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…)

By on May 8, 2019

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.  (Read More…)

By on April 2, 2019

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.  (Read More…)

By on September 9, 2018

General Motors Renaissance Center

While we’ve bashed them for being one of the most expensive ways to acquire a vehicle, automotive subscription plans have becoming increasingly popular among premium nameplates. General Motors already has one exclusively for Cadillac but it appears that it’s setting up another for its less illustrious brands.

Late last month, the automaker filed a trademark application to register the name “DriveScription” with the United States Patent and Trademark Office. The document clearly states that the term will be used in association with the Goods and Services categories of automotive subscription services, rental services, and vehicle sharing. Considering that Maven already handles most of the short-term rental and ride-sharing aspects of GM’s new mobility services, DriveScription is almost certain to be the mainstream equivalent to Book by Cadillac.  (Read More…)

By on August 24, 2018

A product onslaught with a questionable sales future is on the way from Volkswagen, but Americans, as well as Europeans, won’t necessarily have to purchase one to add it to their lifestyle.

Under its “We Share” ride sharing venture, Volkswagen plans to offer up its line of I.D. electric vehicles to urbanites who don’t own a car, but still wish to use one from time to time. Users won’t have to worry about a disappearing tax credit, that’s for sure. (Read More…)

By on July 24, 2018

2017 Chevrolet Malibu - Image: GM

A pilot project we discussed months ago is now up and running in Detroit, Ann Arbor, and Chicago. Launched by General Motors’ Maven ride-sharing arm, the new peer-to-peer service goes beyond the existing fleet of GM-owned vehicles (which Maven users can rent for varying periods) and into the realm of the privately-owned car.

Yes, there’s owners who are now letting their car work for them. (Read More…)

By on February 27, 2018

A recurring theme among ride-hailing executives from the likes of Lyft and Uber is that their platforms will help reduce congestion in the world’s most populous cities. However, anyone actually living in these places will tell you it doesn’t appear to be working. Cities like New York were already clogged with taxi cabs but, instead of seeing all of these drivers buy personal vehicles to enlist as independent contractors for ride-hailing firms, Uber and Lyft brought in new drivers, more vehicles, and fresh competition.

Worse yet, ride-sharing alternatives like Uber Pool have moved people away from buses and trains and placed them in the backseats of cars — further compounding the problem. It turns out city dwellers who already owned an automobile didn’t suddenly decide to get rid of it, and those who were heavily invested in mass transit discovered an affordable car-based alternative.  (Read More…)

By on February 2, 2018

Car2Go

Automotive soothsayers have foreseen the coming Armageddon, where private car ownership vanishes and we’re all ferried around in robotic taxis or rental vehicles, and manufacturers have taken their divinations to heart. Either that, or the opportunity to diversity already successful companies is too tempting a prospect to pass up. As such, we’ve seen “mobility” become the new industry buzzword — used as a fill-in for electric vehicles, autonomous development, and ride-sharing/hailing programs.

Hoping to expand its own mobility services, Daimler has announced an openness to seek broader alliances just days after BMW Group bought out its rental car partner, Sixt, from their joint car-sharing program DriveNow. That sets the stage for a peculiar partnership, as the two German automakers have a long, competitive history with each other — one which sometimes results in passive-aggressive behavior. (Read More…)

By on December 6, 2017

Mini Cooper 5-door production line Oxford - Image: BMW UK

Mini faces a fork in the road in the United States. The retro-themed brand, reintroduced in the U.S. marketplace in 2002 by parent company BMW Group, needs to decide what it wants to be. Sales are falling as consumer tastes evolve towards larger vehicles. New technologies are cropping up at a rapid pace. What is the child of the British Motor Corporation, British Leyland, Rover Group, and BMW Group to do?

BMW Group management board member Peter Schwarzenbauer knows the brand needs to evolve — and not just in the U.S., where the brand reach a high point in 2013. After announcing a new electric Mini Cooper Hardtop (Mini E) for 2019, Schwarzenbauer took some time to address its U.S. plans. (Read More…)

By on November 9, 2017

Carlos Ghosn

Everyone in the automotive industry is talking about a grand shift toward mobility, resulting in a future where nobody owns cars and we all putt around in autonomous pods. Well, almost everyone. Carlos Ghosn, who currently chairs the alliance between Nissan, Renault, and Mitsubishi, thinks that’s a crock.

While there’s plenty of executives keeping quiet on the evolution of ownership, few have come forward suggest business as usual will be the new status quo. Meanwhile, swaths of industry experts are pushing the notion that rental services, ride-sharing, and firms like Uber or Lyft will eventually replace the need for dealerships and garages.

Not Carlos. (Read More…)

By on July 27, 2017

lyft press kit photo, Image: Lyft

Taco Bell and ride-hail company Lyft announced plans this week to debut “a unique ride-thru” experience called “Taco Mode,” which will allow patrons to request a pit stop at the nearest Taco Bell location. Lyft claims it’s the perfect option for “passengers seeking the ultimate Taco Bell experience.”

While riders can already request to be driven to the restaurant with some of the worst-maintained bathrooms imaginable, Lyft promises the app makes the overall endeavor of  buying fast food “more convenient — and fun — than ever.”

Why would these companies join forces? According to the press release, it’s because they “are two like-minded brands at the forefront of technology and innovation.” Don’t laugh. After all, Taco Bell was the company that realized you could make a taco shell out of fried chicken, while Lyft was the organization that took Uber’s business model and added furry pink mustaches.

They also both serve the late-night community. The restaurant chain provides a “fourth meal” to individuals that are too drunk or stoned to cook and the ride-hailing service keeps them from endangering others by stopping them from operating a motor vehicle. On the surface, it seems like a natural fit for a genius cross-marketing opportunity — until you place yourself into the shoes of the driver plighted to slop these disgusting animals in the backseat.  (Read More…)

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