By on April 26, 2021

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.  (Read More…)

By on December 4, 2020

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.

(Read More…)

By on November 24, 2020

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.

(Read More…)

By on November 10, 2020

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.

(Read More…)

By on October 26, 2020

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.

(Read More…)

By on October 23, 2020

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.

(Read More…)

By on October 5, 2020

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.

(Read More…)

By on August 21, 2020

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. (Read More…)

By on August 20, 2020

As Uber contemplates ways to avoid having to close up shop in California following the passing Assembly Bill 5, Lyft is simply suspending operations as it waits to see how the appeals process works out.

On Thursday, the fuchsia-themed ride-hailing firm said it would not be able to maintain business as usual in the Golden State, citing several of the reasons we prognosticated in yesterday’s article about Uber mulling a franchise model. Included in the release was an inability to hire enough drivers in a manner that would appease the new law, resulting in reduced service (especially in suburban and rural areas), and a pricing increase deemed unfeasible for existing customers if implemented. (Read More…)

By on August 19, 2020

California took on the gig economy by passing updated labor laws (Assembly Bill 5) mandating companies treat contractors more like regular employees. Some predicted this would be the death knell for ride-hailing firms like Uber and Lyft, who are entirely dependent on them for their daily operations. Worse still, these companies remain unprofitable despite most of the the physical expenses being pushed onto drivers — who remain responsible for the upkeep of their own vehicles after receiving their cut of the fare.

Earlier this month, Uber CEO Dara Khosrowshahi published an op-ed in The New York Times suggesting contractors deserved better, but current circumstances dictated that the situation remain largely unchanged. He later suggested the service might have to leave California as it restructured its business model to appease new rules, saying it had to reclassify drivers as employees with all the accompanying benefits (paid leave, minimum wage, unemployment insurance, etc). San Francisco Superior Court Judge Ethan P. Schulman said that would be fine last week when he ruled that Uber and Lyft drivers were essential to operations and could not be treated as tangential to the business. He wanted to be absolutely clear that exemptions would not be made for ride-hailing firms, stating that it was “high time that they face up to their responsibilities to their workers and to the public.”

Uber lost $8.5 billion in 2019, making it difficult to envision a future where it can begin offering more to its drivers. But it also doesn’t want to lose out on market share as the industry jockeys for position. There needs to be another solution.

What about moving to a franchise model? (Read More…)

By on July 20, 2020

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!  (Read More…)

By on July 17, 2020

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.  (Read More…)

By on July 16, 2020

On Thursday, Uber Technologies Inc. announced the acquisition of transit software company Routematch — suggesting the ride-hailing giant may soon take up busing as a hobby.

Don’t expect it to supplant your local transit authority overnight, however. Routematch clients tend to be dial-a-ride shuttle services (see: paratransit) seeking to outsource the management of daily operations. The company offers analytics, computer-aided dispatching, route scheduling/planning, real-time vehicle tracking, automated fare collection and applications for customers intended to make finding transport easier. Much like Uber, it operates as the go-between between customers and the services they want.

It doesn’t actually own any of the businesses it effectively oversees, making this a match made in heaven.  (Read More…)

By on June 18, 2020

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.  (Read More…)

By on May 29, 2020

Amid widespread suspicion of other human beings and the general sense that public transit is a terrible way to travel when COVID-19 lurks everywhere, Uber has rolled out a feature offered overseas to some of its U.S. customers.

Instead of hailing a ride to the grocery store (or what have you), then dialing up another for the ride back, what if you could just keep your driver for the entire trip — like some sort of big shot? (Read More…)

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