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Uber, lyft and other taxis

Deregulate the taxis

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The taxi industry in the United States used to epitomize the spirit of can-do entrepreneurship. In the 1920s, an immigrant could arrive in New York City with nothing, save up or borrow money to purchase a car, paint the word “taxi” on it and jump right into doing business. The driver could work their own hours and set their own rates. It was a free market that measured success according to work ethic.

The industry started to go downhill in 1937. That was the year that government stepped in. New York started to require taxis to purchase special permits, called medallions, and set limits on the quantity available for sale. This artificial scarcity inflated the price of medallions to a record $1.3 million each in 2014. Only large taxi companies could afford such prices, so most drivers had to trade away their entrepreneurialism in order to become employees. The only alternative was condemning oneself to debt slavery when they try to finance a medallion on their own.

The over-regulation of taxis affects transportation in Anchorage as well. Municipal law enforces a cap on fares, limits permits pursuant to when and where taxis can operate and determines the approved circumstances in which a driver may refuse service. There is an expensive index of permit fees and requirements like equipment, drug testing and vehicle inspections. Some of these regulations are draconian. Others are redundant since state law already regulates car insurance and driving under the influence.

Most importantly, however, these regulations put taxi drivers at a significant disadvantage compared to ride-hailing companies like Uber and Lyft. Ride-hailing companies were approved to do business in Alaska only a few years ago, and they have not been subjected to the same onerous regulations as taxis. Despite that, their quality of service has been excellent. This strongly suggests that the government’s involvement in the vehicle-for-hire industry does not produce superior results.

The over-regulated taxi industry is unable to innovate in this evolving economy. Ride-hailing companies have tapped into customer needs that the taxis failed to identify, such as requesting rides via an app or enjoying a customized vehicle. Even the reviews are reciprocal since both passengers and drivers can rate each other on behavior.

It is very likely that the taxi industry will continue losing customers and laying off drivers. This is natural for sectors that fail to compete, but we should sympathize. Taxi drivers are our fellow Alaskans. Instead of trying to penalize the creative competition, as some wish to do, we should give taxis the freedom to innovate. Deregulation is the only way to save their jobs.

A new ordinance proposed in the Anchorage Assembly is attempting to do exactly that. Assembly Chair Eric Croft’s ordinance would repeal the burdensome municipal regulations that taxis must adhere to. To create a level playing field, they would still be subject to state laws governing vehicular operation, just as ride-hailing companies are. This would not penalize one side or the other, but give every competitor the freedom to succeed or fail according to their own work ethic and creativity.

Some things need to be cleared up when we discuss adopting Croft’s ordinance. This should go without saying, but municipal deregulation here does not transform local transportation into a Mad Max free-for-all apocalypse. Reasonable laws still exist to enforce transportation safety. Deregulated taxi drivers will still have to operate an insured, road-worthy vehicle while sober and obey all traffic laws. Croft’s ordinance just removes the regulatory burdens that are unique to taxis and not their competition.

This is a positive move by all accounts. Taxi drivers are failing to compete because so much of their activity is determined by the city government, which is not tuned into the special needs that customers desire. Drivers understand passengers better than bureaucrats do. Deregulation would allow taxi drivers to be their own boss, to some extent, and exercise circumstantial flexibility that the law does not bend for.

Of course, there are people who would rather penalize the ride-hailing competition than reform the taxis. Some would be pleased to just outlaw ride-hailing and restore the taxi monopoly, to the detriment of customers. Others believe that Anchorage should increase regulations on ride-hailing, so as to bring them up to the same regulatory standard as taxis. However, there is no legal function for that. Sec. 29.35.148 of the state law concerning ride-hailing services stipulates that the authority to regulate ride-hailing companies is reserved to the State of Alaska. The Municipality of Anchorage cannot legally increase regulations on ride-hailing.

More regulation shouldn’t be the automatic answer, anyway. Having the government put up barriers where they don’t need to exist usually hurts the customer. In the case of taxis, we see an example where such barriers hurt the worker as well. Taxi companies are losing business because ride-hailing alternatives are more flexible. We ought to give taxi drivers the freedom to innovate and lower their costs of operation.

Email your assembly representative and ask them to vote for Croft’s ordinance.

Source: http://www.thenorthernlight.org/deregulate-the-taxis/

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Uber, lyft and other taxis

Lyft Is Another Step Closer to Driverless Ridesharing

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Ridesharing company Lyft (NASDAQ: LYFT) inched a little bit closer toward self-driving ridesharing last week when it said in a blog post that it’s adding Chrysler Pacifica hybrids to its autonomous vehicle (AV) testing fleet and opening a new self-driving vehicle test facility.

The new facility, located in East Palo Alto, California, will allow the company to increase the number of AV tests it can run. It will also let the company test how the systems do with different road configurations, including intersections, merging lanes, traffic lights, and similar challenges. The company said in the post that the new facility will let Lyft “further accelerate the speed of innovation.”

Lyft says that it’s driving four times more autonomous miles per quarter than it was just six months ago and has about 400 employees worldwide working on self-driving tech. That figure is likely to expand, considering that Lyft has more than 40 autonomous vehicle job openings listed on its website.

In addition to the new facility, Lyft said that it’s adding Pacifica minivans to its AV fleet, which is the same vehicle that Waymo, Alphabet’s self-driving car company, uses for its public self-driving ridesharing project and AV tests. Lyft said that, “The minivan’s size and functionality provide our team with significant flexibility to experiment with the self-driving rideshare experience.”

Why does all this matter for Lyft’s autonomous-vehicle future? Because to have a successful, public self-driving ridesharing fleet in the coming years, Lyft needs to lay the groundwork right now.

Isn’t Lyft already doing AV testing?

Lyft is, of course, already working on AV testing. The company’s original self-driving test facility has been up and running since early 2018. The company also started a partnership with Waymo earlier this year to test autonomous ridesharing. Additionally, Lyft also works with Aptiv, an AV tech company, and together they’ve created “the largest publicly available commercial self-driving program in the country” and have completed more than 75,000 rides through the partnership.

But the recent announcements by Lyft show that the company is taking its AV focus a bit further. The Pacifica minivans have been used by Waymo’s AV ridesharing program in Phoenix for more than a year now, making them a proven choice for shuttling around ride-hailing passengers. Lyft may not be ready to launch a wide-scale autonomous ridesharing service just yet, but testing out these vehicles likely means that it’s moving past earlier stages of AV testing and is now looking at how its next-generation self-driving tech can handle new vehicles.

Why this matters for Lyft

Lyft and other ride-hailing companies, including Uber, are keeping a close eye on self-driving developments and testing out the technologies themselves because it could eventually become an integral part of their business model. Research from Intel predicts that the AV ridesharing market could be worth $3.7 trillion by 2050.

Additionally, as regulations surrounding ridesharing drivers continue to increase, Lyft is likely looking to AVs to eventually replace some human drivers. Just a few months ago, the state of California introduced a bill that could pave the way for independent contractors, including Lyft’s drivers, to be reclassified as employees. If a version of the bill becomes law and other states follow California’s lead, it could significantly increase operating costs for Lyft. That could be bad news for the company, which is unprofitable right now and hoping to be in the black just two years from now.

While Lyft’s announcements may not seem all that significant right now, investors should know that these baby steps moving the company closer to AV ridesharing could have huge results in the coming years. For now, investors should be pleased that Lyft is beefing up its own AV testing. Each move the company makes now means that it’ll be much more ready for a self-driving ridesharing future.

Source www.nasdaq.com

By Chris Neiger

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Uber, lyft and other taxis

Uber fined $650 million by New Jersey over driver classification

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New Jersey is the latest state to say Uber’s drivers should be classified as employees rather than independent contractors. The state’s Department of Labor and Workforce Development said that because of this misclassification, the ride-hailing company owes it roughly $650 million in unemployment taxes and disability insurance, according to Bloomberg Law.

The Department of Labor reportedly has been trying to get unpaid employment taxes from Uber going back as far as 2015, according to documents obtained by Bloomberg Law. It said the company owed the state $523 million in overdue taxes along with another $119 million in interest and penalties for the last four years. Uber disputes these findings.

“We are challenging this preliminary but incorrect determination,” an Uber spokesman said in an email. “Because drivers are independent contractors in New Jersey and elsewhere.”

Driver classification is an issue that government regulators have been taking a closer look at over the past year. California passed a law in September that could require Uber and other on-demand companies to reclassify their drivers as employees instead of independent contractors. The law is set to go into effect Jan. 1. New York, Oregon and Washington state have considered similar legislation.

Uber, Lyft and several other tech companies have vowed to fight the California law, collectively putting more than $90 million behind a ballot initiative that’ll take the issue to voters next November. Many drivers have said this move is a slap in the face as they struggle to earn a living wage.

Uber’s and Lyft’s business models depend on bringing aboard hundreds of thousands of independent contractors, whose labor is typically cheaper than that of employees. That’s because Uber and Lyft drivers supply and maintain their own cars and also pay for their own health care and benefits, such as sick days or overtime pay.New Jersey is the latest state to say Uber’s drivers should be classified as employees rather than independent contractors. The state’s Department of Labor and Workforce Development said that because of this misclassification, the ride-hailing company owes it roughly $650 million in unemployment taxes and disability insurance, according to Bloomberg Law.

The Department of Labor reportedly has been trying to get unpaid employment taxes from Uber going back as far as 2015, according to documents obtained by Bloomberg Law. It said the company owed the state $523 million in overdue taxes along with another $119 million in interest and penalties for the last four years. Uber disputes these findings.

“We are challenging this preliminary but incorrect determination,” an Uber spokesman said in an email. “Because drivers are independent contractors in New Jersey and elsewhere.”

Driver classification is an issue that government regulators have been taking a closer look at over the past year. California passed a law in September that could require Uber and other on-demand companies to reclassify their drivers as employees instead of independent contractors. The law is set to go into effect Jan. 1. New York, Oregon and Washington state have considered similar legislation.

Uber, Lyft and several other tech companies have vowed to fight the California law, collectively putting more than $90 million behind a ballot initiative that’ll take the issue to voters next November. Many drivers have said this move is a slap in the face as they struggle to earn a living wage.

Uber’s and Lyft’s business models depend on bringing aboard hundreds of thousands of independent contractors, whose labor is typically cheaper than that of employees. That’s because Uber and Lyft drivers supply and maintain their own cars and also pay for their own health care and benefits, such as sick days or overtime pay.

 

“New Jersey is sending a message that the state’s labor laws aren’t dictated by corporations,” Bhairavi Desai, executive director of the New York Taxi Workers Alliance, said in a statement. “It’s a stinging rebuke of the architects of the gig economy, and we hope it permeates across other sectors.”

Even if Uber’s drivers were determined to be employees rather than independent contractors, Uber said the $650 million New Jersey tax fine would be too high — particularly if it’s based on what the company has earned in the state. Uber didn’t disclose the revenue it generated in New Jersey over the past four years, but its combined revenue for all the markets where it operated in 2018 was $11.3 billion.

 

 

 

Source www.cnet.com

By Dara Kerr

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Uber, lyft and other taxis

Adams Clinical removes hurdle to clinical trial participation

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How Adams Clinical increased retention and streamlined operations by switching to Uber.

One of the hardest parts of conducting a clinical trial is identifying willing participants. Once a participant is identified, strict qualifications and an often-lengthy time commitment limits who can participate, and a lack of access to transportation can make it difficult for participants to commit to and complete the study. To help improve recruitment and retention rates, Adams Clinical offered taxi rides to their participants. However, this solution became a burden on operational efficiency since taxis were only accessible to participants who lived close by and required the staff to pay at the end of each ride.

Finding the perfect transportation solution with Uber Health

To expand their transportation offering, Adams Clinical became an early beta partner with Uber in 2016. The team started using Uber’s web dashboard to arrange and pay for rides for participants with just a few clicks. Over the three years of this partnership, the switch to Uber Health simplified operational management, while reducing time spent on recruitment with increased retention rates. The easy-to-use Uber Health dashboard tracked all the rides and processed payments from one centralized interface, allowing the staff to arrange rides without the hassle of paying at the end of each trip. This flexibility, plus the extensive reach of Uber driver-partners in the Boston area, provided Adams Clinical with the transportation solution needed to successfully manage their participants in need of rides—which removed the headache from recruiting and retaining their study participants.

The result: Improved retention rates, simplified financial records, and an overall lift in team morale

By teaming with Uber Health, Adams Clinical enjoys a number of key benefits including:

• Expanded Recruitment—Using Uber Health cut down the length of enrollment by providing a larger pool to recruit from, resulting in a 5 to 10 percent reduction in recruitment time over the last two years. 

• Centralized Billing—All rides are charged to one company credit card, which is then processed at the end of each month to streamline the amount of administrative effort required.

• Reliable Service—Each ride is tracked in the dashboard so the team knows when the participant will be arriving to help keep the rest of the study on schedule.

• Improved Retention—In the first two years of the partnership with Uber, Adams Clinical estimated up to 20 percent fewer people dropped out of a trial when transportation was arranged to and from the clinic.

• Financial Accountability—Details for each ride are available in the dashboard, and can be downloaded to a spreadsheet, offering convenient management with trial-specific reporting per participant.

• Easy to Use—Using Uber Health has been easy for both staff and participants, even among populations without smartphones or passengers new to Uber.

 

by Kendall Brown

Source uber.com

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