Shifting Gears: Peeking behind the curtain at Uber and SpaceX


elon musk

This week brought new details about the inner workings of two high-profile tech companies: Uber and SpaceX.

The former saw the release of a book by a former employee, Susan Fowler, whose 2017 blog post about workplace harassment brought attention to Uber’s aggressive, hypermasculine culture. Fowler’s post sparked a period of introspection at the ride-hailing company that led CEO Dara Khosrowshahi to make repairing its troubled culture one of his top priorities.

A new story from senior correspondent Dave Mosher shed light on a brewing conflict between SpaceX and some residents of a small South Texas community. SpaceX wants to buy all of the residents’ homes as it works on a rocket that could one day take people to Mars, but some don’t want to sell. 

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These are the biggest transportation stories from the past week:

The 737 Max’s long-awaited return is delayed

United Airlines, American Airlines, and Southwest Airlines won’t use Boeing’s 737 Max until August at the earliest. The airlines had previously canceled flights involving the troubled aircraft until June.

The 737 Max was last used for passenger flight in March 2019. Since then, the aircraft has been grounded following two crashes that killed a total of 346 people.

Boeing has been working to fix the automated flight system blamed for the crashes, the fallout from which led to the firing of former Boeing CEO Dennis Muilenburg and historically poor financial results.


A former Uber employee reveals warning signs about the company’s culture

Former Uber employee Susan Fowler released a book this week about her time at the company, titled “Whistleblower: My Journey to Silicon Valley and Fight for Justice at Uber.”

Fowler wrote a blog post in 2017 outlining the sexual harassment she experienced at the company. The post drew widespread attention to Uber’s workplace culture, a development that played a role in the replacement of Travis Kalanick, an Uber co-founder and former CEO, with current CEO Dara Khosrowshahi, who has made reforming Uber’s culture a priority.

In her book, Fowler described early warning signs about Uber’s culture she noticed during the interview process and her first days on the job: a reference from a recruiter to a “crazy” company trip in Las Vegas, the lack of women at Uber’s office, and a troubling orientation exercise.

New details about SpaceX’s quest to build a spaceport at the site of a small Texas community

Senior correspondent Dave Mosher published another story in his series about SpaceX’s attempt to buy the homes of residents in the South Texas village of Boca Chica to aid the development of its Starship spacecraft, which could one day carry people to Mars.

A SpaceX executive has told residents that their county government may use eminent domain to force them to sell their homes if they don’t agree to SpaceX’s terms. Despite the executive’s warning, some families have said they don’t intend to sell their homes to the company.

The impasse could result in a legal battle.

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