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It’s once again been another busy week in ridesharing news. This week, senior RSG contributor John Ince covers how lawmakers are trying to address passenger safety in rideshare, plus Uber’s IPO news and a lighthearted ‘rideshare menu’ for passengers in Seattle.
These women say they were raped by fake Uber drivers. Now they’re suing the company. [Washington Post]
Sum and Substance: She had been attending a social gathering in Los Angeles on Dec. 20, 2017, where she had consumed alcohol. After being separated from her friends, she decided to call an Uber to take her home. After all, that was the responsible thing to do, she thought. A car pulled up, and she got in. But she noticed something odd, according to court documents: The license plates did not match the Uber ride. Her driver claimed he had damaged his car and had not updated the app with his new information.
That is when her actual Uber driver called, irritated, saying she had bailed on him. He hung up on her.
The woman had actually gotten into the car of a man named Nicolas Morales, who was later accused in 2018 of raping or assaulting eight women in Los Angeles by posing as their Uber drivers. He abducted and raped her, according to court documents.
The woman, named only in court documents as “Jane Doe 2,” is one of three who have filed a lawsuit against Uber Technologies in Los Angeles Superior Court. The lawsuit alleges the ride-hailing app left them “sitting ducks” to men in Los Angeles who posed as Uber drivers to sexually assault female passengers. It also suggests Uber knew fake drivers were preying on women but did nothing to warn customers…
The complaint alleges Uber knew about fake drivers preying on women around Los Angeles as early as 2016 and that the Los Angeles Police Department or sheriff’s department had contacted the ride-hailing service about the problem. But the complaint says “it intentionally withheld this information” from the women and “did nothing to warn” them of danger. …
My Take: This lawsuit opens a new and startling line of inquiry in this series of tragedies involving fake Uber drivers. If Uber did know about these fake drivers and how they preyed upon women, the question then becomes, “What could they have done about it?”
That’s where this gets interesting. Is Uber legally responsible for the actions of fake drivers who have no formal or legal connection to the platform? How can they identify poachers? For more information about safety on the Uber / Lyft platform, watch for my upcoming open letter to Uber / Lyft about safety.
Jersey City Law Would Require Uber and Lyft Drivers to Have Lit Signs [Jersey 101.5]
Sum and Substance: Jersey City this week is considering the state’s first municipal measure to require any ride-hailing vehicles to display an illuminated sign. The item was on the agenda for Wednesday’s City Council meeting.
Mayor Steven Fulop announced the proposal last week following the recent slaying of New Jersey native Samantha Josephson in South Carolina. Josephson was killed last month after mistaking a stranger’s car for an Uber ride she requested, police said.
On Twitter on Monday, Fulop said of the proposal: “This is helpful for passengers but it is also helpful for the city. The reality is we have NO idea how many ride shares are on our streets, what they do to traffic etc. The only info a city has is by “trusting” that Uber/Lyft are providing accurate info.” Fulop also countered questions raised by both major ride-sharing companies, Uber and Lyft. He said: “Generally speaking, when companies push back on transparency and only want to self report selective information – it raises even more questions.”…
My Take: Although it will be a bit of a hassle for drivers, this law makes perfect sense. Part time drivers might resist and understandably so, since most of the time they’re using their car, they’re not on the platform. Depending on how easy the sign is to take up or put down, the companies might be getting a lot of free advertising out of this tragedy and the ensuing campaign to more clearly identify rideshare drivers.
Uber Is Said to Aim for I.P.O. Valuation of Up to $100 Billion [The New York Times]
Sum and Substance: Uber gave the first sign of how big its highly anticipated initial public offering might be, telling some investors that its stock sale might value it at up to $100 billion, people briefed on the matter said.
The number, which is below a $120 billion valuation that had been floated by investment bankers, highlights the size of the ride-hailing colossus as it prepares to embark on its market debut, the biggest in recent years. Its shares are expected to begin trading on the public markets next month. The revelation follows the I.P.O. last month of Uber’s main North American competitor, Lyft, whose shares have since dropped more than 15 percent from their offering price. Another Silicon Valley darling, the digital pin board Pinterest, this week set pricing expectations for its own market debut below its last private fund-raising round.
The moves raise questions about investor appetite for prominent but unprofitable technology companies, with a slew of them — including the messaging company Slack and the home fitness company Peloton — also aiming to list their shares this year.
… Uber is expected to publish its public offering prospectus on Thursday, giving investors a closer look into its businesses. That document will not provide any information on the offering’s potential price, but the company recently disclosed its latest thinking about its own valuation to some investors.
My Take: Many pundits are saying that Uber gains an advantage over Lyft in this IPO race by going second. They’ve taken to calling Lyft’s IPO “a disaster” because their stock price has taken a nosedive since the IPO. They say that Uber can learn from Lyft’s disaster and price the stock more realistically.
I see this another way. From the company’s standpoint, Lyft’s IPO was a stunning success. They raised more money than they originally expected and did it at a significantly higher valuation than they would have thought a few months ago. So what if late investors to this game took a loss? Hey, investing is gambling, and they lost. And Lyft won.
Uber may come out from this as the biggest winner of all. Stay tuned. Oh, and from the driver’s standpoint, if Uber does raise $10 billion, it gives them a few more years of cash to burn – at a burn rate of almost a billion a quarter… and probably postpones the inevitable increase in fares. Hey, they’ve got investors subsidizing this game. What’s not to like about it? Unless you’re someone who believes that the primary goal of business is to generate profits – rather than short term investor gains.
Uber Driver’s Menu Draws Thousands Of Laughs With Selections Like ‘Silent Ride,’ ‘Creepy Ride [Forbes]
Sum and Substance: A 38-year-old Seattle Uber driver has the internet buzzing over a “ride type menu” he created for his passengers as a fun way to break the ice. George Ure printed his menu two weeks ago in an effort to make his customers more comfortable and to “make people laugh,” he told me Tuesday evening.
“Plus I want to give good service and if someone’s not up for talking, I just want to give them the option,” Ure told me.
So far, Ure has handed out 20 menus, one of which was tweeted by Luis Arguijo, 21, who shared a photo of it Monday afternoon. Arguijo’s tweet has since been liked more than 380,000 times as of Tuesday evening…
My Take: This is a nice touch. It’s a great way to welcome people to the confines of your car and it sets a light tone for the remainder of the ride. It’s things like this that made ridesharing fun and unique – back in the day. Nice to see someone still has a sense of humor.
Readers, what do you think of this week’s roundup?
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-John @ RSG