5 min read

    5 min read

    In this week’s roundup, senior RSG contributor John Ince covers coronavirus news, Uber and Lyft’s unlikely profitability by Q4 and more.

    Are you a driver affected by the coronavirus? Fill out our brief survey here and be entered to win one of four Amazon gift cards.

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    Coronavirus: Uber to suspend accounts of affected drivers [BBC]

    Sum and Substance:  Uber will suspend the accounts of drivers and delivery people affected by coronavirus – but has offered financial assistance to help them cope.

    The company said those either diagnosed with Covid-19 or having to self-isolate would receive aid for up to 14 days while their accounts were blocked.

    Some drivers had already received help, Uber said, adding it was “working to quickly implement this worldwide”.

    However, the amount of financial assistance has not been specified.

    My Take:  Uber and Lyft are in a difficult situation here. This sounds like a good solution, but you can be sure that people will complain – on both sides of the issue.

    Uber and Lyft Unlikely to Meet Profitability Targets  [Investopedia]

    Sum and Substance:  Ride-share companies Lyft, Inc. (LYFT) and Uber Technologies, Inc. (UBER) have been pummeled in recent weeks, dumping these volatile issues into and through their 2019 lows. Of course, the coronavirus outbreak is to blame, but investors are just now realizing these companies probably won’t be profitable by the dates they’ve told Wall Street, and even worse, there are no guarantees that they’ll survive the pandemic.

    Customers have received e-mails from both companies in the past 24 hours, outlining steps they’re taking to ensure driver and rider safety if either party is diagnosed with COVID-19. However, these procedures will do little to assuage growing fears that taking a trip with either app may be hazardous to your health because you’ll be sitting in a back seat shared by hundreds of riders. All in all, it sounds like a perfect breeding ground for the virus.

    Both stocks have dropped more than 30% in the past month, hitting extremely oversold technical readings, so it’s hard to recommend opening new short sales at this time.

    My Take:  This is all speculation, but even without the virus, I would think they would have difficulty meeting their target.  Maybe the virus just gives them an excuse.  We’ll all find out soon enough.

    Uber launches text to 911 feature through in-app emergency button  [DeseretNews]

    Sum and Substance:  Riders and drivers in 20 of Utah’s 29 counties will now be able to text 911 from Uber’s in-app emergency button.  The new feature, part of the 911 assistance button housed inside Uber’s Safety Toolkit, will allow riders and drivers to choose between texting or calling 911 should they need emergency assistance while on a trip with Uber.

    While calling 911 is preferred by first responders, if riders or drivers cannot call, then they will have the option to text.  

    My Take:  An emergency button makes perfect sense. It’s amazing to me that it took this long. Uber is rolling it out across the country now.

    Uber developing kids transportation service  [FoxBusiness]

    Sum and Substance:  Uber is testing out a new option that would let users call a car theKids could soon be “Ubering.”

    The ride-hailing app has been reportedly developing an “Uber for kids” service for picking up and dropping off unaccompanied children, according to The Information citing an unnamed source with knowledge of the proposal. …

    The project is being developed by Zhenya Lindgardt, Uber’s customer engangement and business strategy chief, who has a team of 60 people working to develop new businesses using Uber’s platform, according to the Information.

    Currently, Uber requires passengers to be 18 years or older to get in one of its vehicles.

    My Take:  If Uber can solve this problem it would eliminate a very big problem: teens calling Uber! Uber can get a lot of goodwill with drivers if they can come up with a solution.

    Uber removing Uber Cash discounts  [The Points Guy]

    Sum and Substance:  Uber just announced that it is removing the promotional discount that customers receive when topping off their Uber Cash account balances.

    Uber Cash was introduced in 2018 so customers could preload cash into their Uber wallets to pay for all Uber transactions, including ride-sharing, food delivery and even bike-sharing. This allowed them to budget for their Uber purchases.

    Until now customers also received a discount for loading more cash into their accounts — up to 5% off depending on the amount of funds added.

    Most accounts have had the following discounts:

    $25 Uber Cash: Pay $24.50 (2% discount)

    $50 Uber Cash: Pay $48.50 (3% discount)

    $100 Uber Cash: Pay $95.00 (5% discount; although some accounts might show only a 4% discount)

    My Take:  It’s not much, but it is a fare increase.  We can expect to see Uber and Lyft playing around on the fringes of their fare structure, looking for ways that they can make a few extra bucks.  They’re public companies now with fiduciary responsibility to shareholders.

    Uber Works launches in Dallas today, but can it help you find your next job?  [DallasNews]

    Sum and Substance:  Uber’s latest platform wants to make the process of finding that next job easier for shift workers in Dallas-Fort Worth.

    Uber Works launches in Dallas Tuesday. The new app from Uber matches people looking for work with businesses offering shifts. Uber Works already launched in Chicago and Miami late last year. Uber Works launches in Dallas Tuesday. The new app from Uber matches people looking for work with businesses offering shifts. …

    When Uber expanded its rideshare service across the country roughly a decade ago, it quickly became apparent to early users just how slow the taxi cab industry had been to adapt new technologies….

    The Uber Works app will connect Dallas-Fort Worth workers with nearby businesses that need to fill shifts and features an expedited onboarding process as well as rapid payment for the worker.

    My Take:  I don’t see this as a major revenue center, but it could bring in something. We’ve covered more about Uber Works here if it’s something you’re interested in.

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

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    -John @ RSG

    John Ince

    John Ince

    John Ince is a former Fortune reporter and Wall Street banker. He has about 1,000 rides under his belt driving part time for Uber and Lyft.  He’s writing a book about his experiences entitled:  Travels With Vanessa:  A Rideshare Driver Tries To Make Sense of It all - For a sneak peak visit the link above.

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