Contents:

5 min read

    5 min read

    In this week’s roundup, senior RSG contributor John Ince covers the latest autonomous vehicle news, the realities of the gig economy and pandemics, and gig workers’ rights in France.

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    Uber and Lyft Lock Drivers Out in NYC: Rideshare Drivers React  [LinkedIn]

    Sum and Substance:  Late last year, Lyft began playing hardball after the Taxi & Limousine Commission (TLC) implemented changes, like a minimum wage for drivers. They began by locking drivers out of the Lyft app at certain periods of the day, citing “low demand.” Drivers would either have to wait it out, or drive to another area of the city.

    At the time, Uber didn’t do much about the TLC changes, but that has recently changed. Uber has also started locking drivers out of the platform for hours, even though there is a daily/hour planner feature for drivers. If Uber drivers do not meet the onerous burden to qualify for unlimited Driver Planner access, they are only allowed to log on at the times Uber permits.

    Editor’s Note:  In the latest episode of Rideshare Drivers React, Harry covers the latest lock out news in NYC, area preferences and Lyft’s new ‘preferred driver’ option. Make sure to follow The Rideshare Guy on LinkedIn – Rideshare Drivers React comes out twice a month.

    Waymo raises $2.25 billion to scale up autonomous vehicles operations  [Venture Beat]

    Sum and Substance:  Waymo, Google parent company Alphabet’s autonomous vehicles division, just got a massive capital infusion from a coterie of investors. It today announced that it secured $2.25 billion in financing from Silver Lake, Canada Pension Plan Investment Board, and Mubadala Investment Company (the sovereign wealth fund of Abu Dhabi), as well as auto parts supplier Magna International, Andreessen Horowitz, auto retail giant AutoNation, and Alphabet itself. It’s an initial close on the company’s first round of funding. …

    Waymo One hasn’t grown far beyond Phoenix geographically, but it’s moving incrementally toward a broader launch in the continental U.S. To this end, a Waymo One app for iOS launched late last year in the App Store. Like the app for Android, which launched publicly in April, Waymo One for iOS hails rides from almost any Phoenix-area location 24 hours a day, seven days a week. It prompts customers to specify both pickup and drop-off points before estimating the time to arrival and the cost of the ride. As in a typical ride-hailing app, users can also enter payment information and rate the quality of rides using a five-star scale. …

    My Take:  Waymo is doing this the right way. No stealing trade secrets – they’re just building a company and financing it like it really is a technology that will work. We’ll find out sooner rather than later that it does work – in very specific circumstances.

    Uber sent drivers guidance about coronavirus that some say ignores the realities of the gig economy [Business Insider]

    Sum and Substance:  On Friday evening, ridesharing company Uber sent drivers a memo offering guidance to workers as the novel coronavirus spreads across the world and the US.

    The memo, titled “A reminder about coronavirus,” offered four points of advice to contractors who come into contact with numerous passengers every day: If you feel sick, stay home; wash your hands frequently; cover your cough or sneeze; clean and disinfect…

    In particular, Twitter users pointed out the “If you feel sick, stay home” recommendation, noting that in nearly the entire US, Uber doesn’t provide sick leave or standard benefits to drivers since they’re nearly all contractors. …

    On r/uberdrivers, a subreddit for Uber drivers, one poster commented on the particular section sarcastically saying, “Your landlord and other monthly bills will surely understand.”

    My Take:  There is no way out on this one. If a driver stays home because they don’t feel well, they don’t get paid. That’s what this whole independent contractor/employee thing is about.

    Uber Ruling in France Boosts Gig Workers’ Rights  [Wall Street Journal]

    Sum and Substance:  The decision appears to be the first from a top court that contradicts Uber’s contention its drivers are independent contractors

    France’s highest appeals court ruled that a former Uber Technologies Inc. driver should be recognized as an employee rather than as an independent contractor, putting France ahead of other efforts around the world to give gig-economy workers the ability to demand broader employment benefits.

    The decision—which can’t be appealed—appears to be the first from a top court anywhere in the world that contradicts Uber’s contention that its drivers are independent contractors. Uber is facing similar litigation in the U.S. and the U.K. It recently won a case in Brazil, which ruled that its drivers aren’t employees.

    My Take:  Cast one more vote for employee status.  The cards are now trending, and sooner or later, Uber is going to have to face the reality of the situation.

    A former Uber executive was ordered to pay Google $179 million. Then he filed for bankruptcy.  [Washington Post]

    Sum and Substance:  SAN FRANCISCO — Anthony Levandowski, who once ran Uber’s self-driving car unit, was ordered Wednesday to pay $179 million to rival Google, prompting the software engineer to file for bankruptcy protection.

    The enormous award, which was approved by a Superior Court judge in San Francisco and was confidential but disclosed in a Securities and Exchange Commission filing, casts new light on one of Silicon Valley’s most heated dramas. It is also another blow to Levandowski, once a rising star in the tech industry who now faces criminal charges for allegedly possessing trade secrets that belong to Google.

    My Take:  This is a pretty swift fall. Levandowski was once a real player in autonomous vehicles, and now he’s filing for bankruptcy. Wow. But let’s not feel too bad for him – once he gets out of jail, he’ll probably bounce back just fine.

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

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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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