In case you were counting, it has been more than a month since Uber CEO Travis Kalanick announced an investigation into claims of sexual harassment and discrimination within his company. Tonight The Information reports that in 2014, Kalanick senior VP of business Emil Michael and several other employees visited an “escort-karaoke bar.” Within minutes of that article being published, another report from Arizona revealed that one of the company’s self-driving cars has been involved in an accident.
In a story recounted by Gabi Holzwarth, a professional violinist and business development manager who was dating Kalanick at the time, four other men in the group picked out their favorites from a group of numbered women and proceeded downstairs to sing karaoke. Holzwarth and Kalanick left the rest of the group behind after about 45 minutes. A female Uber manager in the group was “visibly unhappy,” quickly left and made a report to HR about it a year later.
All of this has become news now, apparently, because in the last month Michael contacted Holzwarth in an attempt to stop the trip from becoming public knowledge, telling her to simply say they went to karaoke and had a good time. His statement, which is quoted in the article, reads: “Given the intense news cycle I thought it was the right thing to do to reach out and let her know that reporters may try to contact her directly. I have known her for a long time, consider her a friend and did not want her to be taken by surprise. Her recollection of this conversation was different from mine and I am very sorry if the purpose of my call was misunderstood.”
A statement from Uber says that “This all happened about three years ago and was previously reported to human resources. In early March it was referred to Eric Holder and Tammy Albarran as part of their review.”
As far as the accident, a picture posted on Twitter showed one of Uber’s self-driving Volvo SUVs laying on its side in the road. It’s next to a Ford Edge showing serious damage along the passenger side. The Arizona Republic spoke to a policeman who says that a vehicle failed to yield while making a left turn and collided with the self-driving car before a third car was hit by one of the first two vehicles. Thankfully, no serious injuries have been reported. The company is aware of the incident, but so far we don’t have any other information and don’t know if the car was in self-driving mode at the time of the accident.
As I noted the last time Uber had two negative stories break almost simultaneously, a slew of self-inflicted wounds have already damaged the company’s credibility. Emil Michael is the same exec who openly discussed hiring investigators to dig up dirt, and these Volvos are on Arizona streets because California temporarily banned them.
We keep hearing that Uber and its executives — including Kalanick, who just met with Jesse Jackson on an apology tour — will change, but the bad stories seem to stay the same, whether they’re about internal obliviousness about the problems with its workplace culture or making sure its self-driving cars are safe before they’re let loose on public streets.