When most people hear a hurricane is coming, they either evacuate or hunker down at home with all the necessities in case of power outages and flooding. One man (among others, we’re sure) decided to continue driving for Uber. In other news, some Uber drivers feel like they are drug mules when they complete Uber Connect deliveries without knowing what they are transporting. Keep reading for more in this week’s roundup with senior RSG contributor Paula Lemar.
What’s that bag of white stuff? Some Uber drivers worry they’re drug mules (NBC)
Summary: A bag of white stuff. A cigar box wrapped tightly in duct tape. A bottle of pills labeled as a prescription amphetamine.
Drivers for Uber’s courier service don’t always know what’s inside the suspicious-looking packages that people ask them to deliver — but some know they don’t want to be a part of it.
NBC News spoke to six drivers from around the U.S. and Australia who said they are worried they’re being used as unwitting “drug mules,” ferrying across town what they believe may be narcotics while doing work for Uber Connect, a courier service the tech company started early in the coronavirus pandemic….
My Take: This is something I’ve worried about as well. You don’t know what you’re transporting. You don’t know who you’re dealing with. And before you pick up the package, you don’t know where you’re transporting it to. It could be to a “bad” part of town. It could be a known crack den. If you’re pulled over by the cops and searched, you’d likely be considered culpable despite not knowing what you’re transporting if you’re caught with drugs.
Though, according to this article, they encourage drivers to report suspicious deliveries. Obviously, it’s against the terms of service, as well as against the law, to make these kinds of transactions. But again, drivers don’t have any proof of what they are transporting. They just have to hope for the best and hope their customers are following the rules.
As others evacuate ahead of Hurricane Ian, Al drives for Uber (Tampa Bay Times)
Summary: The requests are nonstop. Since Monday, Al Moreno’s phone has been chiming.
“Wow! I already got a passenger,” he says seconds after turning on the Uber app on his phone Tuesday.
It’s 11 a.m. in St. Petersburg, hours after Pinellas County’s evacuation orders went into effect for Hurricane Ian.
Moreno, 59, is among a growing number of older adults who drive for Uber or Lyft to afford life in Tampa Bay.
His own waterside apartment on Beach Drive is in a mandatory evacuation zone. But he’s got work to do.
As Ian barrels toward Florida, surge rates — which give drivers bonus cash for offering rides during times of high demand — are “way high,” according to Moreno. They’ve been that way ever since residents were encouraged to flee Monday….
My Take: As long as it’s still safe to drive, I’d say, why not? This guy seems to be making bank from requests and surges throughout the lead-up to Ian hitting Florida. Granted, I think it’s unfair of Uber to post surges during what’s clearly people trying to get things tackled before a natural disaster hits. It probably was a bit unethical to charge extra during that kind of situation, which Uber has gotten into hot water over previously.
I just hope that all parties involved were safe from the floods once Ian hit Florida later in the week.
Amazon boosts wages for hourly workers across the US (Engadget)
Summary: Amazon has announced that it’s spending nearly $1 billion boosting wages for hourly workers in the US amid criticism of its labor practices and a pitched union battle. The increase will take the starting wage for most front-line warehouse and transportation employees to over $19 per hour, while pay in fulfilment and elsewhere will rise to $16 an hour. The company’s minimum wage will remain at $15 per hour.
Amazon is also expanding its “Anytime Pay” program to all employees, allowing them to access up to 70 percent of their eligible pay at any time with no fee, rather than the usual once or twice a month. It also added a new development program that allows employees to advance to engineering roles after 12-14 months of training….
My Take: While I think it’s absolutely fantastic that Amazon is raising wages for their hourly workers, I think they can and should do even more. For one, they should raise their minimum wage. Keeping it at $15 an hour is basically saying this is a one-time thing that they are giving existing workers more money. But they’ll still be allowed to hire workers at lower rates.
Also, their “Anytime Pay” program seems great at face value, but I think it sounds like they are getting their workers into a sticky situation on purpose. What I mean by that is if I am given the option of accessing up to 70% of my pay at any time with no fee…I can get into a lot of financial trouble very fast. Say my child gets sick and goes to the hospital, and I need money to pay for their care. Great, I have that money. Wonderful. But…what happens the rest of the year when I will have fewer wages paid out because I’ve already taken, say 50% of my eligible earnings? So, now I can’t provide basic needs for myself and my family.
It would almost be better if Amazon would offer some kind of fee-free, interest-free loan program where you can have the payments for that loan automatically taken out of your pay. You’d get the money you need upfront in the form of a loan, but you wouldn’t take a huge financial hit by using up to 70% of your earnings in one go.
I don’t know. It just seems like a slippery slope to send people plummeting into poverty if they weren’t already on the edge.
Also in the news…
Uber CEO sets deadline for drivers to move away from gas cars (Teslarati)
Thoughts: We’ve heard about Uber’s goals to be an EV platform by 2030, but now it’s been confirmed that the CEO also expects its drivers to switch to EVs by 2030. That’s a huge change to expect to be fulfilled in less than 8 years.
Obi: An Innovative Rideshare Comparison App That Helps Users Find The Best Price on Transportation (badcredit.org)
Thoughts: I love that Obi is making it easier to compare all the transportation options in one place. I can’t tell you how often I’ve gone back and forth between the Uber and Lyft app to see which is the better option, whether it be cheaper fares or more drivers nearby. Obi sounds like a great solution.
Argo AI’s robotaxis officially available via Lyft in Austin (TechCrunch)
Thoughts: It seems like every week, or more frequently anyway, there’s another city or company that is rolling out robotaxis/autonomous vehicles/driverless cars. Is the future here?
If Uber requires you to have an EV vehicle by 2030, do you think you’ll continue driving for the platform when that time comes? Share your thoughts!
-Paula @ RSG