NYC’s Vehicle Cap Could Expand Nationwide

In this roundup, senior RSG contributor John Ince shares just how little Uber/Lyft are doing to keep drivers safe plus how regulations in NYC could soon be coming to a city near you.

Female drivers for Uber and Lyft say sexual harassment is the norm — and getting help from the companies isn’t easy [Business Insider]

Sum and Substance:  For female Uber and Lyft drivers, every fare is a possible nightmare.

And when the unthinkable happens, many women say it’s difficult to get the ride-hailing companies to hold up their side of the partnership.

The Guardian on Wednesday reported that many female drivers have trouble getting in touch with Uber or Lyft after an incident. In one case, a woman said it took five days for someone from Lyft’s critical response safety line to get in touch with her. Another said a passenger was arrested after she reported an assault that included hair-pulling and spitting. Uber, meanwhile, sent only an automated email with no follow-up, she said….

Jenny, a driver for Uber in Northern New Jersey who asked that we omit her last name for privacy reasons, says she avoids driving at night, because she feels safer in the daylight hours.

“I get rude comments from men in the day, so I don’t even want to know what it would be like at night,” she said in an interview. “My mother really doesn’t like that I drive for Uber.”

Jess, a driver for Lyft in Portland, said she’s “been propositioned, assaulted, and even involved in a car chase.”

Many of the contractors who spoke to Business Insider wish the companies would do more to protect them. For instance, there is no ID verification for riders like there is for drivers, or even a requirement that they add a photo.

“I’ve been attacked three times,” Michael Pu, a driver for both Uber and Lyft in Washington DC, said in a recent interview. “Each time I filed a police report, but never felt like Uber or Lyft really investigated the incidents.” …

In a statement, an Uber spokesperson said its deeply committed to safety, and highlighted many of the features its launched in recent months…

My Take:  Okay, let’s face facts – driving for Uber and Lyft is potentially a very dangerous proposition.  If you’re female, you’re even more at risk.  This article is short on detail, but it gives us just enough to get concerned.  What percentage of female drivers have been propositioned or insulted or assaulted?  We don’t know because both Uber and Lyft jealously guard any data like this.

This much we do know – neither company wants to see more articles like this – and for that reason they won’t give any reporter any more than the canned responses that we read in this story like – “We care deeply about safety.” If these companies cared so deeply, they would give the drivers more information to make informed decisions.

As Uber sues over NYC vehicle cap, drivers say rule keeps them afloat [New York Daily News]

Sum and Substance:  Uber’s lawsuit challenging the city’s one-year cap on the number of app-based for-hire vehicles could headed for a spin out. Manhattan Supreme Court Justice Lyle Frank allowed four Uber and taxi drivers to intervene in the case last month, which allows them to argue that eliminating the cap would cripple their already troubled livelihoods.

They want New Yorkers to understand their side of the story before the lawsuit’s next scheduled hearing on July 15. Amara Sangono, an Uber and Lyft driver who previously leased a taxi for 12 years, said his income has leveled off since the cap has been in place, but he still works 13-hour days to make ends meet.

“You have too many cars floating around right now,” said Sangono. “Allowing these cars to flood the city means the drivers are making less.  Uber has argued the city’s cap is unfair for New Yorkers outside of Manhattan, where it’s harder to hail a taxi. The company also claimed in the suit that the city did not have any evidence the cap would impact congestion, “the problem the city was ostensibly acting to solve.”…

My Take:  The roles here seem predictable.  Drivers say the current system is unfair.  Regulators say they want to fix it – and make it more fair.  Uber / Lyft sues to stop the regulators from changing the rules of the game, and so it goes.  And as NYC goes… so goes many other cities.  So pay close attention to what’s happening in NYC.  It may soon be coming to your city.

A 12-Year-Old Died After Taking An Uber Alone. Drivers Say They Can’t Afford To Reject Kids. [Buzzfeed]

Sum and Substance: “They will say, ‘Well, no, we don’t want you to do that,’ but in fact, the way that they handle all their bonuses and rewards, that’s exactly what they’re doing,” one driver said.

An Uber driver arrives at an address to pick up a passenger, only to find out the person requesting the ride is a child alone.

It happens all the time across the US even though it is against the ride-hailing company’s terms of service.

Uber requires all account holders to be at least 18 years old and explicitly prohibits children from riding without an adult. But as news that a 12-year-old died by suicide after taking an Uber by herself showed, the policy hasn’t deterred parents and kids from using the service or prevented drivers from transporting them anyway.

“It’s painful to pass on rides,” said Jeff Byrnes, a former Uber driver based in Southern California. “You get a strong surge and you pull up and it’s a minor. Most drivers are not going to turn that down, largely because they can’t afford to.”

Current and former drivers told BuzzFeed News that Uber, instead of encouraging drivers to reject ride requests for children, incentivizes them to accept all rides regardless of whether they’re against the app’s policies. Those incentives come in the form of bonus pay and surge pricing, along with penalties for drivers who cancel or accept fewer rides…

My Take:  This has long been one of the most disturbing aspects of any driver’s relationship with Uber and Lyft.  When you get the ping, you have no idea how old the passenger is. So you accept and sometimes drive a considerable distance only to find that they’re obviously underage.  Or maybe you’re not sure how old they are.  If you cancel the ride you’ve just wasted a good chunk of your valuable time, plus you’ve pissed off a potential paying passenger.

The cancellation process is never easy, especially with the passenger right there in the back seat.  But if you accept, you’re exposing yourself to a world a potential liability.  The laws are murky on this, but there a decent chance that if you are transporting a minor in violation of Uber/Lyft’s policy, you’re liable for whatever happens. If what happens is bad enough, your life could be ruined.

Uber and Lyft both have known about this problem for over a decade, but they have chosen to do nothing other than offer lip service to some self serving platitudes about safety. Sorry, but this issue is a clear cut example of Uber and Lyft’s character flaws – they are incapable of doing what is right by drivers because they know that any one driver is expendable, and as a whole they’re not organized well enough to be a countervailing force to the company.

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

-John @ RSG