You stay klassy, Uber

Uber whines about insurance rules that would level the playing field

What's this nefarious measure that could do such damage to the good people with their disruptive transportation platform? Actually, it's a pretty mild regulatory measure, AB 2293, that would require ride-sharing drivers to have exactly the same insurance as taxis in most cities, including San Francisco. And it would mandate that insurance be in effect as long as a driver is actively looking for fares.

It levels the playing field to make sure taxis and faux-cabs have the same insurance requirements -- and would prevent situations where neither the company nor its driver carries sufficient insurance to cover an incident like the death of Sophia Liu.

Lyft: "Uber scheduled, canceled 5,000 rides to hassle us"

CNN reports that people associated with car-on-demand service Uber have been attempting to sabotage an Uber competitor, Lyft, by ordering and canceling as many as 5,000 rides since October 2013. Lyft drivers have also complained that Uber employees will call them to take "short, low-profit rides largely devoted to luring them to work for Uber."

Lyft claims to have sussed out the fake requests using phone numbers used by "known Uber recruiters." Lyft claims that one Uber recruiter requested and canceled 300 rides from May 26 to June 10, and it said that recruiter's phone number was associated with 21 more accounts with 1,524 canceled rides between them.

(My understanding is that this is exactly in keeping with the Libertarian Dream, so everything's fine. The market works!)

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15 Responses:

  1. Über Scümmy.

  2. LafinJack says:

    There's a regulation somewhere that's FORCING poor Uber to do this, there's no way they'd do it if they were completely unfettered!

  3. Dan Sylveste says:

    Just in general, you clearly have strong feelings about Uber and the corporate shuttles etc.

    I also remember before you posted critically about the state of SF cabs and the general state of SF public transportation.

    This is not intended as a 'you can't have your cake and eat it' post but what actually do you want to see happen in SF? Are you just opposed to gentrification in general or would you just rather see the 'organic' infrastructure improve i.e. resulting in cabs and trains similar to NYC/London/etc? If the latter, do you think that will happen by itself with so much entrenched opposition i.e. SF cab medallion holders absolutely opposed to the issuing of any new medallions and similar.

    • jwz says:

      The SF cab situation is abysmal, and the taxi medallion system is anti-competitive anti-consumer nonsense. Uber offers a better service than the older taxi companies, and that's great. But their business practices are in a lot of ways completely scummy, and their profits rely to a large extent on flat-out cheating the taxpayers.

      Muni is a great example of government... let's generously say... not really working very well. That doesn't mean the solution to the problem is parasitic apartheid Google busses that solve the problem for a tiny, rich fraction of the population while not only ignoring but actively making things worse for everyone else.

      There are plenty of things to dislike on both sides, is what I'm saying. None of this is black and white, and there is a whole universe of options lying in between "Somalia Libertarian Playland" and "Soviet Command Economy".

      • Dan Sylveste says:

        I see your point...

        For the corporate shuttles, I don't know if it's a good idea to look at it as a public transport problem and a public transport solution. I see it as a corporate problem (employees want to live in a certain place, which happens to be not in the same place as their workplace) which the company solves with buses. Is it too ridiculous to say the fact that buses are being used doesn't make it a public transport solution? Even _if_ the public transport system was adequate you might find the buses still existed because the arguments that have been presented previously about them being a way to 'enhance productivity' (ugh) may outweigh the costs...

        An alternative solution would be all the relevant companies relocating to the SF city center. Would that really be better, or worse? You'd still have the same problem of the non-corporate and support-workers being priced out of the city center. Would the same companies bus in their support staff? Would that be better or worse?

        • jwz says:

          Google is "solving" their problem by robbing San Francisco of resources. They are not paying their share, and they are thereby making the existing public transit systems worse. It's typical dot-com behavior: "disrupt" is the word they use for "transfer public money into private hands".

          They've decided to throw money down a hole to "solve death", but apparently "improving Muni and Caltrain until it is an acceptable form of transit for their employees" is beyond their scope. I mean let's not go crazy, now.

          And that's even before you get into the non-economic impact. Reasonable people might disagree on whether spending a lot of resources to make it easier for San Francisco to be Mountain View's bedroom community is good for our society and culture in the long term.

          • Tom Lord says:

            What would "improving Muni and Caltrain" take?

            As far as I know improving service capacity substantially would take enormous amounts of capital investment. It would also probably increase rents charged directly or indirectly to these systems.

            At the margins a little bit of improvement could be had getting unionized workers to behave differently in some areas and perhaps accept lower wages. If at the same time capacity is being substantially improved, this won't really lower absolute labor costs.

            What can pick this cost up other than fare increases and increased taxation? Yet, I at least, find it hard to see how this extra spending on transit will produce a correspondingly large increase in government revenue or household incomes.

            Activists and cheerleaders of activists speak and act as if the sorry state of public transit is nothing more than a failure of political will.

            I've yet to see any of them make a fiscally convincing case, though. Transit sucks, I think, because we as a society can not afford to do much better any more.

            Maybe the truth is that toast costs $4 not so much because we are an incredibly rich region but because the economy is failing.

            • jwz says:

              Google hired their own private bus fleet. Do you think that with that money, they couldn't have instead put more trains on the tracks?

              Well, maybe not, but hey, sinking money down a transhumanism hole makes plenty more sense, I'm sure.

              Hell, they probably could have gotten away with plastering "their" train with ads and turned it into a profit center with that sweet, sweet adwords manna.

              • Tom Lord says:

                Google hired their own private bus fleet. Do you think that with that money, they couldn't have instead put more trains on the tracks?

                I'm sorry, but no, I don't think so. I think they are doing this pretty much on the cheap, despite tinted window appearances.

                Well, maybe not, but hey, sinking money down a transhumanism hole makes plenty more sense, I'm sure.

                Lemme show you how cynical I am:

                I think the business case for that is that if their revenue dips they have a long list of bullshit jobs they can start cutting to keep their profit looking good.

                As a side effect some execs get playspaces and bullshit jobs to hand out as social capital.

                They did it that way in the early 90s before Google existed. Why change?

                Hell, they probably could have gotten away with plastering "their" train with ads and turned it into a profit center with that sweet, sweet adwords manna.

                Vast, vast commitment of transaction costs, and sunk costs, for an entirely 100% non-productive expenditure. Wall St. would punish them.

            • k3ninho says:

              I don't know the full details of what 'unionized workers to behave differently and perhaps accept lower wages' is the summary of a whole bunch of ideas in you head. I also don't know the specifics of SF and MV demographics and wage spread, taxes paid and the sie of car culture. However, I have the following thought:

              When it comes to curated facilities run and managed by a central system, it's always best to get as large an economy-of-scale as you can. The highways people do OK with this because, well, car culture. I think that's only half of the solution -- the bigger picture shouldn't merely be that city hall curates roads as a 'space to drive your car' but that city hall curates the door-to-door travel experience to get economy-of-scale wins on the blacktop (in terms of passengers per day per mile of road) that they lay down.

              Transit in a dense urban setting will have to be dense for its urban setting.


  4. Like Uber but for unfair trade practices.

  5. Mike McCool says:

    I've never understood why Uber, Lyft, AirBnB etc. felt like they were exempt from the rules just because a smartphone is involved. The regulations may need work but that doesn't mean you get to ignore them in the meantime.

  6. Rae Deslich says:

    They're being "market disruptors"! operating without the permits and insurance required by their industry. By this logic, every shade-tree unlicensed mechanic is a "market disruptor".

  7. Mark Welch says:

    It worked for PayPal and banks, right? Oh wait, PayPal screws over merchants, too.

  8. cryptomail says:

    There are three letters that need to get involved to really level things:
    A D A
    Once they get involved, it's game over. Best litigation teams on the planet.

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