Category Archives: Rideshares

Germany Bans Uber’s Ride-Sharing Service, Threatens $328,225 Fine Per Ride

 

ubergrabaWhen your company’s goal is to disrupt the entire livery industry, current taxi and other car-for-hire operators and livery regulators are not going to like you very much. The idea of a car-sharing service that connects non-professional drivers with strangers in need of rides horrifies regulators and existing professional drivers, and now UberPop (similar to UberX elsewhere) has been banned in Germany under penalty of a €250,000 ($328,225) fine.

Why does the government want to impose the ultimate surge pricing fee? Last week, a court in Frankfurt ruled that the UberPop service is illegal. Previously, a court in the city of Hamburg had ruled that while the service was “likely illegal,” but allowed it to keep running anyway, because what the heck.

It’s actually worse than that: while Uber drivers themselves wouldn’t be charged with any crime, the head of Uber Germany could also face a 6-month prison sentence if his company dares to give anyone a lift.

The company’s Uberblack service, which allows anyone to summon a limousine with a few taps of a smartphone (and a credit card, of course) is still allowed to operate in Germany. However, the company knew that the more economical UberPop service would be popular in Germany, a nation that stereotypes and statistics tell us is filled with sensible and frugal people. It’s not just popular with competing taxi services, or with the government entities that regulate those services.

The service is also banned entirely in Belgium. This structure is similar to that of Uber in New York City, where the service is allowed to do business, but only with already-licensed livery drivers.

Germany Imposes Nationwide Ban on Uber’s Cab-Hailing Service

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Lyft Claims Uber Employees Requested Then Canceled 5,600 Rides

(Σπύρος Βάθης)

People cancel car service requests for any number of reasons – change of plans, not ready in time, trying to sabotage the company. Wait, what? Officials with ride-sharing service Lyft allege that reps for rival company Uber attempted to hurt Lyft by requesting-and-canceling thousands of rides.

Lyft claims that 177 Uber employees from around the country have booked and canceled 5,560 rides since October 2013 in an effort to steal away customers, CNN reports.

While the tactic might sounds like as a petty prank, officials with Lyft aren’t laughing.

Each requested-and-canceled ride decreases the number of available drivers on the road, meaning longer wait times for customers – some of whom could look to other options such as Uber for a ride.

Additionally, Lyft claimed the canceled rides could threaten the income of its drivers in the form of uncollected fares and wasted gas money used en route to the passengers.

“It’s unfortunate for affected community members that they have used these tactics, as it wastes a driver’s time and impacts the next passenger waiting for that driver,” a Lyft spokesperson tells CNN.

Lyft discovered the plethora of canceled rides after cross-referencing the phone numbers associated with known Uber recruiters with those listed on passenger accounts.

In one case, a passenger identified by several Lyft drivers as an Uber recruiter was found to be tied to 22 accounts with a total of 1,524 canceled rides. Nearly 300 of those requests occurred during a two weeks span from May to June.

Another alleged Uber recruiter created 14 accounts totaling 680 cancellations and a Los-Angeles based account canceled 49 rides from October to mid-April.

Using the request-and-cancel tactic isn’t the only way Uber allegedly tries to hurt its competition.

Lyft says a number of drivers have complained that rival employees take short, low-profit rides solely for the purpose of luring drivers to work for Uber.

Although CNN reports none of the information provided in Lyft’s claims suggest that Uber’s corporate office had anything to do with the canceled rides, a statement from the company failed to fully address the allegations.

Instead Uber officials focused on the alleged recruitment of drivers implying that some of the individuals identified by Lyft may have been average passengers looking to make a buck through a program in which Uber offered riders hundreds of dollars in credits for recruiting new drivers.

If Uber drivers are indeed behind the request-and-cancel tactic, it wouldn’t be the first time. Earlier this year the company was accused of allegedly canceling requested rides on another competing service, Gett.

In that case, CNN reported that Uber staffers in New York allegedly called and withdrew more than 100 ride requests in three days on the taxi app.

Uber’s dirty tricks quantified: Rival counts 5,560 canceled rides [CNN Money]

Uber Passenger Complains Of Spider Bite In “Filthy” Car

By  July 30, 2014

uberxdropOn Friday, the state of North Carolina received its first complaint against the app-based ride-sharing service Uber. The customer’s complaint? His driver arrived late in a “filthy” vehicle, and there were spiders inside the car. Which bit him. The spiders, that is, not the car. As far as we know.

Of course, when you’re riding in a vehicle belonging to a random civilian independent contractor and not a professional limo service, things can go awry. Uber has been known to drive around with kittens in its cars as a publicity stunt, but delivery of spiders to cuddle is not yet a service that they provide.

Uber was rather gracious in its response to the complaint, but took the opportunity to point out that this is why they collect ratings, and that it only takes a few complaints about the quality and cleanliness of a vehicle to shut a driver down.

“We take this feedback seriously – if we receive vehicle quality reports, we will deactivate the driver partner until they are able to prove that the issues have been rectified,” an Uber spokesperson told Triangle Business Journals.

Complaint: spider bit rider in ‘filthy’ N.C. Uber vehicle [Business Journals]

Clickhole’s New Transportation App Walks All Over Uber and Lyft

Robert Sorokanich

Clickhole's New Transportation App Walks All Over Uber and Lyft

Searching for a transportation app that puts simplicity and elegance first? The satirical masterminds at Clickhole have a new startup that lets you arrive in style no Uber or Lyft car could possibly match. Check out Whysk.

Oh man is this sendup perfect. From “founder” Dylan Blake-Ambrose’s smirking self-satisfaction to the promises cram-packed with buzzwords, Whysk nails the jangling startup ethos. Now where’s my gong? [Clickhole]

San Francisco Boldly Stands Up to Tech Buses with $3.55 Fee

 

San Francisco Boldly Stands Up to Tech Buses with $3.55 Fee

 

San Francisco’s plan to legalize the armada of tech buses has sailed past its last regulatory hurdle. The San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency voted today to approve increased fees charged to tech companies for using city bus stops, as part of its controversial shuttle pilot program.

 

 

According to KQED News, SFMTA raised the per-stop fee charged to shuttle operators from $1 up to $3.55. The fee was increased for two reasons. Residents demanded fewer city stops be included in the pilot program, which means there would be less revenue coming in, and the projected administrative costs were higher than anticipated.

Carli Paine, the manager for the SFMTA pilot program, said providers are making about 40 percent fewer stops than initial estimates suggested.

Paine said the fees will cover the program’s fixed costs and will be spread over 2,449 stops, well under the 4,121 stops originally estimated. […]

The total estimated program cost is expected to be $3.7 million, more than the January estimate of $1.7 million.

When the program was initially proposed, local activists complained that tech companies were being charged too little. But raising the fee by 255 percent hasn’t seemed to placate the protesters. According to San Francisco Chronicle transit reporter Michael Cabanatuan, who covered today’s SFMTA board hearing, they still feel like their voices have been unheard.

 

 

Those critics are proceeding with a lawsuit, challenging the luxury shuttle program on environmental grounds. But it’s unlikely that the suit will prevent the pilot from going forward: Google buses are slated to begin rolling legally through San Francisco on August 1st.

[Photo: Ryan Blauvelt]

Lyft Slapped With a Restraining Order Ahead of New York City Launch

 

Lyft Slapped With a Restraining Order Ahead of New York City Launch

Lyft’s east coast expansion is already hitting serious legal traffic. Despite billing itself as thesavior of New York City, the city’s tax commission was quick to declare the e-hailing startupillegal. Now the state’s attorney general and the Taxi and Limousine Commission have placed atemporary restraining order against the startup.

 

Lyft was at first undeterred by TLC’s cease and desist letters. The startup’s co-founder John Zimmer assured Inc. yesterday that the company was pushing forward with today’s scheduled launch. However, the restraining order seems to have postponed the debut of their so-called “ride-sharing” offerings in New York’s outer boroughs.

The attorney general makes it clear that New York sees Lyft as an illegal cab service:

As [Lyft] has done in every other city in which it operates, defendant has simply waltzed into New York and set up shop while defying every law passed whose very purpose is to protect the People of the State of New York. Despite being warned and told to cease and desist by three separate regulatory and enforcement agencies, defendant has thumbed its nose at the law and the continued with its plan to launch in what could become its largest market. […]

Lyft portrays itself as an innovative 21st century technology business. In reality, Lyft uses a smartphone app to run a traditional 20th century for-hire livery service, arranging ride for passengers on non-fixed routes in exchange for compensation.

Lyft has already postponed their New York launch until July 14th, hoping to broker a deal with government officials. In a statement to The Verge, a Lyft spokesperson stated “We are in a legal process with local regulators today and will proceed accordingly.”

New York State Attorney General Tries To Shut Down Lyft Before Tonight’s NYC Launch

 

lyft_car

Seven hours from now, people in the New York City boroughs of Brooklyn and Queens were supposed to be able to dial up a vehicle from ride-sharing service Lyft and coast through traffic in a cloud of peer-to-peer vehicular bliss. “Not so fast!” the New York state government said to the service, its drivers, and their pink-mustachioed cars.

The Wall Street Journal reports that the AG filed for a court order to stop today’s launch, claiming that California-based Lyft is launching despite not conforming to New York’s laws that govern taxis and car services. While the company calls itself a ride-sharing service, the state counters that it’s really a livery service masquerading as something else, and by shuttling around paying passengers, the service would be operating in “open defiance of state and local licensing and insurance laws designed to protect the lives and well-being of New Yorkers.” Ride-sharing services are such a new concept that governments simply don’t know how to regulate them yet.

The court order would also shut down Lyft operations in existing markets in New York: earlier this year, Lyft had already launched in Buffalo and Rochester, two smaller cities on the other end of the state with large college-student populations.

New York Attorney General Seeks Restraining Order Against Lyft [Wall Street Journal]

Lyft a “menace” in San Antonio

San Antonio Police Watching For New Public Menace: Lyft Drivers

(Raido)

Out of all of the issues that people who drive for ride-sharing services might have, we didn’t imagine this one: wondering whether your next passenger is a cop. Yet Lyft drivers in San Antonio received that warning from the city’s chief of police. Could other cities where these apps are doing battle with governments that regulate taxi medallions do the same?

 

“This is why we can’t have nice things,” wrote reader Matt when he told us about this situation in San Antonio. His city’s police chief doesn’t think that what Lyft is doing is very nice at all: he thinks that the service is potentially dangerous. “The problem with this is the public is put in danger,” San Antonio Police Chief McManus explained to media outlets. “You don’t know who is going to show up. You don’t know what condition the car is going to be in.”

McManus says that the city has sent a “strongly worded cease and desist letter” to Lyft, which recently expanded to San Antonio and has been recruiting drivers. The company didn’t become a licensed taxi company in the city, and its drivers aren’t licensed taxi drivers.

Ride-sharing services do require detailed photos of the cars that drive for them, but can’t guarantee that the vehicle pictured is the one that will show up on your doorstep. If you listen to local cab companies, though, the apps are sending out jalopies on the verge of collapse, driven by some random person. “Would you want one of your family members getting into an old car that’s not inspected, and the driver doesn’t have any type of credentials or any type of driving background experience, to transport you and charge you an outrageous amount?” the president of a local cab company asked TV reporters from KENS.

Which is odd, actually, because Lyft tells prospective drivers that they’re in for a background check, driving record check, phone and in-person interviews.

The good news for police is that Lyft vehicles attach a pink moustache to the front of their cars while on duty, so that will theoretically make drivers even easier to spot. While California is working with ride-sharing services, Texas apparently isn’t quite there yet.

Police say rogue taxi companies in San Antonio breaking the law; Company denies that [KENS]

Uber & Lyft Will Defy Order From Virginia DMV To Stop Picking Up Passengers

 

(Σπύρος Βάθης)

The Virginia Department of Motor Vehicles made its feelings about ride-sharing services Uber and Lyft very clear yesterday, telling them in no uncertain terms to cease operations in the state until they obtain the proper permits. But both companies say they are doing nothing wrong and will keep on picking up (and presumably dropping off) passengers.

 

The DMV’s position is that state law requires anyone who wants to make a profit off driving passengers somewhere get proper authorization from the state. But the business models of services like Lyft and Uber involve regular drivers making a few bucks by giving rides to people in need of a pick-up, and doing so without the standard formalities of taxi licenses, medallions, or whatever the local laws require.

Virginia has already hit both Uber and Lyft with thousands of dollars in penalties for alleged violation of the state’s passenger carrier laws, but yesterday, DMV Commissioner Richard D. Holcomb issued cease-and-desist letters to both of the companies, making it clear that the state believes these operations are illegal.

The letters [Uber versionLyft version] also remind the companies that the DMV will issue civil penalties to Lyft and Uber drivers “that do not have authority to provide transportation for compensation.”

The DMV points out that while there is an exception for ride-sharing in the state’s passenger carrier laws, that exception requires that no profit be made.

According to Holcomb, Uber and Lyft’s operations “are not ride-sharing arrangements as defined by Virginia law” because the companies make money.

The letter invites Lyft and Uber to be involved in the DMV’s current review of these laws and of ride-sharing services.

“DMV has invited Lyft and other stakeholders to participate in this study and will produce a final report before the next legislative session,” reads the letter “I strongly suggest that [the companies] focus [their] resources on participation in this study rather than continue illegal operations in the meantime.”

But a rep for Lyft claims the company is doing nothing wrong.

“We’ve reviewed state transportation codes and believe we are following the applicable rules,” reads a statement to the Washington Post. “We’ll continue normal operations as we work to make policy progress.”

Meanwhile, a rep for Uber tells the Post the company was shocked by the DMV letter.

“Uber has been providing Virginians with safe, affordable and reliable transportation options for months and has continued to work in good faith with the DMV to create a regulatory framework for ridesharing,” reads the Uber statement. “We look forward to continuing to work with the Virginia DMV to find a permanent home for ridesharing in the Commonwealth.”

Three Men Allege They Were Kidnapped By Washington D.C. Uber Driver, Taken On 10-Minute High Speed Chase

 

(Adam Fagen)

It’s not just Washington D.C., taxi drivers who allegedly kidnap passengers. Three out-of-town visitors allege they were kidnapped and taken on a high speed chase after hopping in an UberBlack car in the city earlier this week.

 

According to Tech Times, a New York City resident and two colleagues’ routine Uber ride took a rather harrowing turn when the car they were in became involved in a high speed chase with a Washington D.C., taxi inspector.

The man and his colleagues were leaving a meeting near downtown D.C. Monday when they used the Uber app to hail a car.

Before entering the vehicle, one man says he noticed the driver speaking with a taxi inspector. Uber has come under scrutiny in surrounding areas recently after they refused to stop picking up passengers despite the Virginia and Maryland Department of Motor Vehicles ordering them to do so until they obtain proper permits.

The man tells Tech Times that once he and his colleagues entered the car the driver sped off with the inspector in hot pursuit – lights spinning and all. And so a 10-minute chase began.

One passenger reports that speeds were “well above the speed limit” and that the driver ran at least one red light.

The men say they repeatedly yelled at the driver to slow down, but he allegedly refused explaining that he would be fined $2,000 if he stopped.

Eventually, the driver pulled into an exit ramp and let the passengers out. The inspector attempted to pull ahead and block the Uber car’s path. However, the driver simply turned around and took the wrong way up the ramp, driving into Virginia.

Following their release, one of the passengers tweeted about the experience:

“Was just kidnapped by an @uber driver in DC, held against my will, and involved in a high speed chase across state lines with police #Crazy.”

According to a D.C. Taxicab Commission spokesperson, the ordeal began when the inspector noticed the Uber car had Virginia license plates and wanted to ensure the driver was picking up passengers through the Uber app instead of illegal street pickup.

Officials with Uber say they were willing to cooperate with authorities to investigate the issue, and that the drive has been “deactivated.”

No word yet, on whether the passengers were charged for their exhilarating trip through the nation’s capital.

Uber driver goes on high speed chase in D.C. with passenger onboard. Kidnapping? [Tech Times]

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