Google Almost Beat Uber to a Rideshare System

In this week’s roundup, senior RSG contributor John Ince covers how Google almost became the dominant force in rideshare, plus how gig worker compensation could potentially change under a new Biden administration.

Uber and Lyft just scored a huge federal transportation contract  [TheVerge]

Sum and Substance:  The US government awarded a big transportation contract to Uber and Lyft this week, authorizing the ride-hailing companies to provide transportation to up to 4 million federal employees and families.

My Take:  This article is short on details,  It’s not clear what the potential $810 million gets you.  I suppose this is good for the companies, but I would have preferred to know more.

Ride Finder: How Google Almost Invented Ridesharing Before Uber Existed [ScreenRant]

Sum and Substance:  Google created a ride-hailing system before Uber even made a big business out of it, but it was hampered by the limitations of technology at the time.

It may surprise some people to know that Google created a ride-hailing system similar to those available today way before Uber positioned itself as the most ubiquitous of them all. However, the company abandoned the promising concept just four short years after its announcement. The concept was built on Google’s fledgling Google Maps service.

My Take:  Little surprise here. Google/Waymo has been way ahead of Uber in this space, and it doesn’t surprise me in the least that they had a proto type of Uber’s eventual system.

US tech firms like Uber, Lyft, and DoorDash could pay gig workers up to 15% of their compensation in stock under new proposal [BusinessInsider]

Sum and Substance: US tech firms including Uber, Lyft, and DoorDash could offer independent contractors up to 15% of their compensation in stock under a new regulatory proposal.

The proposal addresses heated debate in favor of allowing the fast-growing gig economy to enjoy more traditional benefits like job security.

The SEC’s proposal will be open for 60 days of public comment.

My Take:  This is a significant proposal – or at least it would have been significant way back when Uber and the other companies’ stocks were so cheap.  Right now I’m not so sure.  Uber’s stock price put it out of the territory I would like my stock to be – on an even up trade vs cash.

Joe Biden said he wants to make gig-workers full-time employees — but one of his top advisers previously helped Uber and Lyft avoid such a change in California  [BusinessInsider]

Sum and Substance: Joe Biden’s message ahead of California’s vote on Prop. 22 in November was clear: “It’s unacceptable.”

But the measure, like Biden’s campaign bid, were both approved by voters, setting the stage for a fight between labor advocates and gig-work companies like Uber and Lyft as they seek to replicate the law nationwide.

Further complicating the President-elect’s push to make gig-workers full-fledged employees is a divided Congress that experts say could stymie any heavy-handed regulation. Another potential variable is the fact that some of Biden’s own advisers have close ties to the tech giants’ lobbying efforts.

Specifically, Jake Sullivan, who was nominated as national security adviser this month, was previously advising for Uber and Lyft through his role at Macro Advisory Partners. Before Assembly Bill 5 became law in January, effectively classifying drivers as employees in the eyes of state law, Sullivan was negotiating on behalf of the company’s behind the scenes.

My Take:  Uber and Lyft have been aggressive lobbyists and some of Biden’s key advisors take the stand of the company.  Biden, meanwhile, takes labor’s view.  Should be some very interesting internal discussions going on.  But remember, Biden is boss, whatever that means.

Readers, what do you think of this week’s roundup?

-John @ RSG