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Uber, lyft and other taxis

New York gig economy under threat as city cracks down on app-based services

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The gig economy is having a bad summer in New York City.

New York this month became the first major city to cap the number of cars that companies like Uber and Lyft are allowed to put on the road.

Just weeks earlier, the city council approved and New York’s mayor, Bill de Blasio, signed a law to crack down on Airbnb, requiring the company to hand over the names and addresses of all its hosts to an enforcement office.

With the one-two punch, New York has jumped to the forefront of a push in cities around the world to clamp down on the app-based companies that are now among the biggest players in the transportation and lodging markets.

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“What we did should at least make it clear to other cities that commonsense regulation is possible,” said Corey Johnson, the city council speaker who made the tech company crackdowns among his first high-profile legislative pushes.

Each app presented its own set of challenges for city officials in New York – and each mounted a fierce but failed bid to stop the new rules.

Uber flexed its political muscle in 2015 and was able to beat back a similar effort to impose a cap, which collapsed after a public lobbying blitz by the company.

This time around, the company again argued that a cap would drive up prices and make it harder to get a ride in the city’s outer boroughs where transportation options are more sparse than in Manhattan – asking its customers to contact their representatives with the message: “URGENT: Your ride is at risk.”

And it enlisted civil rights leaders to make the case that ride hailing was essential for black New Yorkers, who have faced discrimination from the city’s yellow cabs.

The legislation, which puts a cap in place for one year, quickly passed anyway.

“They didn’t realize that times had changed,” said Mitchell Moss, director of New York University’s Rudin Center for Transportation.

The number of cars plying the congested streets has exploded – to 113,000 licensed for hire vehicles as of 14 August, when the cap took effect, up from fewer than 47,000 at the beginning of 2014.

The turn to e-hailing clobbered the city’s well-known yellow cabs, with some drivers buried in debt from medallions which have plunged in value.

Six drivers have killed themselves in less than a year.

“You don’t understand how bad it is,” said yellow cab driver Abraham Lobe, a member of the New York Taxi Workers Alliance. He said that once, a driver could make $200 in a single morning or evening rush hour. Now, it’s less than $50.

In addition to the cap on licenses for hire vehicles, another law will establish minimum earnings for app drivers – requiring the companies to make up the difference if drivers don’t make enough from fares.

The cap “will threaten one of the few reliable transportation options while doing nothing to fix the subways or ease congestion”, said an Uber spokeswoman, Alix Anfang.

But Uber driver Sohail Rana called the company’s argument a “complete lie” and said he hoped the law would ease the crunch on drivers.

“There are five drivers fighting for one ride,” said Rana, a member of the Independent Drivers Guild.

After New York’s vote to cap Uber, London’s mayor, Sadiq Khan, said he wanted a cap there too.

While officials fretted about Uber causing congestion on the streets, they took an even harder line against Airbnb, aided by the politically influential hotel workers union.

Foes blamed the company for driving up rents, with landlords taking apartments off the housing market and instead renting them out to tourists. Airbnb countered that most of its hosts were average New Yorkers renting space in their own homes to help make ends meet.

It was already illegal under New York state law to rent out an entire apartment for less than a month at a time.

But under the city’s new law, Airbnb will be required to hand over the names, addresses and other information about all of its hosts to a special enforcement office, which could expose them to fines and drive some off the platform altogether.

Lynn, an Airbnb host in the borough of Staten Island who wouldn’t give her last name because she fears retaliation, said she plans to take down her listing and sell her home rather than comply with the requirement.

Lynn and her husband own a two-family house, and joined Airbnb in 2014 after they both lost jobs in the same year. They offer up the unit they live in on the site, and stay with her parents when it is rented out.

“It’s helped out these past few years, just keep everything afloat,” she said. “We can’t keep it going without the extra income we get from renting it out.”

When a similar requirement took effect in San Francisco, the number of Airbnb listings there was cut in half. Airbnb sued on Friday in an effort to block the proposed New York law.

Other cities have taken steps to rein in AirBnb. Barcelona created a squad to root out unlicensed rentals. Iceland restricted the number of days residents can offer rentals in their properties to 90 days a year before they must pay business tax, and created a committee to find illegal units.

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Japan passed a temporary housing law limiting rentals to 180 days a year and requiring hosts to register, and local governments went further, with one Tokyo ward banning all rentals on weekdays.

New York’s approach is one of the harshest, said NYU professor of business Arun Sundararajan.

“We have among the most restrictive Airbnb laws, and I think it will hurt the city in the long term,” he said.

But Veena Dubal, an associate professor of law a the University of California, Hastings College of Law, said New York had taken an important stand.

“This might send a signal to cities around the country that they can be regulators of these big companies, and it doesn’t mean you’re anti-business,” she said.

Source: https://www.theguardian.com/us-news/2018/aug/26/new-york-uber-lyft-airbnb-under-threat

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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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