Judge rules on taxi industry lawsuit: Compete with Uber or die

Harry here.  Make sure you follow us on Facebook in order to get updates on all the latest stories and happenings in the rideshare world.  

Today, RSG contributor, John Ince, takes a look at some big problems the taxi industry is facing, the Tesla Model X and shares an interesting article on the different types of Uber drivers.

My New Car - The Tesla Model X
My New Car – The Tesla Model X

Next week, we’ll be interviewing Shannon Liss-Riordan on our podcast about the Uber misclassification lawsuit so stay tuned!  You can find and listen to the podcast in iTunes or on the website.

Judge rules on taxi industry lawsuit: Compete with Uber or die

Sum and Substance: A state judge has slammed the door on a legal challenge by opponents of Uber, clearing the way for the rideshare giant to run traditional taxis off the road. In a decision unveiled Wednesday, Queens Supreme Court Justice Allan Weiss ruled that for-hire vehicles could use electronic hails to compete with yellow cabs—something they have been doing well enough to threaten the existence of the iconic 80-year-old industry. If that means yellow-cab medallions worth a collective $10 billion or so just two years ago become worthless, the judge suggested, so be it.

“Any expectation that the medallion would function as a shield against the rapid technological advances of the modern world would not have been reasonable,” he wrote. “In this day and age, even with public utilities, investors must always be wary of new forms of competition arising from technological developments.” The plaintiffs, led by four Queens credit unions who lent heavily to medallion buyers, plan to appeal.

“In the meantime, however, a catastrophe is unfolding, as an entire industry continues to be illegally destroyed, while elected officials allow it to happen on their watch,” their lawyer Todd Higgins said in a statement that apparently referred to defendants Mayor Bill de Blasio and Attorney General Eric Schneiderman. “It is a stunning abdication of leadership and responsibility that will haunt New York City for years to come.”

The “catastrophe” he cited is the possible slew of loan defaults in the coming months if owners stop making payments on medallions that have plunged in value since peaking at more than $1 million and don’t generate enough income for the borrowers to repay their debts. No medallions have been sold since February, when two went for $700,000 each. A wave of foreclosure auctions could reveal that the market now considers medallions to be worth substantially less, which could trigger more defaults and auctions—a so-called death spiral.

My Take: With so much being written about Uber and Lyft, it’s revealing to get a sense of the financial pain that is being widely felt in the taxi industry.  The market value of medallions is plummeting and defaults are having ripple effects.  This has to be wrenching.  I have a good friend from high school, who has a company financing medallions in New York City.  It’s an unsavory business, and one time he had to call in the FBI who arrested a fraudulent borrower at gun point in his offices.  It was a very profitable business in good times, but right now it sucks.

Some tips for Uber drivers (but not the cash kind)

Sum and Substance: No job is worth having if it doesn’t offer ample opportunity to confab with colleagues and grouse about the management. In that regard, I think I’m going to be fine if I keep driving for Uber. Drivers have been weighing in since my Sunday column, in which I reported on my brief (so far) experiment working for Uber. I noted that all my passengers were thrilled with the ride service, but the take-home pay and working conditions for drivers are less inclined to produce smiles. Here’s one response from a fellow chauffeur: “I am an Uber driver and agree with you that you should definitely keep your day job. The rest of us are having to endure this modern day indentured servitude out of desperation.”

My Take:  A fascinating read.  The author’s an LA Times writer and he definitely knows how to write.  His perspective is open but he comes away feeling like there are just too many entitled customers to make the job palatable for such low pay.  Does that strike resonate a chord with any of you?


Sum and Substance: The company line toed by Uber is that there’s no such thing as a typical driver, and we couldn’t agree more: there are, in fact, 18 types of Uber drivers, all of which are as unique as snowflakes… or wildly inefficient driving routes. Here’s our rundown of the different stereotypes, with sincere apologies to The Guy You Feel Guilty About Giving a Bad Rating.

My Take:  Definitely my favorite story this week.  Are you:

•  The Old-School Cabbie who’s paying union dues and wishing his dispatcher was less like Danny Devito and more like Tony Danza. He recently purchased a smart phone specifically to “give this new high-tech thing a shot” and so far he actually really enjoys being his own boss, despite constantly complaining about it.

• The Silent Type – Also known as The Mime or The Self Driving Car, there’s nothing memorable about this guy. Except that he was the greatest driver you’ve ever had.

• The Absent Mind – “That sure is a beautiful sunset,” said The Absent Mind, before missing your turn and rolling through a stop sign and flattening a stray cat…

• The Guy You Feel Guilty About Giving a Bad Rating – Sure, he accidentally drove three miles in the wrong direction and asked why you’re not married, but he’s new in town and used the phrase “looking for work” with a downtrodden tone. From the way he talks about his family, you can tell someone is in poor health. Your one-star review might keep him from ever becoming The Happy Family Man, but maybe he’d be a better fit for Lyft?

• The GPS Denier – Trust him, he knows how to get there. Don’t question his omnipotent understanding of traffic flow and stoplight rhythms and Dick Dastardly shortcuts: This is much faster than the route from Google Maps or Waze or the mouth of a passenger that makes this drive on a daily basis. Wait, why are we driving on railroad tracks?

.. or maybe you’re an Uber type all to yourself … feel free to create your own in the comments.

Tesla’s Model X Is Here, and It’s as Awesome as We Hoped

Sum and Substance: THE WORLD’S FIRST luxury electric SUV is gorgeous. It’s futuristic. And once again, Tesla Motors is redefining the electric vehicle. The Silicon Valley automaker has teased us for years with the Model X, and tonight it finally gave the world its first look at the production model, then handed six customers the keys. Those people now own a $130,000 electric vehicle that will go 250 miles on a charge, carry seven people and haul more stuff than anyone but a hoarder might want with him. And although the X shares much of its DNA with the impressive Model S P90D sedan, in many ways it eclipses that phenomenal car. It’s not just the design, which is futuristic without being weird. It’s not just the performance, which is holy shit fast. And it’s not even the dramatic “falcon” doors that lift like the wings of a bird. It’s how all of those features come together in a vehicle that somehow makes an SUV not just cool, but desirable. But then, that’s what Tesla does.

My Take:  I’m wondering how much the author was paid by Tesla for this story.  He completely casts aside any pretense to objectivity.  Sure the Tesla Model X is cool, but at the price they want?   Dream on!

What did you guys think about the week’s top stories?  What type of driver are you and could you see yourself Uber-ing one day in a Tesla?

-John @ RSG