Uber’s first test of crisis surge cap went unnoticed in October

All eyes are on New York, where along with a massive incoming storm, Uber is rolling out its emergency surge pricing cap. On Monday, there was a flurry of coverage by media outlets from Bloomberg to Time, with some saying this marks, “a chance for Uber Technologies Inc. to show it has learned from past mistakes.”

But this isn’t the first time Uber has capped surge pricing during a state of emergency — it’s the second.

According to a source familiar with the testing, Uber used its new surge price capping system in October during Hurricane Ana in Hawaii, which appears to have gone unreported by media. The company didn’t make a fuss of the development, choosing to introduce the system without scrutiny. Although Hawaii declared a state of emergency during that time, Hurricane Ana didn’t cause much damage.

Here’s how Uber calculates surge pricing in states of emergency: It chooses the fourth highest surge rate in the 60 days prior and makes that the capped rate for the storm. The top three highest surge rates from the prior two months will be ignored, in hopes of keeping the fare reasonable. It’s not clear why Uber won’t just cap surge at a designated amount, like 2x. The company will donate all of its revenue, which is 20 percent of each ride, to the American Red Cross during this time.

Uber announced the new emergency surge pricing policy in July, in light of tropical storm Arthur, which hit the East Coast. But according to an SF Examiner story, the pricing cap never went into effect because a state of emergency was never declared during the storm. Hawaii’s Hurricane Ana was its first test in October, but the New York blizzard will be its biggest.

The capped fare for New York’s upcoming blizzard Juno comes after the state’s attorney general penned a New York Times op-ed shaming Uber for what he called “price gouging” in the wake of surge pricing during Hurricane Sandy. The blowback for Uber surge pricing during times of crises stretch across the globe, with the recent outcry notably occurring after a hostage situation in Sydney. During instances like these, Uber has initially repeated the company line about how surge pricing gets more drivers on the road during times they might not otherwise drive.

This is true, but it doesn’t subvert the ethical quandary of leaving those who can’t afford the surge pricing in a potentially dangerous situation. The reoccurring outcry appears to have prompted Uber to have a change of heart.

How my mobile devices are ready for the next storm: Fenix ReadySet

After 4 days without power thanks to Hurricane Sandy, something arrived today that will help keep my mobile devices fully charged and connected to the web. I backed a Fenix ReadySet on Kickstarter, which is a large battery that charges with an included solar panel.

Why a T-Mobile-MetroPCS merger makes no sense

We’ve said it before and we’ll say it again: Combining T-Mobile and MetroPCS — two carriers with completely incompatible network technologies — defies reason. According to the financial media, the deal is set to happen, but it will be a disaster in the making.

The good and bad of Irene’s social media hurricane

Hurricane Irene is heading toward the East Coast. New York City, Washington D.C. and many other large cities are in its path. It appears Twitter has replaced TV as a tool of information and hysteria, which is both good and bad.

Today in Cleantech

Japan’s nuclear crisis is verging toward disaster this morning, and only the prevailing winds are keeping it from getting worse. News reports indicate that units of the earthquake-wracked Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Station could be on their way to complete meltdown, despite last-ditch efforts to flood several reactor cores with seawater. All but 50 of the plant’s 800 workers have been withdrawn. In the meantime, an explosion and fire at one reactor unit is spewing radioactive smoke into the air, and while the wind is now carrying that smoke east and out to sea, a shift in wind could carry it inland or to the south, toward Tokyo. Japanese Prime Minister Naoto Kan appeared on television yesterday to urge calm, but also to warn the estimated 140,000 people living within 30 km (18 miles) of the facility to remain indoors and keep windows closed. Meanwhile, markets and governments around the world are reacting to the unfolding disaster. Germany’s government said Tuesday it would shut down its seven nuclear reactors built before 1980 as part of a crisis-driven moratorium, but Italian utility Enel said it would continue with plans to build four new reactors. European stocks slid to their lowest levels since December in Tuesday trading, and U.S. markets were also trending lower as of early morning trading.

Donate Directly to Haiti Relief Efforts via iTunes

One very impressive thing about the international reaction to Haiti’s recent devastating earthquake is the many, many ways you can contribute to relief efforts. The Red Cross and other humanitarian organizations acted quickly, setting up donations via the web, through partnerships with product makers, and through incredibly simple text messages charged directly to your bill.

The flipside is that it can be hard to know exactly which methods are legit, and in which cases the bulk of your donation actually goes to relief work. Apple (s aapl) and the Red Cross have set up a method for donating money that makes it very simple to make a contribution that will go entirely towards helping Haitians deal with the fallout of this tragic event; you can now donate via iTunes. Read More about Donate Directly to Haiti Relief Efforts via iTunes

Orggit: Your Firesafe in the Cloud

We all know that we should safeguard our critical data and documents in case of a disaster. Yet way too few of us follow the best practices of having these items backed up and kept in multiple locations. As a Florida resident conscious of the threat of hurricanes and wildfires, I know I should be better at doing this. But I hadn’t found a really good way to do so until I was given the chance to try out Orggit.

Some Monsanto executives learned the value of safeguarding their data the hard way when they couldn’t access key information they needed during the chaos after 9/11. So in 2003 they founded Morgan Street Document Services to help individuals and businesses protect their important documents from disasters. Orggit was launched recently to bring this service to a wider consumer audience through a user-friendly interface. Read More about Orggit: Your Firesafe in the Cloud