We’ve got a lot to unpack in our weekly round-up including the fact that Uber’s CEO Dara Khosrowshahi got behind the wheel as an Uber driver to better understand their experience. Will that change anything at Uber?
There’s also a new e-bike startup raising funds, called Whizz. Plus, research shows gig workers are underpaid when it comes to retirement planning.
Catch up with the news in this week’s roundup with senior RSG contributor Paula Lemar.
Whizz Raises $3.4 Million in Seed Funding to Expand e-bike Subscription Platform for Delivery Drivers
Whizz, an e-bike subscription platform for last-mile delivery drivers, has secured $3.4 million in seed funding from Joint Journey, TMT Investments, and a group of angel investors. The latest investment brings the company’s total funding to $4.5 million.
According to the company, the funds will be used to support the company’s growth, upgrade the Whizz Automation Platform, and establish new locations in New York equipped with bike maintenance and repair stations, overnight storage facilities, and lounge zones.
With the last-mile delivery services market predicted to comprise seven million gig delivery workers by 2025, the e-bike market is expected to benefit from this exponential growth. Compared to other forms of transportation, e-bikes offer greater agility and cost efficiency. However, the average cost of an e-bike is over $1,500, which many drivers, particularly immigrant workers without a credit history, cannot afford.
Whizz is offering a more affordable solution, enabling drivers to rent purpose-built e-bikes featuring 8-hour battery life, GPS trackers, and built-in anti-theft systems, as well as on-demand maintenance and repairs….
Seems like this is a bit of a new take on e-bike services. Instead of paying by the hour, or having to buy your own bike, you can rent it via a subscription service.
The article mentions that it’s about 20% cheaper than its competitors. And it sounds like it offers lounge stations and on-demand maintenance services to keep you on the road. It could be a great solution for those in cities that are bike friendly. Cheaper than having to own a vehicle, that’s for sure.
Would you consider an e-bike subscription service? Or would you rather just pick one up as you need it and pay as you go?
Research Shows U.S. Gig Workers Are Underprepared For Retirement
When viewed through a British lens, one of the big questions of the American economy is how the tireless U.S. worker ever manages to retire. It’s been less than a century (1934) since FDR established Social Security as a measure to provide for Americans past their employable years. Here is what President Roosevelt wrote in his message to Congress introducing the proposal:
“Security was attained in the earlier days through the interdependence of members of families upon each other and of the families within a small community upon each other. The complexities of great communities and of organized industry make less real these simple means of security. Therefore, we are compelled to employ the active interest of the Nation as a whole through government in order to encourage greater security for each individual who composes it. This seeking for a greater measure of welfare and happiness does not indicate a change in values. It is rather a return to values lost in the course of our economic development and expansion…”.
I took to Reddit to see what other drivers were saying about this article, and the consensus seems to state that it’s not just gig workers. It’s millennials. It’s so many people. We’ve all been living paycheck to paycheck…who has the spare change to save for retirement?
Granted, gig workers may be “more screwed” than others who have a W-2 job, because for now, at least, social security benefits are still a thing.
If you have a W-2 job, your paycheck is automatically slashed to put a portion toward social security benefits for your retirement. And you’re more likely to have access to a 401k account and may even have matching from your company.
Gig workers don’t have those benefits offered in any way, shape, or form, for now at least.
Column: If You Work for Uber or Amazon, You May Be a Victim of Algorithmic Wage Discrimination
If you’ve ever worked for an on-demand app platform, or for Amazon, or even as an independent contractor at all in the last few years, there’s a good chance that you’ve been discriminated against — by an algorithm.
Let’s say I’m a delivery driver, and I pick up the lunch you ordered from your local sushi joint and drop it off on your doorstep. It takes me 15 minutes, and I get paid $5. You too are a delivery driver for the same company; you accept the same order, make the delivery in the same amount of time, at the same level of quality. How much should you get paid for your work? Five dollars, right?
Seems pretty straightforward. The notion that people should be paid the same wages for doing the same work is one of the most fundamental assumptions about a fair labor market. And yet, according to new research from Veena Dubal, a law professor at UC Hastings, on-demand app and tech companies have been undermining this crucial compact in ways that stand to influence the future of work in deeply concerning ways….
So, an algorithm is deciding pay…but it’s not set up to be equalized in any way? So, drivers could literally do the same exact delivery multiple times but be paid differently each and every time? How is that right?
And, of course, there’s the concept that one driver will get paid more than another, again, doing the same exact job as each other.
Senior RSG contributor Sergio Avedian was interviewed in the article:
“Avedian shared an experiment he ran in which two Uber-driving brothers in Chicago sat side by side with their apps open. They recorded in real time which rates they were offered for the same ride — and one brother was consistently offered more for every trip. The brother who kept getting higher offers drove a Tesla and had a history of accepting fewer rides, while his brother had a rental hybrid sedan and a higher ride acceptance rate. This suggests that Uber’s algorithm is offering higher rates to the user with the nicer car and who has historically been pickier, in order to entice him onto the road — and lower ones to the driver who was statistically more likely to accept a ride for less pay.”
Uber Accused of Charging People More If Their Phone Battery Is Low
Uber is allegedly charging users more if they have low phone batteries, according to a new investigation.
The small study by the Belgian newspaper Dernière Heure looked at how the app changes its pricing for users in Brussels based on their battery.
The paper reported that 2 identical requests were made to go from and to the same location yet Uber charged 6 percent more for the journey that was made on a smartphone with only 12 percent battery remaining. The phone with 84 percent battery was charged €16.60 (£14.56, $18.10) for the journey from the newspaper’s offices to a nearby ferry terminal while the other phone was charged €17.56 (£15.41, $19.16).
Uber has denied that payment is determined by how much charge a phone’s battery has left, and says that the app is not able to measure a user’s battery….
I feel like this argument came up a few years ago. A lot of people threw out the argument of “how would they know?”
But then, of course, phone permissions basically let everyone see everything when it comes to your phone. In this age of technology and information, privacy is a limited commodity.
It would be hard to prove, though, unless there was extensive research.
Automotus 2022 Survey Results: Curbside Parking Still Big Challenge for Delivery Drivers
Ask any rideshare or delivery driver what one of their biggest challenges is when they’re driving, and they will almost always tell you it’s curbside parking.
Two years ago, Automotus took this question one step further and created a survey to find out exactly how hard it is for drivers to find a parking place.
If you do most of your driving in the city, we bet the results won’t surprise you.
With the input and help of the Rideshare Guy along with the 152 drivers who responded, the newest Automotus survey showed that not only is it getting more difficult for drivers to park, but the increase in people relying on e-commerce for same-day delivery has made finding a place to park an adventure that often ends in futility.
Before we get to the survey results, let’s take a look at Automotus to get the background behind the survey….
Automotus is there to help solve the curb crisis for delivery drivers, and they took our readers’/drivers’ survey results into consideration.
Even I’ve gotten a ticket for picking up passengers in a zone that wasn’t open for me to park.
Granted, since I was there for less than 30 seconds, I felt it was an unfair ticket, but the law is the law, whether you have better options or not.
What Happened When Uber’s CEO Started Driving for Uber
After five years of running Uber Technologies Inc., Dara Khosrowshahi in September got behind the wheel himself.
Using the alias “Dave K” and a gray Tesla Model Y that he purchased secondhand, the chief executive made dozens of trips as a ride-share driver in the following months ferrying people around the hills of San Francisco.
While taking a customer to the airport one evening, he had to ignore frantic phone calls from his chief legal officer who was trying to alert him that a hacker had breached Uber’s network. Another trip took him across the Bay Bridge to Oakland—and he swore never to do it again after getting stuck in rush-hour traffic back to the city.
It was the latest experiment in the CEO’s yearslong journey to reinvent driving on Uber. Along the way, he struggled to sign up as a driver, saw firsthand something called tip baiting, and was punished by the app for rejecting trips. Surprisingly hard to take was the rudeness of some Uber riders….
Senior RSG contributor Sergio Avedian was also interviewed for this article. In part, it says:
“From its maps to driver safety tools, Uber was one step ahead of Lyft.”
Drivers said they still want higher pay and are concerned Uber will change its policies when it isn’t hard-pressed for labor. The company is already pulling back on some bonuses, Mr. Avedian said.
“A recession could leave Uber with a surplus of drivers as consumers look to save money.”
We shared the article on RSG’s Facebook page and got many comments from you, our readers.
Probably one of the top responses was from Steven T. who said,
“He should try surviving off the fares instead of the millions he’s paid.”
Other commenters mentioned that this is basically just a PR stunt by Dara as an illusion to make it seem like he cares about drivers while not actually doing anything to improve the lives of drivers.
Tom W. said,
“It’s a good weekend gig if your other gig pays $25 mil a year.”
And, not surprisingly, a hot topic on our commenters’ minds was pay. There hasn’t been a pay increase for drivers in several years.