Rising Fuel Prices Have Upended the Economy

Unless you’ve spent the last twelve months locked inside your home, then you’re probably dreading the next trip to the gas station. The average price for a gallon of 87 octanes has reached $3.40 in the United States. That’s about 50 percent steeper than it was at the start of 2021 and undoubtedly more than you’re wanting to shell out today. Though one cannot ignore the dizzying rates being advertised outside of British “petroleum parlors” or France’s many “un bordel pour voitures.” Canadians are also forced to endure higher gasoline prices, as the government tends to stack the taxes a little higher and the U.S. dollar tends to be more valuable. At least for now.

All you need to know for the purposes of this article is that fuel prices are up and it’s influencing the economy in some pretty dramatic ways.

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Uber Finally Makes a Profit, But Not Really

On Thursday, Uber Technologies reported its first profitable quarter since the company launched in San Francisco way back in 2009. This represents a huge achievement for the company, which has been investing heavily to expand the business in the hopes that it will eventually become the world’s favored ride-hailing, courier, and food-delivery service.

But here’s the rub. Uber is technically only profitable on an adjusted basis that takes a pretty narrow view of its finances. Despite this, it’s still a step in the right direction and may foreshadow the reliable earnings the company has been seeking for ages.

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Captain Obvious Returns: Studies Say Ride-Hailing Apps Cause Pollution

As luck would have it, hiring thousands of drivers to cruise around a city in search of their next fare has some negative environmental impacts. That’s the word coming from expert researchers at Carnegie Mellon University, who we can only hope are prepared to tackle similarly impossible quandaries — like establishing what happens to an object when it’s dropped or reaching a final determination on the wetness of water.

The study is inextricably linked to one we covered in 2018 asserting that ride-hailing services actually created more traffic congestion because it treads extremely familiar ground and seems like something that we should have already figured out on our own. But it’s also at odds with the years of messaging we’ve gotten from technology firms that have promised on-demand services (like Uber or Lyft) would usher in a new era of urban transportation striving for clearer roads and cleaner air. Based on little more than the conjecture of executives, we’ve generally accepted ride-hailing as “greener” than the alternatives and it’s well past time that we started actually thinking about it.

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Do You Think Uber and Lyft Will Ever Be Profitable?

While the tech industry does have firms pushing useful applications and products, it’s quite possibly the most disingenuous business sector of the modern age. Companies selling literally nothing more than false promises routinely see multi-billion-dollar valuations. The necessary hardware is always just “years away” and sold to investors who haven’t realized it was never real in the first place. A significant portion of the industry is also little more than reorganizing payment structures or access to services for the sake of convivence, making sure you’re locked into a plan that keeps your financial and personal details perpetually on file. But sometimes this actually results in worthwhile solutions which may (or may not) be capable of turning a legitimate profit.

Ride-hailing firms are probably one of the earliest and best examples of all the above. Uber and Lyft both lost a lot of money in 2020 but both remain convinced that profitability is just over the next hill. But there are plenty of obstacles littering the incline.

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Canadians Using Cabs to Avoid Quarantine Restrictions

With Ontario embracing some of the strictest lockdown restrictions in the West and giving the police force carte blanche when it comes to enforcing public health, many Canadians have told us they’re not exactly enthralled with the idea of notifying their government that they’ve been out of the country. This is doubly true if they’ve just flown in by plane because the nation now requires a few days’ stay in a hotel as part of its mandatory 14-day quarantine for those traveling by air.

Due to the added time, cost, and general hassle of booking yourself into a hotel for 3 nights — awaiting the results of a mandatory COVID test before you’re technically allowed to go home to continue self-isolation — some travelers have opted to utilize ground transportation for the explicit purpose of avoiding restrictions. Rather than flying all the way into the Great White North, Canadians are flying into neighboring American airports and then hailing a taxi that will take them across the border.

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Uber Asks CDC to Consider Drivers Essential, Wants Early Vaccinations

On Thursday, Uber Technologies made a request with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) that its drivers be deemed essential and up first for the COVID-19 vaccination. While slightly presumptuous, it’s hardly the only business to make such a plea. Delivery services, the trucking industry, food producers, and more have asked the CDC to make sure their employees have first whack at being inoculated.

With lockdowns still occurring, nobody wants to be made subject to new restrictions — especially if it hampers their ability to make money. Unfortunately, estimates leave widespread vaccinations a logistical impossibility until the middle of 2021.

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U.S. Government Awards Huge Transportation Contract to Uber, Lyft

The General Services Administration (GSA), responsible for managing services for federal agencies, issued a five-year federal contract to Uber and Lyft. Confirmed by Veronica Juarez, Lyft’s vice president of social enterprise and government, on Monday, the deal estimated to be worth somewhere in the neighborhood of $810 million and allows the ride-hailing firms to offer public agencies a direct line to their transportation services.

While federal employees have always been able to utilize the services, the new arrangement makes them semi-compulsory for some of the millions of government employees involved. Meanwhile, Uber and Lyft can now work directly with officials to promote their services. With the recent passing of California’s Prop 22, which issued special legal protections to ride-hailing companies, the duo seemed to be experiencing a run of good fortune late in the year. That doesn’t guarantee that they’ll suddenly become profitable entities. But they could be with sufficient government support — which seems increasingly likely for reasons we’re about to dive into.

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Opinion: Uber's Reserve Program is Mildly Troubling

Uber is launching a new feature that allows riders book trips up to 30 days in advance. While supposedly innovative, it smacks of desperation following years of multi-billion-dollar losses and an inability to account for pandemic-related lockdowns. The company reported a $1 billion loss in the third quarter of 2020, noting that gross bookings declined by 10 percent year-over-year. While the assumption is that business will improve as more cities reopen, only its business-baked bookings and its increasingly popular delivery services seem to be making any headway.

Reserve, which is what Uber is calling its new booking program, seeks to be another round in its corporate magazine by allowing customers to schedule rides far in advance. But having it serve as a new revenue stream seems wishful thinking because it doesn’t appear to offer much beyond the typical Uber experience since one could already pre-book rides. What Reserve changes is how this is done. The new service adds a flat fee to booked trips that’s dependent upon location and demand.

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Uber, Lyft Win in California: Drivers to Remain Contractors

Uber and Lyft stocks saw a bump this week after California passed a ballot measure that will exempt them (and similar businesses) from a state law requiring contracted drivers to be reclassified as employees.

App-based work platforms bent over backward and expended millions to ensure Proposition 22 passed in November, with many suggesting it was the only way to continue operations in the state. It seems those efforts weren’t for nothing. With over 80 percent of votes counted this morning, the California Secretary of State’s Office announced that 58 percent of voters supported the measure with 42 percent against. Ride-hailing platforms will be legally exempt from California’s Assembly Bill 5 and drivers will remain contracted employees.

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Uber Drivers Sue, Claim Company Pressured Them to Support Prop 22

A small group of drivers are suing Uber over repetitive in-app messages from the company about Proposition 22, a ballot initiative it would very much like them to support. Considering the deluge of political messages you’re undoubtedly getting on your own cellular device, you’re probably sympathetic to their plight. There are few things more annoying than being constantly reminded about an election nobody seems capable of shutting up about — especially when they can’t seem to get your name right.

But Uber likely crossed a line with its employees. While political action campaigns can inundate you with the most obnoxious and misleading election information, your employer isn’t supposed to. These drivers are claiming Uber violated their employment rights by trying to get them to support a ballot measure it has a vested interest in every time they checked their mobile device to hunt for a fare.

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California Rules Uber/Lyft Must Reclassify Drivers

A California appeals court unanimously ruled against ride-hailing giants Uber and Lyft on Thursday, mandating that they would indeed need to reclassify drivers operating within the state as employees.

The duo have been pushing against Assembly Bill 5, which seeks to reclassify contracted, gig-economy workers as fully fledged employees entitled to all the associated benefits, all year. California even sued Uber and Lyft in May for refusing to comply with with the order but they’ve claimed AB5 will severely hinder (if not eliminate) their ability to operate within the state and have backed a measure called Proposition 22 that would grant them special exceptions.

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Uber, Lyft Spending Big to Fight Californian Gig Economy Laws
California’s Proposition 22 is a torpedo launched by the SS Gig Economy and will undoubtedly sink Assembly Bill 5 (AB5) if the measure passes this November. The proposal seeks to flip new laws (instituted in January) that prohibit companies from erroneously categorizing employees as independent contractors, forcing them to adhere to minimum wage laws — while likewise offering paid overtime, unemployment insurance, worker’s comp, and other obligatory benefits under the state’s regulatory guidelines. Critics have faulted numerous employers (sometimes whole industries) for abusing staff by falsely labeling them as contractors in a bid to save money. Ride-hailing platforms, like Lyft and Uber, are said to be among the worst offenders and have certainly offered the greatest push back against AB5.Proponents of Prop 22 frequently cite the enhanced freedom that comes with the gig lifestyle. Contractors are not forced to work more hours than they want to and are likewise not beholden to their employers (or vice versa). While everyone from publishers to delivery agencies are eager to push that narrative as a positive, nobody is spending as much as Uber and Lyft to undermine the public’s opinion of the proposal. Combined, they’re dropping over $100 million to see that Prop 22 passes. Because the alternative will be far more costly for the on-demand ride-sharing businesses.
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Uber Promises Fleet-wide Electrification by 2030, GM Offers Help

Uber Technologies has promised to make sure that 100 percent of the vehicles used to convey customers in Europe, Canada, and the United States will be powered entirely by electricity — allotting itself just under a decade for the transition. By 2030, Uber said all cars used on the platform will be required to be of the plug-in variety. At the same time, General Motors announced it would be helping drivers get there by offering juicy discounts on items they’ll be required to buy in preparation for the coming change. That seems incredibly convenient, especially for the purveyors of these soon-to-be-mandatory products.

On Tuesday, CEO Dara Khosrowshahi noted he wanted Uber to help lead a “green recovery” in the wake of the coronavirus lockdowns that resulted in an American unemployment rate not seen since the Great Depression. He acknowledged how nice the air had gotten in urban environments (Manhattan still smells like expired milk, FYI) and suggested going back to the before times would be a mistake. We were practically cave people prior to 2020 and have metamorphosed into a higher state of being.

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Slammed by the NTSB, Uber Now Promises to Make Autonomous Test Data Available to Public

Uber Technologies promised to make the safety information related to its self-driving program more widely available following some fairly harsh criticism from the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB).

The agency had faulted Uber with some amount of responsibility after conducting its investigation into the fatal testing accident that took place in March of 2018. The incident, which took place in Tempe, AZ, involved an inattentive Uber safety operator who struck and killed a pedestrian who was attempting to cross a poorly lit roadway — creating a national backlash against self-driving vehicles and a push toward ensuring higher levels of safety.

Police say the vehicle was operating autonomously for testing purposes at the time of the collision. Following months of investigation, the NTSB decided in 2019 that driver failed to act in a safe manner due to being distracted by their cellphone. Uber was also faulted for possessing inadequate safety risk assessment procedures, ineffective oversight of vehicle operators, and a general absence of mechanisms to address complacency by operators as the cars drove themselves.

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California Blinks: Uber/Lyft Granted Extension on New Labor Laws

The battle between the purveyors of ride-hailing apps and the State of California has been an interesting one. The West Coast’s gig economy looked ready to be nuked from orbit following the passing of Assembly Bill 5 (AB5), leaving a glassy crater of jobless part-timers and the corporations that were dependent upon them — even though the stated goal of the rule was to protect gig workers from being taken advantage of.

Uber and Lyft looked to be the most impacted by the new law, as their entire business structure revolves around managing fares for drivers whose status as “independent contractors” was up for debate.

Claiming that hiring drivers as full-fledged employees would make the existing business model untenable, Uber and Lyft suggested they were looking into alternative solutions while fighting legal battles that would effectively make them exempt from the new law. San Francisco Superior Court Judge Ethan P. Schulman threw cold water on that concept when he ruled against the duo, saying drivers were essential to ride-hailing operations and needed to be treated as regular employees receiving the full benefits they’re entitled to.

The corporations’ last hope was double down on threat to leave the state and hope a California appeals court would grant them an extension to stage another legal fight, or just comply with AB5… which is exactly what happened on Thursday afternoon.

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  • Jeff S @Lou_BC--Diamonds are not really rare DeBeers dominates the diamond market and created the market with advertising starting in the 1930s thru the 40s. Before that time diamonds were for the most part considered for the wealthy and diamond wedding rings were not that common. Go back 100 years and most women wore wedding bands made of gold, silver, or other metals. DeBeers dominating the diamond market also controls the supply of diamonds keeping the prices higher by restricting supply. Sound familiar? Oil companies have learned to restrict supply of oil as well.https://blog.hubspot.com/marketing/diamond-de-beers-marketing-campaign
  • Statikboy So they named it after the worst cracker."Perhaps that’s why the autonomous dream appeals to so many - they’ve never experienced satisfaction, or even fun, whilst operating a motorcar.""This 2022 Mazda CX-30 Turbo, for example, can certainly handle the drudgery of the daily commute with aplomb but can make a detour on a twisty two-lane a bit more enjoyable."While the autonomous dream doesn't appeal to me at all, I think the reason that it does appeal to so many is because it theoretically has the potential to make the drudgery of the daily commute a bit more enjoyable.
  • Jeff S Arthur and I might be in the minority but we miss cars like this. We will never see cars like this again and it is what it is. I did like driving my mothers 72 Sedan Deville and her 84 Chrysler 5th Avenue with leather interior and Boise Dolby stereo along with some of the other luxury cars I drove from this era. At least I got to experience them and if I want more I can always read Corey's well written articles and watch Adam on Rare Classic Cars.
  • ToolGuy "Idle," or "Shutter"? Let's don't get completely lazy.
  • Jeff S Might not matter during car shortages. I have a Costco and Sam's membership which I thought about using for buying a vehicle but when the Maverick order banks opened up in June 2021 I went online to built my own Maverick and still had to go to the dealer to order it. With vehicle shortages you might still have to go to the dealer to order but it might be worth it to try to use Costco if you know what you want and are not too picky about colors and options to see what is available now especially if you don't want to wait for a vehicle. I doubt in today's environment that you would save a lot on the purchase of a new vehicle especially since many dealers are adding adjustments to market prices on top of msrp.