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 23, 2020

When Sir Thomas More coined the term “utopia,” he lifted two words from Ancient Greek that roughly translate into “not a place.” Turns out people from the 16th century still understood satire, perhaps better than we do today. After all, we are the ones operating under the assumption that we can remap society in order to build consequence-free transportation network without a shred of humor to keep us grounded.

We may not need satire in this instance, however. A new study published in the American Journal of Public Health asks questions about how just effectively the shift to autonomy will benefit society as a whole. Industry leaders have broadly framed the shift toward self-driving as kicking down the door to an idyllic universe where no one wants for transportation, with autonomous taxis serving as the first wave of this planned paradise. The reality may be vastly different that what’s being sold, however.  (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 April 21, 2020

Image: GM

The great General Motors ride-sharing experiment is over. At least for now. Maven, which hit parking lots in 2016 and eventually expanded into the nation’s driveways, was GM’s attempt to put its vehicles to work, rather than sell them to retail or fleet customers like some kind of dinosaur.

For a fee, users could access the GM-owned fleet of Maven products to perform random driving tasks. Short trips, mainly, in the absence of an Uber or Lyft ride or participation in a more formal car-sharing agreement. Tap that app, find the car, unlock it, and drive off. Abandon somewhere after you’re done.

Well, that’s what GM just did with Maven. (Read More…)

By on April 15, 2020

With a pandemic suppressing the world’s need for transportation, Uber has kept itself busy by offering free rides to healthcare workers and expanding its food-delivery service, Uber Eats. Initially, that meant activating the program in more countries. The ride-hailing company has since added ways for businesses to manage meal plans for employees working from home while attempting to supply drivers with masks and disinfectant sprays.

This week, the company said it will expand the ways in which customers interface with these services. But this new method has been popular for well over a century. In a bid to encourage older Americans to use its food-delivery services, Uber has implemented a telephone line designed to help Luddites trapped in their homes. Customers can now dial a toll-free number and discuss menu options with an Uber representative who will help then finalize and pay for their order.  (Read More…)

By on April 10, 2020

With auto manufacturers, dealerships, and insurance agencies scrambling to find a way to retain customers during a global pandemic, now is the season of trying new things. Insurance companies have begun offering refunds on premiums for certain people who can’t afford to pay (and aren’t driving) during the health crisis. Automakers are offering heavy incentives on just about everything, cutting additional breaks for those left unemployed. Dealers are swapping to digital sales models to avoid as much direct contact with buyers as humanly possible while still making a sale.

But what are ride-sharing companies supposed to do?

Zipcar has a few ideas. With ride-hailing services and taxi cabs being viewed by many as mobile germ carriages, you wouldn’t expect shared vehicles to be in demand. Zipcar is making a few changes in a bid to make it all the more appetizing. Rather than relying on its typical hourly (or daily) price rates, it has expanded its Dedicated Zipcar vehicle program for weekly rentals. But that puts the business up against traditional rental firms, which have slashed their prices to an almost comical degree. (Read More…)

By on February 28, 2020

PSA Group

Given the size and modest specs of Citroën’s Ami city car, you’d think post-war rationing was still a thing in France.

The Ami, revealed Thursday, is a production version of the Ami One concept PSA Group debuted at last year’s Geneva Motor Show. It’s small, short, looks the same coming as it does going, and doesn’t require a driver’s license. It could be a ticket to freedom for a 14-year-old, but first they’ll have to get used to living life at no more than 28 mph. (Read More…)

By on January 15, 2020

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.  (Read More…)

By on January 6, 2020

Uber released its first safety report on Saturday, primarily to address concerns surrounding rider welfare. The media has become increasingly critical of Uber as a brand after its corporate culture was dubbed toxic — allegedly loaded with sexism and financial progress by any means necessary. Following a fatal accident involving one of the company’s autonomous test vehicles, many grew fearful that the company hadn’t fallen into the habit of promoting (or appreciating) public safety. Hoping to assuage some of those concerns, Uber put together its own safety report.

Earlier in the month, the ride-hailing service said it had received reports of 3,045 sexual assaults in the United States in 2018, with 9 people murdered (nearly half of them drivers… fortunately?) and 58 crash-related deaths. Uber said these issues only affected 0.0002 percent of the 1.3 billion rides the company orchestrated in the United States that year.

The new study attempts to frame data, accumulated over 21 months, against national averages to show that Uber is simply suffering from issues inherent to our society. While noting that an estimated 44 percent of women in the U.S. have been a victim of sexual violence seems like an odd way to absolve oneself from wrongdoing, Uber’s just a fancy cab service trying to distance itself from systemic fears that may have not have been entirely fair.  (Read More…)

By on November 25, 2019

Transportation for London (TfL) announced it has informed Uber that it will not be reissued a license to operate in the UK capitol, citing concerns over customer safety. TfL had previously declined to renew the ride-hailing business’ private hire operator license, which expired on September 30th, saying it was unsatisfied with the number of drivers it found “fit and proper to hold a licence.” Then it changed its mind, offering a two-month extension.

Now it’s claiming that at least 14,000 Uber trips taken within the city included drivers linked, via their app profiles, to cars they were not legally registered to drive. Having done an impromptu survey of his own (done as unscientifically as possible by just asking drivers if they owned the vehicle), your author found the number of “rogue” Uber drivers in New York City to be about one in five.

While easily framed as a gotcha moment, that ratio isn’t really any different from what I’ve experienced with NYC’s sanctioned yellow (or green) cabs. But that doesn’t exactly make it a non-issue either — just more of the same.  (Read More…)

By on October 9, 2019

Uber is testing pet pricing in North America to see if it can minimize surprise cancellations stemming from unexpected animal passengers while simultaneously hoping to make itself some money. The program, entitled Uber Pet, launches in select cities on October 16th and tacks on a small surcharge while giving drivers the right to refuse service in advance.

As difficult as it is to believe, not everyone loves animals — and even fewer like having strange ones making a mess of their personal vehicle. One of the most common complaints among Uber drivers is people bringing aboard pets unannounced.  (Read More…)

By on August 13, 2019

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.” (Read More…)

By on August 9, 2019

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.  (Read More…)

By on May 21, 2019

GM Launches Personal Mobility Brand: Maven, Image: General Motors

Anyone following the saga of Uber and Lyft know that mobility services are not — not yet, anyway — a money tree that bears unlimited financial fruit. The same can be said of mobility services offered by automakers.

General Motors’ car-sharing service, Maven, like those more well-known companies, is still a fledgling operation experiencing growing pains. Its latest growth move involves shrinking, with the mobility brand dropping out of eight U.S. markets. (Read More…)

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