Uber Technologies Inc. has kicked off a new service that provides public health officials immediate access to data on drivers and riders who may have been in contact with someone infected with COVID-19. Weirdly, the company decided against announcing the sharing of your whereabouts with the government with any fanfare. Perhaps they thought average people wouldn’t be interested, or maybe that broadcasting their own participatory role in crafting a nightmare dystopia could be bad for business.
Then again, maybe this is exactly the kind of mass surveillance we need to flatten the curve, stop the spread, or whatever slogan is currently the trendiest. Worried? Don’t be. Uber said this service will be offered free of charge, meaning you don’t even have to spend any additional money to have your information shared.
What a sweet deal!
You may not have noticed this, but there’s a lot of people wearing masks right now. These individuals aren’t working with drywall or sanding anything, either. You can spot them shopping, walking, or crowded around these new outdoor drinking areas located downtown that force them to huddle together while you attempt to squeeze by — coughing politely to make your intentions known.
After repeatedly Googling “What’s Going On Outside?” it was eventually revealed to your author by a helpful neighbor that there’s some kind of mystery illness nobody knows anything about. They continued explaining, but I had already stopped listening. This new information had me shocked to the core.
All I could think about was how this was going to impact Lyft drivers.
Surely the company has some kind of plan to protect its workforce and make sure they’re not riddled with blood-borne parasites or whatever. Well, we seem to be in luck. On Friday, Lyft said it will distribute around 60,000 vehicle partitions to its busiest drivers as way to protect against the coronavirus while selling customized protective shields to other drivers through the remainder of the summer.
On Wednesday, ride-hailing company Lyft announced every vehicle using its platform will be electric by 2030. Since its fleet is comprised primarily of contractors using private vehicles, one might assume the company is planning to offer some financial assistance upon their next purchase. But being sensible rarely means being correct in the postmodern era.
Rather than encouraging its own drivers to make the switch, Lyft plans to work with NGOs, lawmakers, and pressure its industry rivals to make electrification mainstream. Obviously, this will include financial incentives for organizations willing to make the switch to EVs in exchange for a fat wad of cash. That’s what you’re now supposed to focus on. Ignore that Lyft’s announcement literally offers no personal commitment and passes every scrap of responsibility it pretends to be taking on to the government.
Lyft is trying to play the hero, and thinking about it too hard is going to muck everything up.
At the start of this month, Uber released a safety report in a bid to address concerns surrounding rider welfare. Not to be outdone, its main competitor also took steps to convince the masses that it’s also doing everything within its power to keep customers safe.
Lyft is forming a council of experts to assist the ride-hailing company in revising safety initiatives for riders and drivers. The group will include representatives from the Rape, Abuse & Incest National Network (RAINN), It’s On Us, the National Sheriffs’ Association, the National Association of Women Law Enforcement Executives, and the National Organization of Black Law Enforcement Executives. As with Uber’s report, Lyft is focused on incidents of sexual assault — and blaming society for any problems it may have.
Chicago is considering sticking ride-hailing services like Uber and Lyft with a new tax that would add a few bucks onto each ride. Mayor Lori Lightfoot has proposed a $40-million-per-year tax increase as part of a broader traffic plan modeled after London’s famous congestion fines. That means not all rides would be subject to the same fees, but each trip taken within the city would still cost a little extra.
While congestion charges are all the rage in Europe, they’re uncommon in the United States. New York City recently decided to financially penalize every driver taking a trip below 60th Street (something I’m not thrilled about), positioning Chicago as the second major metropolitan area in the U.S. to move forward on congestion fees. Lightfoot claims it’s a necessary first step “to improve mobility and further our goals of ensuring sustainable, affordable and reliable access to transportation options in every neighborhood.”
Last week, the Center for Auto Safety announced it had reached out to America’s ride-hailing giants to encourage them to stop allowing drivers to use vehicles under active recalls. The group’s release references a Consumer Reports study from this spring that alleged 1 in 6 automobiles commissioned by Uber and Lyft had unresolved defects in the NYC and Seattle areas.
“Unrepaired recalled vehicles are dangerous and can kill or injure drivers, passengers, bikers, or pedestrians. Exploding Takata airbag inflators which have resulted in at least 24 deaths worldwide, GM ignition switch failures which have resulted in at least 170 deaths in the U.S., and hundreds of other less-publicized defects pose equally significant threats to public safety,” explained the advocacy group. “Yet, recent studies from Consumer Reports and others have found concerning numbers of rideshare vehicles with unrepaired recalls on the Uber and Lyft apps.”
The futuristic world of personal transportation sans ownership was, once again, called into question after Uber posted its largest-ever quarterly loss on Thursday. The $5.2 billion dollar dent was accompanied by a Q2 that also showcased slowed growth, the worst the ride-hailing firm has ever seen.
While Uber attributed a large portion of its losses ($3.9 billion) to the employee stock compensations it needed to issue after its initial public offering in May, the remaining $1.3 billion still represents increased losses over last year’s results. Uber also said it expects to lose $3 billion through the end of 2019.
Despite revenue continuing to grow to roughly $3.1 billion, up 14 percent from last year, it’s the slowest quarterly growth rate in Uber’s history. However, the company claimed that “healthy growth” is what it’s primarily seeking at this time — and made a point of noting so on numerous occasions.
As ride-hailing services utilize the personal vehicles of contractors, rather than a commercial fleet of their own, repairs and recalls have to be handled by individual drivers. While it shouldn’t be a revelation that some recalls fall through the cracks, Consumer Reports is concerned that the ratio of unaddressed safety issues are unbecoming of companies pushing multibillion-dollar IPOs.
“Uber and Lyft are letting down their customers and jeopardizing their trust,” suggested William Wallace, products policy manager for Consumer Reports. “Uber’s website says people can ‘ride with confidence,’ while Lyft promises ‘peace of mind,’ yet both companies fail to ensure that rideshare cars are free from safety defects that could put passengers at risk.”
Uber and Lyft drivers from the world over are going on strike today to protest the company’s working conditions and pay. However, the careful timing of the event also appears to be aimed at torpedoing the brand’s fast-approaching IPO.
While Uber exists as a corporate middle man between riders hunting for a vehicle and drivers seeking a fare, the company’s official position is that both are customers. As Uber sees it, it’s providing both with access to its platform and thereby offering a service. But many drivers disagree and claim the only way to make a living is to work ludicrously long hours, which they believe should at least entitle them to be called employees and warrant some benefits.
Despite playing host to what everyone presumed would be a very hot property, Lyft’s IPO hasn’t panned out as expected. While the company’s Friday stock debut was strong, April 1st was less promising, with Lyft’s share price slipping by nearly 12 percent in a single day. It’s now well beneath the target price, casting doubts about the financial sustainability of mobility firms.
It’s a complicated issue. Lyft was valued at more than $22 billion when it went public last week, but investors are concerned with the company’s inability to turn a profit. Last year, the ride-hailing giant posted a net loss of nearly $1 billion. With Uber likely to announce its own IPO soon (and likely face similar headwinds), many are concerned.
Back in 2016, General Motors invested half a billion bucks in Lyft, the rideshare company bent on taking Uber to school. When the deal was made, the companies portrayed it as a long-term strategic alliance. Since then, investments have been made in Lyft by GM’s competitors (namely Ford), and GM has made investments in potential Lyft competitors like Cruise Automation. Pro tip: don’t try to draw this particular family tree.
Today, Lyft went public on the stock market, seeing an astounding open of $87.24 a share. As a gearhead, why should you care about this? Well, remember that investment GM made in the company? The General now owns 18.6 million shares, which now translates into a net value of over $1.5 billion.
In a company besieged by idling plants and layoffs, suddenly finding an extra billion-and-a-half bucks on the books is surely a big deal.
Annoyed by the lack of passenger data available from ride-hailing companies like Uber and Lyft, two researchers took matters into their own hands. Hoping to learn why people use ride-hailing apps to get around town, the authors of a study published in the Journal of Transport and Land Use joined forces, with one of the men volunteering to get behind the wheel of a 2015 Honda Civic on the mean streets of Denver, Colorado.
If Uber and Lyft wouldn’t share, maybe real, live passengers would.
The National Association of City Transportation Officials (NATCO) has joined Ford, Uber and Lyft to work with the data platform SharedStreets to glean a better understanding of America’s infrastructure. Their collective goal is to “make it easier for the private sector to work with cities around the world and leverage data to improve urban mobility.”
That means different things to different companies. For Uber and Lyft, aggregate data on passenger pickups and drop-offs could be useful in deciding where to deploy their vehicles. The information could also prove helpful in telling city planners how to best manage traffic patterns. Uber also said it would track speeders and what on types of roads people are more apt to drive dangerously.
Ride-hailing company Lyft wants you to ditch your car — and hopefully give it up altogether. After rolling out a limited pilot project in Chicago last month, the company has launched a new initiative in 35 American and Canadian cities that compels drivers to leave their car untouched for 30 days.
Lyft hopes to find 2,000 people willing to take part in its “Ditch Your Car” challenge. In exchange, the company will provide credits for a slew of services under its corporate umbrella (ride hailing, bike sharing, but not scooter sharing… yet), as well as credits for transit. What’s stopping these drivers from secretly using their personal vehicles during the month-long experiment? Nothing.
A new study from Schaller Consulting is claiming that ride-hailing services, like Uber and Lyft, contributed to 94 million additional miles being driven on Seattle-area roads in 2017. We’ve heard similar claims in the past. Data-backed allegations typically revolve around the notion that app-based services don’t encourage motorists to carpool so much as they pull pedestrians away from public transportation.
Considering how difficult most subway systems and bus lines are to enjoy, that’s not hard to believe.
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