Uber just threw down the gauntlet to New York City’s mayor … and won

Uber has faced some intense political battles over the past few weeks.  Yesterday, we covered the situation in Florida and now we’re moving on to the ongoing confrontation between Uber and NYC Mayor Bill de Blasio.  

Today, RSG contributor, John Ince, shares his take on what the Uber battle in NYC means for all parties involved and highlights a few of the other top stories from the week.

Uber just threw down the gauntlet to New York City’s mayor … and won

Uber just threw down the gauntlet to New York City’s mayor

Sum and Substance: Uber has an offer for New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio: Let’s talk. In a letter to de Blasio, Uber NYC General Manager Josh Mohrer suggested the two have a public debate that could help the sides resolve some disputes about the city’s policies toward the richly valued ride-hailing service. “When your proposal to cap Uber was introduced, your administration said it was about congestion. The op-ed you wrote in the New York Daily News this weekend was about everything but congestion,” Mohrer said. “If you have new concerns, we want to discuss them, face-to-face, and invite you to do so in a live-streamed conversation so all New Yorkers can watch.”

Update per New York Times: The de Blasio administration has backed away from its fight with the app company Uber, agreeing on Wednesday to drop for now its plan to place a cap on the number of vehicles operated by Uber in New York City. The agreement brings a temporary end to a fractious struggle that had consumed City Hall for several days, and inundated parts of the city with mailers, phone calls, advertisements and even celebrity endorsements. Under the agreement, according to three people familiar with the agreement, the city will conduct a four-month study on the effect of Uber and other for-hire vehicle operators on the city’s traffic and environment.

My Take: This unfolding drama in the big apple is beginning to look more and more like a political election.  Uber obviously thinks they’ve got public opinion on their side and are doing everything they can to mobilize that support.  Mayor Bill de Blasio, like all politicians has to be putting his finger to the wind and is likely feeling a strong breeze about now.

Meanwhile, Uber’s David Plouffe is taking the high road with carefully crafted talking points – just like he did with his former boss Barack Obama.  Uber, also, has to be mindful that the political bosses in many other cities are closely monitoring this unfolding drama.   Apparently per the late breaking update de Blasio has backed down at least for now – How does that New York, New York song go … “If I can make it there, I can make it anywhere.”

What do you guys do if/when a pax wants to make a stop at a liquor store?

This question was posed to RSG fans on Facebook this week and here is just a sampling of the responses.  If you haven’t done so already, head over to Facebook, like our page and jump in on all the discussion.

Hilda Carillo: I picked up two passengers from a house. They were barbecuing and ran out of beer. They just needed to get more beer. I took them. Should I have asked them to put the beer in the trunk?

John Cash:  Stop who cares you are getting paid.I drove one guy to a prostitute and waited.

Yan Gonzalez: It happened to me yesterday and i told them to put the liquor in the trunk. I don’t want to get a D.U.I because of other people.

The key here is to make absolutely sure that there are no open liquor / alcohol containers in the car.  If there are the cops can legally throw you in jail for the night and impound your car.  If there are no open containers, you’re free to make up your own mind on this.

What Does Your Uber Driver Think Of You?

Sum and Substance: Your Uber driver is judging you, and the app won’t spill the beans. Last year, software engineer Aaron Landy published instructions on Medium about a hack he discovered in the Uber website’s code that allowed riders to view their passenger rating. Within days of posting the instructions, Uber changed the code so passengers could no longer find their rating. That rating is still not currently visible anywhere on Uber’s app or website, but there are two simple ways you can find out what your Uber drivers think of you. Warning: You may regret that one late night you crammed five of your friends into an Uber driver’s Prius. One way to find out is to email Uber support at support@uber.com with the phone number and email associated with your account. Many users (myself included) have gotten answers within minutes. Another perhaps more straightforward way is to simply ask your driver what your rating is the next time you’re taking a trip.

My Take:  If I see a passenger with a 5.0 rating, I’ll generally share that info with them.  It makes everybody feel good to know they’re liked and respected. On the other end of the spectrum, when I see someone with a very low rating, I’m a curious contrarian and will usually accept to find out why … and I often get good stories out of it.

Last Sunday eve about 11 PM I got a ping from pax with a 4.3 rating.  It was in Marin and very few drivers out. I’d had two requests from over 15 minutes away and accepted because hey, why not. This one was on my way home. I accepted and was there in 2 minutes.  Tapped to arrive … no sign of passenger.  I call – and get voice recording. I turn on stopwatch to be sure I’ve waited 5 minutes before canceling as a no show.  Kind of peaceful there.  Not another moving car in all of downtown Mill Valley at this hour.

At 4:40 on the stopwatch, I see 4 people emerge from El Paso and my phone rings.  Pax,  in aggressive voice, asks, “Where are you?”
I reply.   “I’m outside El Paso Restaurant … just where the app says you’re supposed to be.  I just put my flashers on.”
“Oh I see you, but, you’re way across the street.” He says.  Apparently 20 yards was too far to walk.
“Okay, I’ll swing around.” I  drive around the island and pull right in front of them. He’s with three drop dead gorgeous chicks. They all pile in.  I drive them about 3 minutes down the road to the 2 AM club – netting $3.46 on the fare.  On route I hear the chick in the back laughing and canceling her Uber request with another driver.  OMG – They’ve made simultaneous ride requests.  Wow, I’m the lucky driver who got there first to transport these “lovely” passengers.

Bottom Line:  Beware of passengers with very low ratings unless you’re writing a book.

Driving Boxes For Uber: Everybody Wins (Except UPS and FedEx)

Sum and Substance: For many UberX drivers, like myself, each day can bring a whole new experience. Recently, I accepted a ride request that would bring me a whole new Uber-adventure, and would also give me insight to a lot of money that Uber & Lyft are leaving on the table. On this day, I accepted an Uber ride request and navigated about 5 minutes away to a commercial building. After pulling up to the front door, the rider approached my car, motioning me to roll down the window. He had a request. He wanted me to drive to the destination he entered, but he did not want to go with me. The man explained that he had a B2B package that needed to go to a destination about 50 miles way. He saw no reason why he had to merely accompany the package, with the return portion merely doubling his cost while taking him away from his business.

My Take:  A well written and interesting article even if it is on the blog of The Rideshare Guy…. 🙂

Has Uber Forced Taxi Drivers to Step Up Their Game?

Sum and Substance:  Data from more than a billion cab rides reveal that customer complaints in New York and Chicago steadily declined after Uber came to town. … During a taxi ride late one night a few years ago, a cabbie started berating me for asking him to drive the 25 minutes from downtown D.C. to my home in Maryland. At the time, I thought to myself, At least he took me. In the past, some drivers had simply refused. And, like many other cab riders, I came to expect that his cab’s credit-card machine would be mysteriously “broken” when it came time to pay. All that has changed. Nowadays, with a few taps on my phone, an Uber or Lyft pulls up, takes me where I need to go, and then automatically charges my credit card and emails me a detailed receipt. While taxis used to face little competition for on-demand point-to-point transportation, today they find themselves in a cutthroat business.

My Take:  Well, duh … of course taxi service is going to get better with more competition.  The real question is whether it’s getting good enough to compete effectively.

What do you guys think about the week’s top stories?

-John @ RSG