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Ride-hail apps fret over New York City’s new regulations

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It’s a brave new regulatory world for ride-hailing companies in New York City, and a pair of new rules scheduled to be voted on this week by the city’s Taxi and Limousine Commission has companies like Uber and Lyft slightly spooked. The most recently proposed rules, first announced by Mayor Bill de Blasio in June, include an extension of the cap on new for-hire vehicle licenses, as well as a limit on how long app-based vehicles can cruise aimlessly in Manhattan below 96th Street. The latter rule is an attempt to cut down on high levels of congestion in central areas of Manhattan – a goal that the state is addressing through additional measures, including comprehensive congestion pricing in the central business district, and a congestion surcharge on for-hire vehicles south of 96th Street.

A study released by the city in June found that for-hire vehicles on average cruise without passengers 41% of the time that they are driving in the Manhattan congestion zone. Under the TLC’s proposed rules for this new cruising time regulation, starting next February, Uber, Lyft and other companies would be fined when their drivers spend more than 36% of their time in the congestion zone cruising. By August 2020, the limit will be reduced to 31%.
Over the past year, New York City has passed and implemented a number of regulations targeting the for-hire vehicle industry. Most notably, the City Council last August passed a one-year freeze on issuing new for-hire vehicle licenses in an effort to limit the number of app-based cars populating city streets and competing with the taxi industry. While efforts to regulate the ride-hail industry kicked into high gear in the past year, the city has long wanted to curb the proliferation of ride-hail apps like Uber. In 2015, de Blasio tried and failed to push through a similar cap on new for-hire vehicle licenses.

Along with a new driver minimum pay rule and a $2.75 congestion surcharge applied to most for-hire vehicles in Manhattan, the regulations passed since last summer have companies calling for a reprieve – or at least a little more analysis of the current rules before implementing any new ones. “We’re still getting answers to questions about the last set of rules,” said Uber’s senior manager of public affairs, Josh Gold, referring to the congestion surcharge and minimum pay rule that went into effect earlier this year. “(The TLC) is obviously short staffed, having not received approval for a new commissioner. So we understand that, but that’s just another reason for them to wait and see, to answer some of these questions on the old set of rules that just went into effect before promulgating a new set of rules.”

Uber has sued the city over the cap on new vehicles, and that litigation is still pending. Lyft, and another company, Juno, filed suits over the new minimum pay rule which ties wages to how often a driver has a passenger in their vehicle, arguing that it puts them at a competitive disadvantage against Uber, because Uber’s greater number of users means its drivers spend less time waiting for rides. A judge dismissed Lyft’s suit in May.

Despite the heavy pushback from companies on the existing regulations, the city has given no indication that it intends to let up on regulating the industry anytime soon.

While the cruising time limitation is aimed at reducing congestion and pushing out drivers to underserved outer boroughs, details on how the rule will avoid unintended consequences are lacking. As the rule stands now, the time a driver spends going to pick up a fare in Manhattan would be counted toward the cruising limit. And if, for example, a driver was stuck in traffic in front of the Manhattan Bridge on their way to Brooklyn, it appears that that time would be counted, too. During the press conference announcing the rules in June, de Blasio suggested that these types of variables would be accounted for. “My understanding is the technology obviously allows the company to monitor each driver and they’re going to train the drivers in how to conform with these rules,” he said. “So if you’re going somewhere to pick up another fare, that’s okay, that’s part of the equation. But the goal and the requirement is to reduce the overall cruising time.” A TLC spokesman told City & State that the goal of the limit is to disincentivize the inefficient dispatch of trips into and out of the Manhattan congestion zone, and that the onus would be on the companies to factor in variables like traffic.

It’s easy to think of the city’s dominant ride-hail apps as a monolith. But between Uber, Lyft, Juno and Via, variations in their business models and in their presence in New York City, means that the regulations affect these companies differently. Via, for example, already boasts a cruising rate of just 13%, falling well below the current for-hire vehicle average and the future targets. “I don’t see any real changes for us on the operational front, because our mission from day one in New York City has been to transport many passengers as possible in a few vehicles as possible,” said Andrei Greenawalt, head of public policy at Via. The company focuses primarily on shared rides in high-occupancy vehicles, like vans that might hold five or six people. Roughly 90% of Via’s trips in high occupancy vehicles during peak times are shared by at least three passengers, a spokeswoman for the company said.

Via may not be concerned about the new cruising time limit, but that doesn’t mean the company is unscathed by the city’s regulations. “We don’t think the cap is the best approach,” Greenawalt said. “The problem with the cap is that it’s done in such a blunt way that it doesn’t, for example, distinguish between pool drive and single passenger rides, which we think is a real problem.” The cap on new licenses provides exceptions for wheelchair-accessible vehicles and electric vehicles, and Greenawalt suggested that there should be similar flexibility for high-occupancy vehicles, since they are arguably reducing rather than worsening congestion.

For other app companies, the cruising limit poses a concern about what the new rule may do to congestion just outside of the zone where cruising limits are in effect. “There may be, unfortunately, cars idling above 96th Street or right on the other side,” Gold said. “We are concerned with how those communities are going to react to that.” Gold confirmed that Uber has been weighing the possibility of acquiring a parking lot or garage where its drivers can wait to pick up fares, though he said he doesn’t know whether the company will actually do so.

Lyft is also getting creative to comply with new regulations, specifically the minimum pay rule. Because the pay formula is pegged to utilization rate, the more time a driver spends without a passenger, the more companies have to pay. Since June, Lyft has been kicking drivers off its app in areas and at times where demand is low, directing them to areas with more ride requests.

The app-based companies and advocates of the new regulations have been at odds over whether driver pay is improving. One driver argued in a Daily News op-ed that the cap on new licenses hurts drivers because of the high cost of renting a car that is already plated. Other drivers say that Lyft’s system of strategically taking drivers off the app hinders their ability to work.

With companies still adjusting to regulations passed last summer, the onslaught of more rules has some asking why the city is in such a hurry. “There is no reason these so-called cruising cap rules need to be rushed through on such an accelerated time frame,” said Lyft spokeswoman Campbell Matthews. “It’s critical that the TLC slow down so it can first understand how the many rules and regulations it has already enacted will impact New Yorkers.”

A spokesman for the mayor brushed off that criticism. “This is an absurd claim from multi-billion dollar corporations trying to get away with paying their workers as little as possible, and shirking any responsibility they have for the congestion choking our streets,” Seth Stein wrote in an email. “No matter their claims, our data-driven policies work, and hard-working drivers are seeing their wages go up, while we continue to pursue policies that will reduce congestion and get New Yorkers moving.”

Eric Goldwyn, a research scholar in the NYU Urban Expansion program at the Marron Institute, said that the city is at least moving in the right direction, but that there should be more clarity about the target it wants to hit in all of its regulations. “Right now, if you’re the private sector, you don’t know what the city is going to do. Every week, it seems very fickle and sort of arbitrary and capricious. So I get being sort of annoyed by that,” Goldwyn said. “But, by the same token, I think the city has the right to govern its streets and say that what’s going on currently is unacceptable, and we need a better set of outcomes.”

Source: https://www.cityandstateny.com/articles/policy/technology/ride-hail-apps-fret-over-new-york-citys-new-regulations.html

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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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