In this week’s round up, senior RSG contributor John Ince covers drivers getting fleeced – in more ways than one. Plus, should drivers really worry about autonomous vehicles? Harry tackles the question in a special segment at the end.
Con artists are fleecing Uber drivers and the ride-hailing company knows all about it. [CNET]
Sum and Substance: It was business as usual for an Uber driver who’d been picking up and dropping off riders in Los Angeles on a Wednesday afternoon in early June. He’d just accepted a new trip in Beverly Hills and was was driving to get the passenger when he got a strange phone call. It was from San Francisco’s 415 area code. The caller, with a heavy Spanish-sounding accent, said he was from Uber.
“They tell me to pull over and cancel the trip,” says the driver, 31, who asked us not to use his name. “They tell me I need to verify my account. They sound very professional and very poised and say things like, ‘We really appreciate how good a job you’re doing for Uber.'”
The caller told him the passenger requesting the trip was disabled, so Uber wanted to send an SUV instead to accommodate a large service animal. That sounded reasonable to the driver, who’d been working for Uber for only two months. What he didn’t know was that he’d just become the victim of an elaborate con job that drained all of the money from his account by week’s end….
Uber is no stranger to scams. Fraudsters have signed up as drivers to get fees on fake cancellations, and cheated passengers with bogus discount rides offered on messaging boards and chat rooms. It’s why Uber has started using machine-learning tools over the past year to weed out scammers. The company says it’s spotted and stopped hundreds of these frauds.
But this scam is different. Its specific purpose is to fleece drivers…
Apparently the scam has hit thousands of ride-hail drivers, and millions of dollars have been diverted from their accounts, according to a lawsuit brought by the US Attorney’s Office in New York’s federal court last November.
An Uber spokeswoman says the company has worked with law enforcement officials to help track down and prosecute these scammers. She says Uber has also increased protections and security measures on drivers’ accounts.
My Take: This is a fascinating and thorough look at the sophisticated scams that are preying on Uber drivers. It’s well worth your time to read it in its entirety to be aware of exactly how the scam artist think and work. Have any of you been scammed like this?
In London, Uber has won the battle but risks losing the war [Techcrunch]
Sum and Substance: The sighs of relief are palpable. Uber can keep operating in London. With 3.6 million customers, 45,000 drivers, and a slew of reforms, changes and concessions already made to Transport for London (TfL), most observers expected Uber to win a reprieve – and they did. Uber passed the first of two tests.
The second test is a little less obvious – and a lot harder. Being able to navigate the political climate in Europe demands that Uber not only demonstrate contrition, but implement real change too. But if Uber loses sight of who the end user is, winning the battle in London doesn’t eliminate the risk of losing the entire war everywhere.
Here’s the thing: regulation is neither inherently good nor bad. Taxi regulation wasn’t all fundamentally evil and corrupt when Travis Kalanick ran Uber and it’s not all fundamentally necessary and appropriate under Dara Khosrowshahi’s reign either. That’s because there are no laws of nature on how ridesharing – or even transit in any form – should operate. It’s all a series of choices, priorities, and trade-offs between competing public and private needs and capabilities. It’s just a question of getting people from point A to point B in the most efficient, cost effective way possible. That’s it…
Uber’s greatest asset is its customer base. Uber’s greatest reason to exist is customer demand. The people’s needs were being unmet by taxi and ignored by the regulators. That’s why Uber had an opening. That’s why customers flocked to the platform… But that doesn’t mean losing sight of who you are. Just being the anti-Travis isn’t enough. Taxi already was the original anti-Travis. That didn’t work.
My Take: This is an incisive and insightful article well worth the read. The article asks us to consider this basic question – who is to ultimately decide what the rules are for urban transit? Regulators, legislators or the people who elect and appoint them? This is the evolving world we live in where urban transit is being slowly but surely being transformed, sometimes by forces we can’t predict.
Taxi Drivers in New York Are Struggling. So Are Uber Drivers [New York Times]
Sum and Substance: Pedro Acosta, a driver for Uber, helps Kiara Correa Acosta, 17, into his car in Brooklyn. Mr. Acosta, who has driven for Uber since it arrived in New York in 2011, says he has seen his income steadily decline even as the cost of living in the city has gone up.
After a growing furor among Uber drivers in New York City in 2016 over plunging incomes, Uber relented and made a rare concession: It agreed to recognize a local driver group.
The group, the Independent Drivers Guild, was not quite a union, but it would meet regularly with Uber management and advocate for drivers. Still, there was lingering suspicion that the guild was a pawn for Uber since it accepts money from the powerful company. But two years later, the guild is taking an increasingly confrontational stance toward Uber as it pushes for higher pay and a cap on new drivers…
After a taxi driver killed himself last month — one of six driver suicides since December — the Independent Drivers Guild called for new regulations in stark terms, saying city leaders had ignored “widespread exploitation.” While Uber as a corporate behemoth has eviscerated the yellow cab industry, front-line workers in both worlds share a common bond over their economic desperation…
The guild’s campaign comes as New York City is considering stricter rules for Uber and other ride-hailing services that have flooded the streets with vehicles…
My Take: The term exploitation seems to be appearing more and more lately in articles about the gig economy and specifically in regard to rideshare companies Uber and Lyft – with good reason.
When the founder of the company, Travis Kalanick, is run out of town and he carries more than $1.4 billion with him all the way to the bank, yet his drivers, people who have made the entire ridesharing proposition attractive to passengers, are barely making minimum wage, there is something wrong.
If exploitation is the right word then let’s use it. Let’s call a spade a spade. This article, in perhaps the most respected media publication in the world, is talking about it … so let’s put it out in the open. Are drivers being exploited? What do you think? Let’s have a robust debate about this issue. It’s about time. Kudos to the authors of this story for putting substance to the discussion.
What keeps Uber drivers from worrying about self-driving cars [Quartz at Work]
Sum and Substance: I’ve been driving for Uber and Lyft for nearly 5 years. That means that when companies throw billions of dollars into developing self-driving cars, to some extent, they’re trying to automate my job.
While writing a blog and a book about rideshare driving, this topic has come up often in my conversations with thousands of other rideshare drivers over the years.
Uber is taking an ever growing cut of the fare, but drivers are still its number one expense and receive a majority of every transaction—so you can see why it’s so attractive for Uber and Lyft to pursue self-driving technology. But it might not be as easy to automate a driver’s job as some coverage of automated cars makes it seem.
Editor’s Note: An article from Harry, The Rideshare Guy, over at Quartz at Work. Harry covers the future of autonomous vehicles – a must read if you’re at all concerned about our AI future.
Readers, what do you think of this week’s round up?
Protect Your Car With an Uber Extended WarrantyPlans start as low as $36/month. Bumper-to-bumper coverage, roadside assistance, 0% APR financing for all drivers. Click here to learn more.
-John @ RSG