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This startup wants to turn your car into a vending machine

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Forget your sunscreen on the way to the beach? Your Uber ride could save you a trip to the drugstore.
Cargo, a New York-based company founded in 2016, equips ride-hailing drivers with boxes of snacks, drinks and beauty products to offer to passengers.

On Monday, it announced a partnership with Grab, southeast Asia’s biggest ride-hailing firm, to roll out the service in Singapore. Grab made headlines in March when it bought Uber’s business in the region.

About 1,000 Grab drivers in Singapore will receive Cargo’s boxes starting this week, a service the companies say will eventually expand to other countries in the region.

“All of us spend so much time in ride-share vehicles that it felt like there should be a way to innovate on that experience,” Cargo CEO Jeff Cripe told CNNMoney.

For passengers, using the service is pretty simple: they’ll be able to order products on their phones and add the cost to their fares.

For drivers, it’s a chance to earn more cash on the road. Those offering the “Grab&Go” service could improve their passenger satisfaction ratings and earn as much as an extra $190 each month, according to the companies.

They’ll make money each time a passenger buys an item or takes a free sample from the Cargo box.

“They take no financial risk upfront,” Cripe said. “All that inventory is provided for free.”

Like other ride-hailing companies, Grab is looking for new ways to make money from its tens of millions of customers. The company recently expanded into food delivery and digital payments, encouraging people to use its platform to transfer money to friends and make purchases at restaurants and stores.

Cargo’s partnership with Grab is its first direct arrangement with a ride-hailing firm, though it says it already works independently with thousands of Uber and Lyft drivers in the United States. Uber and Lyft did not respond to requests for comment.

Coca-Cola (KO) and Kellogg (K) are among the retail partners signed up in the United States by Cargo, which says it makes money from distribution deals that can be worth millions of dollars.

Cargo’s approach offers a new distribution channel for retail brands, said Sucharita Kodali, an e-commerce and retail analyst at research firm Forrester.

“The idea is that if people aren’t going to the store, bring the store to them,” she told CNNMoney.

But it could be difficult for startups like Cargo to build a business of significant scale, Kodali added.

“You need an awful lot of cars to get any decent distribution. A single Uber or Lyft driver isn’t going to touch that many people in a day,” she said. “Each car would generate less than a single vending machine.”

Cargo says it aims to reach 25 million passengers in 20,000 vehicles by the end of the year.

Drivers are already using Cargo’s platform in seven US cities, including New York and Chicago. And it says it has plenty of interest from areas where it doesn’t operate yet. A big part of the challenge “is just expanding and actually activating drivers,” Cripe said.

But while the extra money could make a difference for drivers, the revenue from the business is unlikely to be “game-changing” for major ride-hailing firms, Kodali said.

And if it does turn out to be more lucrative than expected, Uber and others could just set up their own platforms and cut Cargo out, she added.

Source: http://money.cnn.com/2018/06/05/technology/grab-drivers-singapore-cargo-uber/index.html

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Uber booking has been removed from Google Maps for Android

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Google Maps can no longer be used to book an Uber on Android. It brings the app in line with the iOS version, which lost the feature last summer, as noted by Android Police.

Google has had the ability to show price estimates and pickup wait times for ride-sharing apps for a while. Back in January 2017, Uber alone gained the ability to actually book rides in the Google Maps app by pulling up your account window and hailing your ride without ever leaving the app.

But for whatever reason, Google has officially removed the feature from the Android app, demoting Uber back to the same level as the other ride-sharing apps it supports, like Lyft and Gett. You’ll still be able to see the estimated cost of different Uber rides in Maps, but you’ll now have to go to the actual Uber app to finish the booking process.

It’s not entirely clear why Google is removing the feature. For what it’s worth, Alphabet’s venture capital business has made a large investment in Lyft. But the Google Maps help page regarding the function has been updated to explicitly note that “you can no longer book Uber rides directly in Google Maps. But you can still look up the route in the Maps app and then request the ride from the Uber app.” That applies to both the iOS and Android versions of the app, so it appears that this feature is gone for good.

 

By Chaim Gartenberg

from theverge website

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The New York taxicab bubble couldn’t last forever

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Bloomberg News on Monday posted an article about something that has become a pretty big deal in New York City: taxi driver suicides.

Since November, six drivers, beset with financial difficulties, have taken their own lives, most recently last Friday. After every death, there are calls from the Taxi Workers Alliance, which represents the drivers — and plenty of others — for the city to start restricting the number of Uber and Lyft cars on the road. Taxi drivers view Uber Technologies Inc. and Lyft Inc. as not so much disrupting their industry as destroying it.

I suppose you can’t really blame them for portraying Uber and Lyft as the enemy. In 2011, before Uber entered the New York market, there were 13,587 yellow cabs in the city of 8.5 million people. The number of cabs in New York has been capped since 1937, after a Depression-era glut made it impossible to make a living as a taxi driver. The mechanism the city used to restrict cabs was a medallion that one had to buy to own a cab. Because there were so few cabs for so many people, the law of supply and demand kicked in, driving up the price of medallions. According to the New York Times, the value of a medallion topped out at $1.3 million in 2014.

On Monday, according to Bloomberg, there are an astonishing 80,000 “app-based transportation vehicles,” driving around New York City. If 13,587 cabs were too few, then it’s fair to say that the current 100,000-plus cars-for-hire are too many. The price of a medallion has dropped as low as $130,000. Taxicab operators who thought their medallion would finance their retirement are now drowning in debt. Cabbies — many of whom lease their cabs from medallion owners — can no longer make their lease payments because their business has dwindled. And there is one other downside: All those app-based cars have slowed down traffic in New York by 23 percent since 2010, costing the city an estimated $34 billion a year.

On the other hand, is it really fair to blame everything on Uber and Lyft? I would argue that before throwing rocks at the competition, the New York taxi industry would do well to take a long, hard look in the mirror. Like internet stocks in the late 1990s, and real estate in 2005 and 2006, medallions were a bubble that was bound to burst. Uber and Lyft mainly provided the pins that popped it.

As was the case in many cities, yellow cabs in New York held a monopoly on cars-for-hire — and as is often the case with government-mandated monopolies, the result was an industry that put its own needs before that of its customers. As my colleague Barry Ritholtz pointed out recently, the taxi industry changed shifts between 5 p.m. and 6 p.m. — the exact moment when the largest number of people were trying to hail cabs. It was impossible to get a cab when it rained, or if there was a subway breakdown. Cars were often grimy.

Did the taxi industry care? No. So long as cabs remained scarce, the value of their medallions kept going up — and that’s all that really mattered. As the price rose, people wanting to buy medallions had to take out loans that were as big, or bigger, than their mortgages. But that was OK too. They made the same assumption that homebuyers made in 2006: that the price could only keep rising.

There are any number of things the industry could have done to minimize the impact of Uber and Lyft. The most obvious was to have increased the number of cabs over the years, something that could have been sensibly calibrated so that cabbies could still make a good living while riders had an easier time finding a taxi. It could have embraced technology so that people could hail a cab via an app instead of having to stand at a corner and hope for the best. And it could have replaced medallions with renewable licenses, which would have ended the bubble before it got out of hand.

But the taxi lobby was powerful, and so was the industry’s view that medallions were a sure-fire way to get rich. The situation was untenable, however; if Uber hadn’t come along to burst the bubble, something else would have. Because the taxi industry had treated riders so shabbily, people embraced the new cars-for-hire even though they were usually more expensive than a taxi ride.

What is astonishing to me is that the industry still doesn’t seem to realize that it sowed the seeds of its own destruction. For instance, in a case decided late last year, two medallions owners sued the city’s Taxi & Limousine Commission for failing to maintain the “financial stability” of the medallions — as if that were somehow a government responsibility. But, wrote the judge, the plaintiffs “have pointed to no statute or regulation that compels the Taxi & Limousine Commission to artificially inflate the value of medallions.” The suit was tossed.

In another case, medallion owners and their lenders sued the city and the commission for, as Reuters put it, “jeopardizing their survival by imposing burdensome regulations and letting the Uber ride-sharing service take passengers away.” That suit got tossed as well.

At a rally outside city hall Monday, the Taxi Worker Alliance once again pointed to Uber and Lyft — “Wall Street companies,” an alliance official called them — as the reason for the cabbies’ struggles. She called on the city to both regulate them and reduce their number.

I have some sympathy with the latter request. A cabbie — or an Uber driver — ought to be able to make a living driving a car-for-hire, and that doesn’t appear to be possible now. But any reduction should involve every kind of car-for-hire, not just Uber. There is no law that says the number of Uber cars must shrink so that all 13,587 taxis can be saved.

Medallions are a different story. When the internet bubble burst, nobody bailed out tech investors. And when the subprime loan bubble burst, the federal government took the position that it had to let foreclosures run their course, no matter how much pain they inflicted on homeowners. Why should medallion owners be treated any differently?

Medallion owners had a sweet deal for a long time. Now that sweet deal is going away. It’s painful, yes, but it’s not the job of government to protect a monopoly. Once medallions are no longer prized for their ability to make people rich, everyone in New York — taxi drivers included — will be better off.

 

By Bloomberg News

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Sixth New York City cab driver dies of suicide after struggling financially

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Sixth New York City cab driver dies of suicide after struggling financially

A Yemeni immigrant is the sixth driver to die of suicide in the past eight months, according to the New York Taxi Workers Alliance.

A sixth New York City taxi cab driver took his own life on Friday night, the latest in a string of driver suicides that has shaken the industry and brought attention to its economic hardships.

Abduel Saleh, 59, is a Yemeni immigrant and the sixth driver to die of suicide in the past eight months, according to the New York Taxi Workers Alliance (NYTWA).
Bhairavi Desai, the executive director of NYTWA, said that Saleh had been out of work for two weeks. He and his driving partner Qamar Chaudhary had turned in their taxi cab after splitting night and day shifts that went as long as 12 hours for seven years, she said. Chaudhary’s cousin had offered him an opportunity to drive with Uber, and Chaudhary offered Saleh a similar opportunity, Desai explained.

Mr. Saleh still wanted to drive a yellow cab, so he was deciding what to do,” she said. “But even before then he was falling behind on the lease. He was behind as much as $300 on the last week that he worked.”

Saleh’s friends said that he tended to work the airport and hotel lines in hopes of picking up fares, a strategy that has seen fewer and fewer of returns in recent years because of ride-sharing services, Desai said.

he added that cab and livery drivers do not have retirement to fall back on and would only suffer greater poverty if they turned to Uber or Lyft.

“He drove for over half his life,” Desai said. “This is what he knew. This was his job. This is how he knew to earn a living for himself and his family overseas in Yemen. Your days are spent hearing about your family in the middle of such a devastating war and then you having little means to financially support them to relocate them.”

Chaudhary told the New York Post that Saleh “sounded upset and depressed.”

“I know he wasn’t making enough money to pay his lease,” Chaudhary added. “He was short here and there, and I used to have to help him out. He said he didn’t know how to survive.”

The NYTWA plans to have a press conference outside of New York City’s city hall on Monday to address Saleh’s death and the economic hardship they say drivers currently face.

Many cab drivers work more than a dozen hours a day, seven days a week, yet are left cash-strapped after paying off car and taxi medallion loans, according to the NYTWA.

One problem that many in the industry point to is a glut of drivers, as ride-share companies such as Lyft and Uber increased the number of cars in the road.

Five other New York City livery and cab drivers experiencing economic hardship have taken their own lives in recent months, most notably Douglas Schifter who killed himself on the steps of city hall. Schifter said that the ride-share companies were contributing to the financial strain that led him to such drastic measures, according to a manifesto he wrote on Facebook.

“We’re just so angry,” said Desai. “We’re really angry that we now have gone to six funerals.”

If you or someone you know is in crisis, call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 800-273-8255, text TALK to 741741 or visit SpeakingOfSuicide.com/resources for additional resources.

by Phil McCausland
from nbcnews website

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