Is Uber the Amazon of Transportation?

Are female Uber drivers being targeted in the Kansas City area? What about across the U.S.? Senior RSG contributor Paula Gibbins puts in her two cents on this news and more with this week’s roundup.

Inside Uber’s effort to become the Amazon of transportation (Business Insider)

Summary: Four years after arriving at Uber in the midst of a crisis, CEO Dara Khosrowshahi has left his mark on the company. After spending his first year cleaning up Uber’s troubled culture, he has reshaped its business, doubling down on deliveries and shedding expensive projects like self-driving-vehicles and flying taxis that weren’t progressing fast enough. But as Khosrowshahi pursues his long-term vision for the company, he has had to manage short-term challenges like turnover and a chaotic return-to-office process.

Below, you can read our coverage of how Khosrowshahi has changed Uber and the challenges he faces in the months and years ahead.

When Khosrowshahi became Uber’s CEO in 2017, the company was reeling from a string of scandals that revealed an overly aggressive culture. Khosrowshahi made it a priority to set a new tone for the company, rewriting Uber’s corporate values and making difficult decisions aimed at increasing Uber’s accountability to its employees and customers. Current and former Uber employees say the company has become less combative and more attentive to their lives outside of work under Khosrowshahi….

My Take: Overall, I find it a fascinating read, especially when compared to all of the hate that Khosrowshahi gets from drivers on forums like Reddit. But when you take a look from a business perspective, he’s really turned Uber on its head from when he first took over.

Tips are allowed in the app, Uber has dropped projects like self-driving vehicles, and, agree with the tactics or not, Uber is heading toward profitability.

Lyft And Uber Will Pay Drivers’ Legal Fees If They’re Sued Under Texas Abortion Law (NPR)

Summary: Ride-hailing apps Lyft and Uber said they will cover all the legal fees of any of their drivers who are sued under Texas’s restrictive new abortion law.

The law, which went into effect this week, bans abortions after about six weeks of pregnancy. It lets private citizens sue anyone who helps someone obtain an abortion, including by providing a ride to a clinic. That’s raised concerns that ride-hailing drivers could be sued simply for transporting passengers.

“Drivers are never responsible for monitoring where their riders go or why. Imagine being a driver and not knowing if you are breaking the law by giving someone a ride,” Lyft said in a statement on Friday….

My Take: If you haven’t heard, Texas enacted a new law recently that bans abortions after about six weeks of pregnancy, but more than that, it allows private citizens to sue abortion providers and anyone who helps a woman obtain an abortion.

What does this have to do with Uber or Lyft? Well, as a rideshare driver, if you happen to find out during your trip to drop someone off at their destination that their purpose for going there was to get an abortion, you could then be sued for driving them to said place because you’d be helping a woman obtain an abortion by dropping her off there.

That’s pretty messed up in my opinion. It’s great that Uber and Lyft are stepping up to help pay for legal fees if any of their drivers get mixed up in all the nonsense, but it’s sad that it’s come to this.

DoorDash, Grubhub and Uber sue NYC over bill that limits how much they can charge restaurants (CNBC)

Summary: DoorDash, Grubhub and Uber Eats on Thursday filed a lawsuit against New York City over a new bill passed by City Council that would make emergency delivery fee caps installed during the pandemic permanent.

The lawsuit, filed in federal court in the Southern District of New York, alleges price controls required under the new law “will harm not only Plaintiffs, but also the revitalization of the very local restaurants that the City claims to serve.” The companies claim the law is unconstitutional because “it interferes with freely negotiated contracts between platforms and restaurants by changing and dictating the economic terms on which a dynamic industry operates.”

The companies claimed that the selection of a 15% fee cap for delivery services and 5% cap for non-delivery services is arbitrary. They said restaurants have plenty of options available for how to conduct their businesses without using the apps and are not constrained to using their services if they feel prices are too high.

The plaintiffs also said they “compete vigorously” not only with each other, but with online advertising companies like Google and Yelp, which are not subject to the 5% non-delivery fee cap….

My Take: I feel like this is becoming the new norm. Companies like GrubHub and DoorDash are charging restaurants an arm and a leg, so the city puts a cap on how much they can charge and then the companies turn around and sue.

There should be a happy middle ground, don’t you think? Obviously GrubHub, DoorDash, Uber Eats, etc. should get their cut because they are providing a service, but it shouldn’t be to the point where restaurants can’t afford to stay open because their fees are so high.

Do you think there is a middle ground, and if not, what’s your solution for restaurants who can’t source their own delivery drivers but still rely on delivery to help them make ends meet?

Former head of Mint raises $4.5M for Lean to give gig workers access to financial products (Tech Crunch)

Summary: Gig and independent workers have different needs than salaried employees when it comes to financial products.

It’s a challenge that Tilak Joshi, founder of Lean, became acutely aware of during his tenure as head of Mint and years as a product exec at American Express and PayPal.

While the U.S. has seen a major shift in more independent workers in recent years, traditional financial institutions have “failed to keep up,” in his view.

“Seventy percent of independent workers live paycheck to paycheck and 30% are inadequately insured,” he said. “Independent workers will soon become the majority of the U.S. workforce, and the existing conversation, platforms and institutions need to rapidly evolve to support them.”

Upon leaving Mint in 2020, Joshi teamed up with Eden Kfir and Ramki Venkatachalam to start Lean in an effort to support gig workers with a platform that offers access to financial products that he says are “custom built” for their needs. And today, the startup is announcing it has raised $4.5 million in a seed round led by Inspired Capital that included participation from Atelier Ventures, Oceans Ventures and Acequia Capital….

My Take: I’ve definitely been in the living paycheck to paycheck group before. It’s not a great place to be. If there’s a company that makes it easy to cash out earnings (to the point of not having to think about it), that’s awesome in my book. Plus, if you can cash out without fees, that’s even better.

I honestly think it’s a bit ridiculous for people to be charged extra just because they want their money right away instead of waiting for the once a week drop into the bank account. Sometimes you need your cash fast, and it shouldn’t be punished if you do.

I’ll be curious to see how this takes off and if there are other ways it will help drivers.

Female Uber drivers in Kansas City area believe they are being targeted (Fox)

Summary: Two metro women say they were targeted while driving for Uber. Over the Labor Day weekend, KCPD said there were two incidents, but FOX4’s Sherae Honeycutt uncovered a possible third.

Uber drivers sometimes have to deal with difficult people. They may have had too much to drink, or be in a bad mood. However, one metro Uber driver says on Friday she was tased by a passenger. Another said one woman threatened to assault her.

“I just kept repeating that. Get out of the car. Get out of the car,” Dawn said.

Dawn said she didn’t know what to do in that moment. She’d picked up three women at Martini Corner in Kansas City on Friday night.

“I didn’t feel scared. I just felt off. Everything was off,” Dawn said.

The women immediately told her the tire pressure on her car was low, but her car has sensors to monitor it and they weren’t indicating an issue with the pressure….

My Take: This is one reason I don’t do much in the way of rideshare driving anymore. It is a dangerous world out there and you just never know what someone else is thinking. It could end up being nothing, or it could end up costing you your life.

As a woman, I take my gut feelings seriously as well as playing it safe in any way that I can, but there are instances where the “bad guy” gets the better of you.

Are you a female Uber driver? Have you ever had close-call situations? How do you handle them?

-Paula @ RSG