Weekly Round-Up: Will Robotaxis Actually Help Cities Go Green?

Join RSG Contributor Paula Lemar to discuss how Uber and Lyft have long purported that their services help clean up cities by providing a carpool type of service, saying that it would mean fewer vehicles on the road, but studies show that’s not necessarily the case. And how Robotaxis might not be any better.

Meanwhile, DoorDash and Instacart don’t like a certain fee, Uber is starting new programs, and Venmo has something in store for managing group expenses.

Let’s dive into each summary and Paula’s take on the news.

Uber Failed To Help Cities Go Green — Will Robotaxis, Too?


Robotaxi companies are eager to present themselves with a green halo.

Uber Failed To Help Cities Go Green

“Climate change is the single biggest issue we face as a global community,” Cruise declared in a blog post published on Earth Day 2022. “Each of us has an opportunity to make an impact. Cruise knows the AV industry can –– and should –– help lead the charge.”

Its rival, Waymo, seems to agree. In a post this summer, the company stated, “Cities where we operate gain another zero-emission transportation option, which could help them meet their climate goals.”

Sustainability is critical to the public pitch of robotaxi companies, which are under growing scrutiny after California regulators suspended Cruise’s driverless permit last month due to safety concerns.

But the idea that robotaxis will benefit the planet contradicts what we know about the sustainability of a similar service: ridehail.

My Take

Harry was interviewed for this article. He stated:

“One of the most compelling reasons to take ridehail is reliability and speed. Shared trips cut into that efficiency.”

But isn’t the whole point of Uber, Lyft, and all these platforms to encourage shared rides? That’s how it actually means there are fewer cars on the road and that it’s a true carpool of people going in the same direction.

As Harry also stated in the article, “Pooled ridehail hasn’t worked out.”

People don’t like it. Whether you ask the customers or the drivers, no one has loved the shared ride experiences. And the only thing that robotaxis would change from current situations is the driver won’t be uncomfortable or inconvenienced because there isn’t one.

But there’ll still be the paying customers who will be less than pleased if their driverless vehicle stops to pick up extra passengers to share their ride.

There’s Only One Kind of Extra Fee That DoorDash and Instacart Don’t Like


Would you kick in an extra 10 cents on a DoorDash order to make sure the delivery worker is paid what they’re legally owed? Most customers of platform services would probably be happy to spend that dime.

After all, all we’ve done is press a button on a phone for someone to bring whatever we want to our doorstep, no matter the weather.

For people who are elderly or have disabilities, these services are a lifeline; for most customers, it’s an incredibly privileged position. And a worker makes it happen.

Extra DoorDash and Instacart fee

It’s somewhat astonishing that gig companies appear to be fighting a proposed Seattle ordinance that would impose a 10-cent fee on app orders to cover enforcement of the city’s groundbreaking laws protecting gig delivery workers.

The proposal is on the agenda of the Seattle City Council’s Select Budget Committee on Wednesday, along with a raft of potential amendments generally aimed at weakening the bill.

My Take

As the article states, this ordinance does not mandate that these platforms pass this fee along to their customers. So, that leads to us questioning if it should be. The platforms don’t want to pay it, but they are more than happy to make their customers pay it on their behalf.

I think it’s so funny that DoorDash doesn’t want to pay it because of inflation, and they don’t want to pass the fee to their customers because of inflation, yet the drivers are also facing the ramifications of rising inflation costs.

I think DoorDash and these other platforms should just man up and pay their drivers what they deserve. Stop lining your own pockets and think about someone else for a change. These are real people with real lives you’re messing with.

I know 10 cents per delivery is a lot when there are thousands, if not millions, of deliveries daily, but you must do right by your drivers. They are what make your business possible, after all.

Uber to Test TaskRabbit-Like Service in Florida and Alberta


Uber Technologies Inc. is launching a mini-pilot program for a TaskRabbit-like service that will let app users hire people to complete various household tasks, part of an effort by the ride-hailing company to expand beyond driving and deliveries.

During the initial test of the program, drivers and couriers on Uber’s app can opt-in to help customers with small home projects, including furniture assembly, in-home laundry, and lawn mowing, the company said Monday.

The feature, dubbed “Uber Tasks,” will launch in the coming weeks in Fort Myers, Florida, and Edmonton, Alberta, the company said.

Other possible chores include snow removal, packing or unpacking, holiday decorating, yard cleanup, and garden maintenance. According to the company, drivers and couriers will see estimated earnings before reserving a task.

My Take

It’s not really surprising. Uber doesn’t want other platforms to be known as the “Uber of X, Y, Z.” They want to keep the title of Uber for everything to themselves.

The only way to do that is to continue expanding. They are in the grocery market and do rideshare, delivery, and courier services. The next logical step is to add odd jobs to that list.

Uber Bolstering Safety Measures For Drivers Amid Carjacking Surge


Uber Technologies is expanding its safety measures to protect drivers amid a spike in carjackings across the country and a string of high-profile attacks.

The ridesharing company announced this week that it will “significantly” expand a program that verifies a rider’s identity using data sources or documentation starting next year.

They say the motivation behind the move is to give drivers “more peace of mind before accepting a trip request.”

“We want every driver and courier to know that we are listening to their needs and taking action,” Uber CEO Dara Khosrowshahi said in a statement.

My Take

This is a big move, and I must say, it’s about damn time. Drivers have been practically begging for this since the beginning. It seems so basic that it’s flabbergasting that it’s taken this long (and will still take longer) to implement.

Drivers have minimal protection when we don’t know who enters our vehicle. People using other people’s accounts. People using fake names. People not having to provide a picture.

It’s frankly dangerous to be an Uber driver without the passengers providing that extra step of identification.

Drivers are subjected to background checks, and we have to provide a picture (and we have to do this randomly at times, as well) to prove our identity. The least a platform can do is ask that passengers prove themselves.

Venmo Debuts Feature for Managing Group Expenses


Venmo has unveiled a new in-app feature that aims to streamline splitting and managing expenses among groups.

The new Venmo Groups provide users with a convenient way to divide and settle multiple or ongoing expenses among friends, family, roommates, partners, and other groups, the peer-to-peer payment service said in a Tuesday (Nov. 14) press release.

According to the release, Venmo Groups is being rolled out to select customers with the latest app version and will be widely available in the coming weeks.

My Take

Harry shared this news on LinkedIn this week; check it out!

I think this is awesome. Anything that helps make our lives easier is an A+ in my book. I travel with friends frequently, and using the same platform for payments and splitting bills is always better.

Venmo is so readily known, so this improvement is huge for me, as I’m sure it is for many people.

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