Self-Driving Cars May Not Be Able to Replace Drivers After All

Toyota has purchased Lyft’s self-driving enterprise—is the gig economy just not ready for self-driving cars? Senior RSG contributor Paula Gibbins goes into this story as well as restaurants creating their own delivery solution and President Biden’s administration making waves about gig worker classification.

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Toyota acquires Lyft’s self-driving unit for $500 million [Mooresville Tribune]

Summary: Toyota Motor Corp. has acquired the self-driving division of American ride-hailing company Lyft for $500 million, in a move that underlines the Japanese automaker’s ambitions in that technology.

The acquisition, announced Tuesday, was carried out by Woven Planet Holdings, a Toyota subsidiary that began business in January and focuses on innovations and investment in projects such as “smart cities,” robotics and automated driving.

The Woven Planet project will bring together engineers and researchers in mobility services, as well as the software and sensor assets and automated driving systems to further develop the technology, according to Toyota….

My Take: Basically, this tells me that both Uber and Lyft realize that the research involved in self-driving vehicles is not worthwhile. It’s too expensive and too far from being a reality for them to keep wasting time and money on.

Now, the real question is if their investors will take this well or not. Will investors back out now that this part of the deal is off the table? Will investors question whether Lyft can become profitable without this division?

Uber, Lyft and DoorDash stocks plunge after Biden’s labor secretary says ‘in a lot of cases, gig workers should be classified as employees’ [Market Watch]

Summary: Shares of Uber Technologies Inc., Lyft Inc. and other “gig-work” companies dropped sharply Thursday after U.S. Labor Secretary Marty Walsh said gig workers should be classified as employees.

“We are looking at it but in a lot of cases gig workers should be classified as employees,” Walsh told Reuters in an interview. “These companies are making profits and revenue and I’m not (going to) begrudge anyone for that because that’s what we are about in America… but we also want to make sure that success trickles down to the worker.”

Those appear to be the first public comments by Walsh on gig-worker classification — an increasingly important issue that has broad implications for the future of work and what have become some of the nation’s most well-known companies….

My Take: Overall, it seems like drivers are pretty well split on whether or not they want to be employees. Now with the government stepping in, it makes this a whole new ballgame. Not that change will come immediately, but it certainly seems to be building on the horizon.

Once this article hit, it was quickly posted on Reddit and drivers took the opportunity to comment on it. Like I said, there is a split among drivers on the perks and downsides of being considered employees.

A handful want the government to force Uber, Lyft and the others to comply with labor laws and provide those basic benefits like unemployment and allowing drivers to defend themselves if deactivated.

One poster said in part, “I am happy to see that he mentioned respect. That is something that has not received enough attention in the media. Yes we care about earnings, but the many ways that these companies disrespect their drivers has not been understood by the public…”

Some are skeptical if President Biden actually cares about rideshare drivers, and part of the skepticism is explained by one person who posted that “The FED wants those payroll taxes.”

It’s plausible that the government—and by extension the president—is only really intervening because they want their cut of money they are missing out on with gig companies operating the way they do.

So, what do drivers want? Basically every time we’ve surveyed drivers in recent years, the main priority is flexibility and pay. Drivers want to be able to go online whenever they want and earn a decent wage. Would becoming employees guarantee this?

I would think that if drivers really wanted to be employees, they wouldn’t be driving for Uber or Lyft. They would be working in another industry, with a 9-5 shift and minimum wage, where flexibility is lacking and you get a steady, known paycheck.

Announcing Updates to Provide More Choice, Flexibility, and Transparency for Local Restaurants [DoorDash Blog]

Summary: To empower every restaurant to meet their individual goals, all local, U.S. restaurants on both DoorDash and Caviar will have a choice of three different Partnership Plans, with commission rates that vary based on the level of marketing support included. Restaurants will also always have the flexibility to update their Partnership Plan selection to accommodate their evolving needs.

  • DoorDash Basic (15%):Basic is the most cost-effective way for restaurants to offer delivery and pickup to customers on DoorDash.
  • DoorDash Plus (25%): Plus helps restaurants grow orders through access to our most loyal customers as part of DashPass, an expanded delivery area, and reduced delivery fees for customers.
  • DoorDash Premier (30%): Premier helps restaurants maximize the number of new customers and the total volume they receive from DoorDash. It offers the lowest customer fees and the largest delivery area, in addition to the benefits of DashPass.
  • New Pickup Pricing (6%): DoorDash is also reducing Pickup commission to 6% across all restaurant partners and plans so they can leverage the reach of the DoorDash Marketplace and connect directly with customers in their neighborhood. This rate includes payment processing….

My Take: I truly hope this turns out to be beneficial for small businesses. I can’t imagine running a locally owned restaurant and having to pay the same commissions as a national chain. That’s really all I can say. I hope, hope, hope this is a good thing.

Uber rides and your safety: How the rideshare company is helping fight carjackings, sex trafficking [ABC]

Summary: It could be a local driver who’s a victim of a carjacking or a rider at risk of human trafficking. In an ABC7 exclusive interview, an Uber Security expert explain to the I-Team how its own security experts work with police, and how the app’s technology can keep you safe.

Uber told the I-Team its hired law enforcement experts like former Chicago-based U.S. Secret Service Agent Billy Kewell to help police catch suspected criminals.

“If there’s a crime associated with the Uber platform, now you’ve uploaded information, right? Since you’ve used it to commit a crime, you’ve now uploaded, you know, account identifiers, so to speak, that then law enforcement can use to apprehend and locate suspects related to these crimes,” Kewell said.

Those crimes could include human trafficking and carjackings….

My Take: We’ve posted many times about the uptick in carjackings and safety on the various platforms. It is kind of nice to see what Uber is actually doing to help drivers and passengers. Granted, as we’ve always said, more can always be done. It is still good to know that there is a division of Uber that is doing what it can to help with law enforcement to apprehend criminals.

Will I be driving again for Uber anytime soon though? Probably not. The vibe of strangers seems to be violent and angry more often than not. It seems like everyone feels entitled to do and act however they want to the detriment of everyone around them. I will not be putting myself in the driver’s seat only to be attacked because I’m asking a passenger to wear a mask and follow the rules – and I’m probably not the only driver thinking that.

Restaurant owners to launch local food delivery service to compete with DoorDash, Postmates [8 News Now]

Summary: Take out services like DoorDash and Postmates will have some new competition next month. Restaurant owners in Las Vegas are coming together to launch their own food service delivery platform.  

They are challenging big app-based platforms because of growing frustrations over fees during the pandemic and they plan to have it ready in April.

“We’re nervous but I think the timing is right,” said Kristen Carrol.

“It’s a local issue that’s going to be solved locally,” added Carlos Carrol.

Roughly 100 places including “Tacotarian,” co-owned by Carlos Carrol, form a local cooperative called “Loco Las Vegas” — a franchise ready to compete with big tech app-based delivery services….

My Take: I’ll be curious to see how this takes off. If successful, other restaurants in other cities might follow suit. Sometimes all you have to do is find someone with a common interest and band together to get things to work out the way you want. Just because options are out there that you can use doesn’t mean you can’t create something better. Who knows a restaurant’s needs better than the restaurant itself? I wish these restaurant owners luck in their endeavor and hope things work out for them and others wishing to do the same.

Do you agree with President Biden that drivers should be employees? What benefits do you value as a driver? If you could “have it all” what would that look like for you?

-Paula @ RSG