the United Kingdom and the United States to curtail Russian clandestine activities and prevent future chemical weapons attacks on either country’s soil.”

Meanwhile, Skripal’s daughter Yulia is “improving rapidly” after a nerve agent attack earlier this month and is no longer in critical condition, Christine Blanshard, Salisbury District hospital medical director, said.

Sergei Skripal  remains in critical condition, Blanshard added.

British police gave an update on the investigation Wednesday, saying that after forensic examinations detectives believe the Skripals first made contact with the toxin at the front door of their home. They cautioned that those living in the neighborhood will see continued searches taking place but that the risk to the public remains low.

So far, police say they have looked through 5,000 hours of security camera footage, examined more than 1,350 other exhibits and interviewed hundreds of witnesses.

National Security correspondent Jeff Seldin and White House correspondent Steve Herman contributed to this article.

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Russia Orders Expulsion of US Diplomats in Tit-for-Tat Move

Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov says Moscow will expel 60 U.S. diplomats after Washington announced it was ordering the expulsion of dozens of Russian diplomats over the poisoning of a former Russian spy in Britain.

Lavrov said Thursday Russia will also close the U.S. consulate in the city of St. Petersburg.

The U.S., along with more than 20 other nations, ordered the expulsion of Russian diplomats after Moscow was blamed for the nerve agent attack on former Russian double agent Sergei Skripal and his daughter earlier this month in the British town of Salisbury.

Russia denies it was responsible for the nerve agent attack and has alleged the it was carried out by British intelligence services in order to make Russia look bad. Britain dismisses that allegation.

In a phone call this week with U.S. President Donald Trump, British Prime Minister Theresa May praised the “very strong response” by the United States in the wake of the poisoning.

The White House said “both leaders agreed on the importance of dismantling Russia’s spy networks in the United Kingdom and the United States to curtail Russian clandestine activities and prevent future chemical weapons attacks on either country’s soil.”

Meanwhile, Skripal’s daughter Yulia is “improving rapidly” after a nerve agent attack earlier this month and is no longer in critical condition, Christine Blanshard, Salisbury District hospital medical director, said.

Sergei Skripal  remains in critical condition, Blanshard added.

British police gave an update on the investigation Wednesday, saying that after forensic examinations detectives believe the Skripals first made contact with the toxin at the front door of their home. They cautioned that those living in the neighborhood will see continued searches taking place but that the risk to the public remains low.

So far, police say they have looked through 5,000 hours of security camera footage, examined more than 1,350 other exhibits and interviewed hundreds of witnesses.

National Security correspondent Jeff Seldin and White House correspondent Steve Herman contributed to this article.

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Trump Accuses Amazon of Not Paying Taxes, Putting Retailers Out of Business

U.S. President Donald Trump attacked online tech giant Amazon, accusing the company of paying too little taxes and being responsible for putting retailers out of business.

In a Twitter post early Thursday, Trump blasted the online retail titan, saying “I have stated my concerns with Amazon long before the Election,” adding, “Unlike others, they pay little or no taxes to state & local governments, use our Postal System as their Delivery Boy (causing tremendous loss to the U.S.), and are putting many thousands of retailers out of business!”

Trump has a long history blaming Amazon for hurting traditional brick-and-mortar retailers. He tweeted last August, “Amazon is doing great damage to tax paying retailers. Towns, cities and states throughout the U.S. are being hurt – many jobs being lost!”

For years, Trump has been at odds with Amazon founder and CEO Jeff Bezos, who owns the Washington Post newspaper.

In 2015, Trump tweeted, “The @washingtonpost, which loses a fortune, is owned by @JeffBezos for purposes of keeping taxes down at his no profit company, @amazon.”

In response, Bezos joked he would send Trump to space in one of the rockets owned by Blue Origin, a company he separately owns. “Finally trashed by @realDonaldTrump. Will still reserve him a seat on the Blue Origin rocket. #sendDonaldtospace,” Bezos tweeted.

Online news site Axios cited five unnamed sources in a report Wednesday that said Trump wants to “go after” Amazon, is “obsessed” with Amazon, believing Amazon “has gotten a free ride from taxpayers and cushy treatment from the U.S. Postal Service.”

According to the Axios report, the president has “wondered aloud if there may be any way to go after Amazon with antitrust or competition law.”

It quotes another source saying, “It’s been explained to him in multiple meetings that his perception is inaccurate and that the post office actually makes a ton of money from Amazon.”

After Trump’s attacks, Amazon’s stock price took a nose dive on Wednesday, dropping more than four percent, losing more than $30 billion in market value.

White House Press Secretary Sarah Sanders said “there aren’t any specific policies on the table” regarding Amazon at this time, but the president is “always looking to create a level playing field for all businesses, and this is no different.”

“As an online retailer, Amazon currently collects taxes in all states that have sales tax, regardless of whether Amazon has a physical presence or not.” It does not collect tax if items were purchased with third party sellers. Critics said this gives Amazon a competitive edge over traditional retailers that collect sales taxes on all purchases.

Amazon, founded in 1994, is the world’s largest Internet retailer measured by revenue and market capitalization. Last year, with over 40 subsidiaries, the company’s revenue exceeded $177 billion.

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Trump Accuses Amazon of Not Paying Taxes, Putting Retailers Out of Business

U.S. President Donald Trump attacked online tech giant Amazon, accusing the company of paying too little taxes and being responsible for putting retailers out of business.

In a Twitter post early Thursday, Trump blasted the online retail titan, saying “I have stated my concerns with Amazon long before the Election,” adding, “Unlike others, they pay little or no taxes to state & local governments, use our Postal System as their Delivery Boy (causing tremendous loss to the U.S.), and are putting many thousands of retailers out of business!”

Trump has a long history blaming Amazon for hurting traditional brick-and-mortar retailers. He tweeted last August, “Amazon is doing great damage to tax paying retailers. Towns, cities and states throughout the U.S. are being hurt – many jobs being lost!”

For years, Trump has been at odds with Amazon founder and CEO Jeff Bezos, who owns the Washington Post newspaper.

In 2015, Trump tweeted, “The @washingtonpost, which loses a fortune, is owned by @JeffBezos for purposes of keeping taxes down at his no profit company, @amazon.”

In response, Bezos joked he would send Trump to space in one of the rockets owned by Blue Origin, a company he separately owns. “Finally trashed by @realDonaldTrump. Will still reserve him a seat on the Blue Origin rocket. #sendDonaldtospace,” Bezos tweeted.

Online news site Axios cited five unnamed sources in a report Wednesday that said Trump wants to “go after” Amazon, is “obsessed” with Amazon, believing Amazon “has gotten a free ride from taxpayers and cushy treatment from the U.S. Postal Service.”

According to the Axios report, the president has “wondered aloud if there may be any way to go after Amazon with antitrust or competition law.”

It quotes another source saying, “It’s been explained to him in multiple meetings that his perception is inaccurate and that the post office actually makes a ton of money from Amazon.”

After Trump’s attacks, Amazon’s stock price took a nose dive on Wednesday, dropping more than four percent, losing more than $30 billion in market value.

White House Press Secretary Sarah Sanders said “there aren’t any specific policies on the table” regarding Amazon at this time, but the president is “always looking to create a level playing field for all businesses, and this is no different.”

“As an online retailer, Amazon currently collects taxes in all states that have sales tax, regardless of whether Amazon has a physical presence or not.” It does not collect tax if items were purchased with third party sellers. Critics said this gives Amazon a competitive edge over traditional retailers that collect sales taxes on all purchases.

Amazon, founded in 1994, is the world’s largest Internet retailer measured by revenue and market capitalization. Last year, with over 40 subsidiaries, the company’s revenue exceeded $177 billion.

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Emails Detail Arizona Governor’s Relationship With Uber

Emails released Wednesday between Arizona Governor Doug Ducey’s staff and Uber executives shed new light on the relationship between the first-term Republican and the company whose autonomous vehicle recently was involved in a fatal crash. 

Accounts of the previously unseen emails released by the governor’s office were first reported by The Guardian newspaper. which had obtained them through public records requests. They indicate that Ducey’s staff worked closely with the company as it began experimenting with autonomous vehicles that the company began testing on public roads in August 2016 without informing the public. 

The governor’s staff pushed back, saying Ducey’s embrace of Uber and autonomous vehicles was one of his administration’s most visible and public initiatives and that there was no secret testing.

“Allegations that any company has secretly tested self-driving cars in Arizona is 100 percent false,” Ducey spokesman Patrick Ptak said. “From the beginning we’ve been very public about the testing and operation of self-driving vehicles, and it has been anything but secret.”

The email exchanges fill in the gaps between what Ducey was saying publicly since taking office in early 2015 and what was happening behind the scenes as his administration helped Uber set up shop in the state and then launch its driverless car testing program. 

Frequent boosts

In the earliest days of his administration, Ducey ordered a state agency to stop citing Uber drivers for violating the state’s taxicab laws. He then pushed through a law legalizing ride-hailing services like Uber and Lyft, a move his Republican predecessor had vetoed the year before. He then issued an executive order in August 2015 encouraging and allowing self-driving vehicle testing with no reporting requirements.

Over the years since taking office, Ducey took frequent opportunities to boost Uber’s operations, tweeting about the company’s services and welcoming its officials after they pulled their self-driving cars from California in a dispute with that state’s regulators in December 2016 and shipped them to Arizona. 

“California may not want you, but Arizona does,” Ducey said when he took the first ride as a passenger in Uber’s self-driving cars in April 2017.

Behind the scenes, Ducey’s staff worked closely with Uber as he championed its regular service and its self-driving vehicles, allowing it to operate without permits and encouraging its testing and operation on public roads.

His staff set up meetings, helped steer Uber executives to Phoenix city officials as they tried to lift an airport ban, and got the governor’s office to tweet its suggested message about a new service called “Uber eats” when it rolled out. 

The emails show a top Ducey staffer was invited to use Uber offices for work while in San Francisco, but he didn’t take the company up on the offer.

The governor’s office said it provided the emails to the newspaper in September.

Ptak, Ducey’s spokesman, defended the tweet and other efforts to promote the company.

“We are proud to welcome innovation to Arizona,” he said. “We often promote news of the thousands of jobs and opportunities coming to Arizona. That’s nothing new.”

Democrats critical

The Arizona Democratic Party blasted Ducey after the email revelations. 

“Governor Doug Ducey violated the trust of hardworking Arizonans across the state,” the party’s executive director, Herschel Fink, said in a statement. “This bombshell report further exposes the mismanagement by Governor Ducey and his sheer priority to put business relationships ahead of Arizona.”

The governor suspended the company’s testing privileges Monday, citing safety concerns and “disturbing” dashcam footage of the March 18 crash in Tempe that killed a pedestrian as she walked her bike across a darkened road. Experts told The Associated Press that the technology on Uber’s car should have spotted the pedestrian and the failure revealed a serious flaw. 

Immediately after the crash, Uber voluntarily suspended its autonomous vehicle testing in Arizona, as well as California, Pittsburgh and Toronto. The company on Tuesday decided not to reapply for the California permit “with the understanding that our self-driving vehicles would not operate in the state in the immediate future.”

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US, Canada Differ on Quick NAFTA Resolution

The Trump administration is hopeful it can reach a deal on a new North American Free Trade Agreement before the July 1 presidential election in Mexico and U.S. midterm congressional elections in November.

“I’d say I’m hopeful — I think we are making progress. I think that all three parties want to move forward. We have a short window, because of elections and things beyond our control,” U.S. Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer told CNBC television Wednesday.

But Canada’s chief negotiator was far less optimistic.

“We have yet to see exactly what the U.S. means by an agreement in principle,” Steve Verheul told reporters Wednesday in Ottawa. There are still “significant gaps,” Verheul said. “We can accomplish quite a bit between now and then, and we’ve made it clear to the U.S. that we will be prepared to negotiate at any time, any place, for as long as they are prepared to negotiate, but so far we haven’t really seen that process get going,” he said.

Officials from the U.S., Canada and Mexico are supposed to meet in the United States next month for the eighth round of talks, although Washington has not announced dates yet.

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