Passengers have been complaining of having to pay more for rides since the pandemic. To counter that, it looks like Uber is considering bringing back some version of Uber Pool. Meanwhile, DoorDash is adding safety features for delivery drivers, discussed below in this week’s roundup with senior RSG contributor, Paula Gibbins.

    Uber accused of not providing recourse for unfair driver account deactivations (ZD Net)

    Summary: According to various Uber drivers who appeared before an Australian Senate committee on Thursday, there is no recourse or compensation provided to drivers when their accounts are wrongly deactivated.

    The Uber drivers appeared before the Senate Committee on Job Security, which is currently leading an inquiry into whether Australia’s gig economy workers are being paid fairly and if there are sufficient health and safety protections in place for them.

    On Thursday afternoon, two Uber drivers recounted their experiences of having their accounts on the platform wrongly deactivated. One driver’s account was allegedly deactivated for five days when a passenger falsely claimed that the driver was being violent, while another said their account was deactivated for a day because one of their passengers filed a complaint about feeling uncomfortable from wearing a mask during the ride.

    The latter driver, who chose to remain anonymous, told the Senate committee that he was also unable to contact Uber after his account was deactivated.

    He explained that when a driver is activated, they can access a call centre that is based in Manila, Philippines for help. But if an Uber driver is falsely deactivated, he said there are no means to rectify the issue….

    My Take: Drivers have been complaining about this for years! Not only is there no form of compensation, but also no way of rectifying the situation or arguing your side of the story. Many drivers get deactivated without even knowing why. If you don’t know why you’re terminated, how can you change your ways, or improve your service, or prove that you didn’t actually do anything wrong?

    The only choice drivers seem to have is to lawyer up and hope for the best. If you’ve been unfairly deactivated, learn what you can do about it: How to Fight an Unfair Deactivation from Uber or Lyft.

    These deactivations can happen with little to no warning, leaving drivers stranded without a way to earn money.

    Why the electric car era is a threat to Uber and Lyft (Axios)

    Summary: The taxi business is going electric, which could spell trouble for ride-hailing giants like Uber and Lyft, who can’t force their drivers to buy EVs.

    Why it matters: The two companies don’t own and operate EV fleets or a charging infrastructure, and they rely on contract drivers who operate vehicles of their own choice.

    • That business model could prove antiquated in the Electric Age, as new companies entering the fray are choosing to manage their own fleets from a central hub and count their drivers as employees.

    What’s happening: A host of new players are challenging the incumbents’ model:

    • New York-based Revel recently launched a ride-hailing service in Manhattan with a fleet of Teslas and 150 full-time drivers.
    • Another company, Alto, raised $45 million to transition to an electric fleet with full-time drivers. It operates in Dallas, Houston, Miami and Los Angeles, but plans to expand nationwide by 2025.
    • In Las Vegas, a premium electric taxi service called Kaptyn has 150 full-time drivers, although it provides pre-arranged, not on-demand, trips.

    For Uber and Lyft, EVs present added challenges: They’re too pricey for many gig drivers and they need to be recharged, cutting into time the drivers could be earning money….

    My Take: This is an interesting perspective. Axios takes the stand that since taxis can be more regulated than Uber or Lyft drivers, the taxi sector going EV is easier than if Uber and Lyft were to try since they can’t force their drivers to buy EVs.

    Another take that’s not mentioned in the article could be that EVs becoming more commonplace might mean the general public will buy EVs and start driving themselves again because electricity is more affordable than gas.

    This might not happen until the price of buying an EV is on par with your average gas-powered vehicle, which from the sounds of it is becoming more and more of a reality.

    DoorDash adds safety features to help protect drivers (NC Advertiser)

    Summary: DoorDash is adding security features to its app to help protect drivers.

    The San Francisco-based delivery company said Wednesday it’s partnering with security company ADT on the new features, which will be available to all U.S. DoorDash drivers by the end of this year.

    Under the new system, DoorDash drivers who are feeling unsafe can connect to an ADT agent using a button in DoorDash’s app. The agent will stay on the phone until the driver feels comfortable; if the driver stops communicating, ADT will call 911.

    DoorDash is also adding an emergency-assistance button to its app, which drivers can swipe to let ADT know they need immediate help. ADT will contact 911 and then remain in touch with the driver via text messages….

    My Take: It’s about time! I think all of these apps that have drivers and couriers should have emergency safety features and protocols put in place. You’re either driving around strangers, or you’re dropping off food at strangers’ houses. Some situations can be downright terrifying, and if you have to stumble through your phone to find the dial pad to call 911, that’s precious moments lost when help could have already been on the way.

    People are more violent and angrier than ever before (or so it seems). Doing one thing wrong, like not being able to find the address quickly and efficiently, can lead to an altercation. It sounds ridiculous, but people get set off by the smallest of things sometimes. Safety should always be at the forefront and should be ever improving.

    Reminder, if you are a delivery driver, turn off your engine and take your keys with you. While it may seem inefficient, you never know who is waiting and watching to hop in your car and take off, so take the few extra seconds to park, turn off your car, and take your keys.

    Uber prices are still way up, so the company is bringing back carpooling (The Verge)

    Summary: Uber is preparing to relaunch its carpooling service as a way to combat price increases, officials said in a call with investors. Uber Pool was shuttered in March 2020 in response to the COVID-19 pandemic and remained so even as vaccines became widely available and customers returned to the app.

    But that could soon change, according to Uber CEO Dara Khosrowshahi, who hinted that a new shared rides product could be released soon. Along with its rival Lyft, Uber has been struggling to recover from the pandemic, as drivers fled the platform, wait times increased, and the cost of rides soared.

    “We are launching an Uber shared pool product,” Khosrowshahi said. “We have been investing for years in a high-capacity product, which is looking more and more attractive as it relates to a unit economic basis, where that can bring the price significantly lower.”

    Uber’s prices are up 20 percent compared to last year, slightly less than they were over the summer but still relatively steep compared to pre-pandemic prices. Introducing a low-cost carpooling service will help ease the demand for Uber’s main ride-hailing products, and hopefully bring those prices down more, Khosrowshahi said….

    My Take: It’s hard to say when this will start up again or what changes are actually going to be made since the website still says “Due to COVID-19, Uber Pool is temporarily suspended in many regions.”

    One thing I’ve probably heard the most from drivers since the pandemic is how much they love that Uber Pool is not a thing anymore. This latest development likely won’t make many drivers happy…unless a LOT changes.

    I also think it’s funny that Uber’s CEO even says in this article that it likely won’t affect the cost of an Uber in the near term. So, why bring it back if it’s not going to affect the cost, which sounds like the main argument for bringing it back in the first place?

    Sounds like a lot of doubletalk and backpedaling to me.

    P.F. Chang’s wants to offer self-delivery nationwide by 2023 (Restaurant Dive)

    Summary: Prior to the pandemic, P.F. Chang’s managed catering deliveries in-house and was already exploring self-delivery solutions. The chain didn’t expect the COVID-19 crisis to prime its customers to engage with its native channels, allowing the Asian fast casual to deepen diner loyalty, increase order frequency and better own its off-premise offerings.

    “With all of the challenges that the pandemic brought us, this is probably one of the gifts that it brought, frankly, is that behavior change overnight,” Candice Barnett, P.F. Chang’s vice president of off-premise dining, said. ” When somebody orders on a third-party platform, people are loyal to that platform, and getting them to switch that [loyalty] is a whole other behavior change.”

    Editor’s Note: Many big restaurant chains are hiring drivers directly now, giving couriers an additional way to sign up for new platforms and have more options for delivery driving.

    We’ve always said signing up for more services and having more competition in the marketplace is good for drivers, so if you’ve been considering diversifying your delivery income streams, take a look at your local restaurants and see if they’re hiring drivers directly!

    What changes would you like to see done to the new Uber Pool feature? Would you want to go back to having Uber Pool as an option in your market?

    -Paula @ RSG

    Paula Lemar

    Paula Lemar

    Paula has been writing for the Rideshare Guy since the fall of 2018. The main focus of her articles has been breaking news, reviewing new apps, driver experiences and more. Prior to her time with the Rideshare Guy, Paula worked as a writer and editor for various publications including local newspapers, sporting goods catalogs, online merchandise and more. She currently has a full-time job editing for a top beauty company and enjoys reading, playing board games and participating in weekly trivia.