Tuesday, August 26, 2014

Three Cheers for the SFCDA & Keep Those Photos Coming

The photos the drivers have been sending to the San Francisco Cab Drivers Association (SFCDA) are being used by insurance companies to warn drivers that they are not insured if they are driving for Lyft, Uber or the rest.

The photos are also being used as evidence in a suit filed by the Taxi Paratransit Association of California (TPAC)  against the California Public Utilities Commission's (CPUC) violation of the California Environmental Protection Act (CEQA).

Barry Korengold says,

"This data base has been an invaluable tool in our efforts to demonstrate the number of these vehicles and the negative impact that they've had on the environment."

Unfortunately, many drivers have recently eased off in sending in the photos. I confess to being the worst. I mean, it's a pain in the ass to keep the camera always ready to shoot whenever these miscreants turn up ... and they turn up endlessly. Cab driving is exhausting anyway. But there are more and more "S.H.I.T.S."(Smartphone Hailable Illegal Taxi Services) out there. There are an estimated five or six thousand active "tncs" woking every weekend and we need to document that fact.

The photos also help environmentalists understand that rather than taking cars off the road they are actually creating congestion and greenhouse gases.

So please keep the photos coming. For those of you who are new at shooting evil, contact Trevor Johnson at trevor@sfcda.org to find out how to upload the photos properly.

The important thing is to capture both the license plate and the symbol in the same shot – be it the pink mustache, the Uber U, the Sidecar sock or whatever.

I think it's past time to give the SFCDA the credit that they deserve. In my 30 years in the cab business I've belonged to or dealt with several cab driver organizations and the SFDCA has been by far the most effective and the most persistent of them all. They've fought for the cab drivers at the SFMTA, at the CPUC and now at the State Legislature.

So I want to give special thanks to Barry Korengold, Trevor Johnson, Jeffery Rosen, Francoise Spiegleman, Jam Khajvandi, the late Tori Lansdown and the rest for all the work they've done over the years without getting paid for it.

Three cheers! If we're still in the game we owe it to you guys.

Thursday, August 7, 2014

Uber's Phony Surcharges or the Trickery of Travis

Uber is now changing a $4.00 airport fee. This is interesting for a few reasons:

  • It's illegal for them to drop at the airport.
  • An airport fee is for picking up at the airport.
  • Uber failed to inform the customer that there was going to be a surcharge.
Therefore, Travis as in travesty, when are you going to pony up?

Just as interesting is your $1.00 safety fee. Is this to protect the customers from your drivers?
Are you going to take care of that stuff, Travis? Is that what that one dollar is for?

Let me emphasize that last paragraph,

"In the email, Kalanick blamed the media for thinking that Uber is 'somehow liable for these incidents that aren't even real in the first place.' Kalanick also stressed that Uber needs to 'make sure these writers don't come away thinking we are responsible even when these things do go bad.'"

Thursday, July 24, 2014

A Conversation with Desoto President Hansu Kim

I was about to publish an interview that I'd had with Desoto Cab President Hansu Kim awhile back when local journalist's came out with the story that Kim was thinking of turning Desoto into a sedan service – one writer said that it might happen in as little as 90 days.

Mr. Kim denied that he said he intended to convert to a sedan service in  "90 days." Only that he could convert in 90 days if he had to. But has "no intention doing so."

What he was doing was giving an "if" scenario.

"What I'm saying is that the taxi business as we know it will not be in existence in 18 months 'IF' the industry continues to be deregulated as it is."

"I don't believe that the taxi business will ever disappear but it could be that full service, dispatch-centric companies will no longer be in business as they are today."

"My feeling is that in a deregulated environment, it would be a race to the bottom."

Aside from usual sensationalism and inaccuracies that one has come to expect from the local media on the subject of  taxis, the coverage of Kim's statements lack context and understanding of what deregulation of faux taxi services like Uber x really means. What Kim and the other cab companies are spending money on is public safety.

Uber and the rest are endangering the public by cutting corners. To use a metaphor from the construction business I grew up in, what they are doing (not carrying proper insurance, not fingerprinting drivers, not guaranteeing the safety of passengers or pedestrians) is the moral equivalent of pouring sand into the foundation of a building in order to save money on concrete.

Friday, July 11, 2014

May the Farce Be with You.

When it comes to Uber, Lyft and the California Public Utilities Commission (CPUC) I never know whether the appropriate comparison is Alice in Wonderland or Orwellian doublethink.

I went to Thursday's CPUC meeting filled with optimism because it looked like the Commission was finally going to make Uber, Lyft and the other faux taxicab corporations take some responsibility for clogging the streets with tens of thousands of amateur drivers in underinsured vehicles.

Commissioner Michael R. Peevey's (photo) Proposed Decision called for Million dollar insurance limits as long as the faux taxi driver had the app turned on (not ideal but a step in the right direction). The policy would also have given million dollar uninsured motorist coverage, $50,000 coverage for both comprehensive and collision, and $5,000 medical payments for driver or passenger.

Thursday, June 26, 2014

State Senate Committee on Insurance Votes for $750,000 Partial Coverage for TNCs

The bill, AB2293, that the committee passed on for a later vote on the Senate floor was disliked by almost everybody.

Uber and Lyft lawyers spoke against it because they want to limit coverage to only the time when their drivers are logged in with a passenger. They do NOT want to cover their drivers while they are logged in but don't have a customer. This makes economic sense. In that way the TNC's would save money on insurance premiums and wouldn't have their rates raised the next time one of their drivers kills a pedestrian while looking for a fare.

Taxi people spoke against the bill for several reasons:
  • It drops coverage from $1,000,000 to $750,000.
  • TNCs would not be covered if they pick up off the street or carry private customers.
  • As to whether or not a driver was logged in when an accident occurred could be manipulated by either the driver or TNC companies like Uber & Lyft.
  • Full-time commercial insurance is the only safe option for the public.
  • The bill would codify "TNC" as a separate form of transportation than what already exists. It would create a new category of "charter party carriers" and pre-empt the court challenge of the CPUC's decision by the Taxi Paratransit Association of California (TPAC), which is already in the California court of Appeals.

Tuesday, June 24, 2014

Interim Director of Taxis and Accessible Services Appointed

From the new Interim Director of Taxis and Accessible Services. (Don't have a photo of her. It's Ed Reiskin at right.)

Dear PCC Members and Friends,

I am writing to let you know that my role at the SFMTA has expanded - I have been appointed Interim Director of Taxis and Accessible Services. This is a very exciting opportunity to lead a dynamic division at this critical time, and I am honored to have been selected.  It has also been an honor to have worked with the PCC for the past 15 years. Although my role has changed, I am not going away, and I will still work on Paratransit issues, albeit in a different capacity. I have enjoyed working with you all during my tenure as Paratransit Manager and I look forward to working with you in my new role as well.

Sunday, June 15, 2014

Who is John Galt? Uber, Lyft, Sidecar & The Culture of Deception

One answer to the above question is that Uber CEO Travis Kalanick thinks he is. Why else would he have t-shirts printed with the Uber "U" asking, "Who is John Galt?"

Kalanick obviously identifies with the hero of Ayn Rand's novel Atlas Shrugged. For those unfamiliar with Rand's philosophy, she sets the innovative genius against a society rife with democrats, communists, unionists, socialists, corrupt politicians, seedy journalists, the overweight, sleazy lawyers, environmentalists and their various shills.

I confess that I was a big fan when I was 19. Naturally, I identified myself as a potential fellow genius but beyond that I was attracted by the integrity of Rand's characters: Galt, Howard Roark from The Fountainhead, and Rand's persona Dagny Taggart. The books were not only about greatness vs mediocrity but truth vs lies.

It didn't take me long to realize that Ms. Rand was not one of world's great thinkers. (What can you really say about someone who claims to be a philosopher and calls Immanuel Kant, "a witch doctor"?) Her ideal world would look like late nineteenth century or early twenty-first century America under naked capitalism, only more so – a few rich, a powerless middle-class, the masses trying to earn enough to feed themselves. Nonetheless, the blunt honesty of her characters stayed with me as an ideal.

Be that as it may, Kalanick clearly sees himself as Galt's heir, as the great disruptor who frees his genius and society from corruption in the sacred name of innovation. As Travis famously put it,

“We’re in a political campaign, and the candidate is Uber and the opponent is an asshole named Taxi,” Kalanick said. “Nobody likes him, he’s not a nice character, but he’s so woven into the political machinery and fabric that a lot of people owe him favors .... We have to bring out the truth about how dark and dangerous and evil the taxi side is.” 

Anyone who has been following Travis's machinations knows who really should be called an "asshole" and how ridiculous and hypocritical his duplicitous proclamation is. While Ayn Rand would probably have approved of his price gauging, Uber-man really has little in common with Galt and nothing of the fictional character's integrity.

Kalanick isn't so much an individual as he is a venture capitalized corporation. Furthermore, Uber is in no important way different than Lyft or Sidecar, except that the later two companies invented Uber's best product – the faux taxicab posing as a rideshare. During the California Public Utility Commission (CPUC) hearings on so-called ridesharing last year, attorneys from the fake taxi trio shared strategy and used basically the same arguments to justify violating any law likley to diminish their profit margins.

Travis and his associates have already bought (or are in the process of buying) the political machinery and favors of the powers that be in numerous locals with massive amounts of their venture capital. Kalanick is much less a disruptor than a corrupter and the "Google juice" he's been spashing around has tainted not only politicians and the press but a large swath of the general public including his drivers, symbiotic entrepreneurs and car salesmen. The corrupt politicians, seedy journalists, sleazy lawyers, and the various shills that Ayn Rand detested now belong to Kalanick's team.

Innovation, Innovation, Innovation

... is the word of the year and there are three types of innovation in question here: technological, marketing and product placement.

The Taxi App

There is no doubt that this app is a brilliant upgrade on previous dispatching systems. However, it wasn't invented by Uber. Several different people created variations of it at approximately the same time. I've personally seen a dozen of them. The major ones besides the apps of the faux taxi companies – Uber, Lyft and Sidecar – are the true taxi apps: Hailo, Taxi Magic and Flywheel (formerly Cabulous). They all connect a driver in a vehicle directly to a customer with an smarphone app.

It would be hard to say which app is better. Uber's is slicker and probably has the best network, at least in San Francisco. Hailo which operates in Europe, Canada, Japan and the East Coast probably has the most creative features. Flywheel, which follows all insurance rules and local regulations, is the only San Francisco app that offers pre-arranged flights to the airport.

You would think that, with all the advertising hype that Uber and Lyft and Sidecar  engage in, one of them would be the most popular. But that isn't the case in San Francisco – the birthplace of them all. According to Yelp, as of August 1, 2014, the most popular taxi app is Flywheel which is rated 4.0. Uber and Lyft score 3.5 and Sidecar brings up the rear at 3.0.

Not hard science but if Uber had come out number one you could probably read about it in the Washington Post.

A Taxi with a Taxi App is a Superior Product.

One reason cabs with taxi apps are still holding their own against Uber's attempt to destroy them is that a taxi app is more than just an app, it's a transportation service. The app doesn't just connect smartphones. It connects people and puts them in cars with humans who drive them through traffic to a destination.

A few years ago, when the faux taxis arrived on the scene, the  San Francisco Taxi service was admittedly inadequate. There weren't enough cabs when it was busy and it could be extremely hard to get a taxi in the outlying areas – which was why the faux taxis met with such initial success.

However, the innovative leaders of cab companies like Desoto saw the error of their ways and quickly retooled adding Flywheel and expanding their numbers of corporate customers. Flywheel now has 2000 cab drivers on their service and is as fast or faster than anyone else.

But what makes San Francisco taxis superior is the fact that they are safer, greener and have professional drivers.

S.F  taxis have million dollar plus liability policies that operate 24/7, workers compensation, safety measures like 24 hour live phone connection to  their companies, cameras recording both inside and outside the cabs and a 311 number that passengers can call that connects to the police if necessary.

San Francisco also has the greenest taxi fleet in the country with 97% of the vehicles hybrids or low emission vehicles.

By contrast, what the faux taxis have is hype.

Marketing by Hype, Hype and More Hype: or what ever happened to Truth in Advertising

Many people think that Uber, Lyft and Sidecar were typical start-ups that were so eager to get their product out that they didn't think about regulations. Nothing could be further from the truth. Lyft and Sidecar's CEOs John Zimmer and Sunil Paul operated with bad faith – with deceptive advertising –  from the start and Kalanick soon joined them.

Zimmer and Paul deserve to take bows for being among the first to exploit the ideal of the "sharing economy" for their own personal gain. Their true innovation was the deliberate misuse and perversion of  words in order to avoid transportation regulations, taxes and insurance laws. They figured out how to "share" the profits while pushing the costs of their service onto their drivers, passengers and the public.

 To understand this, first look at what the companies are actually doing, then look at what they originally said they were doing.

A passenger uses an Uber, Lyft or Sidecar app to hail a driver. The driver accepts the ride, picks the person up and drives him or her to a location. The passenger pays a fee based on time and distance.  The driver gets paid 80% of the fee and the company keeps 20%. Both the company and the driver make a profit from the transactions.

In all fundamental ways, then, the services that the faux taxis provide work exactly like a taxicab, except for the fact that San Francisco taxis are legal, the drivers are trained and their vehicles are insured.

Lyft and Sidecar, however, initially claimed that by calling their business "ridesharing," a customer's payment a "voluntary donation," a driver a "community driver" and a customer "member of the Lyft or Sidecar community" the experience becomes somehow legally different. But, what really changes? Nothing. In fact, if you didn't give them a "donation" they wouldn't pick you up a second time.

Sunil Paul deserves a special hypocrisy award for giving speeches about how his "carshares" were saving the environment at the same time as he put a couple of thousand illegal cabs with no emission standards on the street – undoing by himself the gains against pollution made by converting San Francisco taxis into a totally green fleet.

These are legit businesses?

How deceitful, deliberately irresponsible and dangerous these people were (and are) didn't become clear to me until I applied to become a driver at Lyft and Sidecar in January of 2013. Both companies claimed to do thorough background checks, train the drivers and inspect the driver's vehicles but they didn't really do any of these things. Neither company asked for a social security number and Sidecar inspected my car by looking at a photograph that I uploaded to them.

As a former insurance underwriter, I was especially interested in reading the insurance contracts. When I asked to see one at Lyft, my interviewer became hostile and told me that only the CEO had a copy. I then e-mailed John Zimmer and received a sorry-we-can't-use-you response the next day.

Sidecar claimed to have a "Million Dollar Guarantee" that was "subject to certain conditions, limitations and exclusions, the details of which can be found in our Program Terms available from Sidecar upon request."... "The Guarantee is not insurance and should not be considered as a replacement or stand-in for primary automobile insurance. The Guarantee does not cover certain excluded losses."

When I tried to find out what the "conditions, limitations and exclusions" were I was given a classic run around as they transferred me to one person after another who wouldn't answer my questions. During the CPUC hearing in the spring of 2013, a Sidecar attorney tacitly admitted to me that the company had never had insurance.

In the year and a half since I went undercover, nothing has really changed. Uber, Lyft and Sidecar have been semi-legalized by the CPUC but their actions are still essentially the same. Uber says that their new drivers should take a driving course but does not require them to do so and a few months ago was inspecting vehicles the Sidecar way – by unloading car selfies. Sidecar says they have a two-hour classroom training session (which sounds the same as the sort-of-class I took) and John Zimmer says that his drivers spend "30 to 40" minutes driving with "mentor" who also inspects the vehicle. I imagine that they are "mentors" because they are neither certified driving instructors nor licensed mechanics.

By contrast, cab drivers are required to take a one week course and pass a test before they can work. The class for limo drivers is seventy hours. Cabs are given major inspections once a year at the airport and the brakes, and so forth are inspected nearly every shift.

In any case, the CPUC accepts the word of honor of Travis Kalanick, John Zimmer and Sunil Paul as to whether or not they'd done anything at all. Let me repeat that so you can digest it slowly... the CPUC accepts the word of honor of Travis Kalanick, John Zimmer and Sunil Paul as to whether or not they've inspected their cars or vetted their drivers. Nobody checks to see if what they say is true.

Lies of Omission

When I took up parachute jumping a time ago, I waved my right to collect liability insurance in case of an accident or negligence. I was given a paper with the clauses I needed to sign and a person stayed with me while I read it in order to explain anything I didn't understand.

This was quite a different experience than that of the drivers and passengers of Uber, Lyft or Sidecar. For they have all waved their liability rights too – although I've yet to meet a driver or a customer who knew it.

How could they know it? They gave away their rights when they downloaded the apps and clicked "agree" in the appropriate space. And, they were given no warning or indication that this is what they were signing. Even if they had wanted to read the terms or agreements, they wouldn't have been able to so on a smartphone. The latest Uber agreement is 19 pages long in 12pt type and the good stuff is buried on page page 14. It's also hard to find the terms on their websites although it is there if you search hard enough.

The text is slightly different per company but all make you sign away your rights to sue or collect liability in the case negligence on their part or the part of their driver. Here's one,

"... Nor does Sidecar warrant, endorse, guarantee, or assume responsibility for any property damage to your vehicle, personal injury, up to and including death that occurs as they result of the ride or your use of the service."

Another from Uber,

"The quality of the transportation services scheduled through the use of the service or application is entirely the responsibility of the third party provider who ultimately provides such transportation services to you ... and that use the application and the service at your own risk."

The "third party provider" is Uber-speak for "driver." They use this ridiculous euphemism as part of their equally ridiculous claim that they aren't in the the transportation business. They set the rates for both the passengers and the drivers. They collect the money and pay the driver. They hire the drivers. They blackball undesirable passengers. They tell the drivers where the best places to pick up are and, if the drivers don't pick up a high enough percentage of the fares, Uber fires them. But Uber isn't in the transportation business. Right!

All this is uber-sleazy but it's not unique. Every generation has had its snake-oil sales persons. The State of California has a law to keep people from being fleeced by characters like Travis, John and Sunil. It's Section 1542 of the Civil Code of the State of California which reads like this,

"A general release does not extend to claims which the creditor does not know or suspect to exist in his favor at the time of executing the release, which known by him must have materially affected his settlement with the debtor."

I'm not a lawyer but, in this context, I take this to mean that someone who signed one of these "agreements" without looking at it or understanding that they were giving away their rights to collect liability for the company negligence – would still have those rights.

It appears that Uber agrees with me because they also make the unwary app-downloader agree that,

"You expressly wave and release any and all rights and benefits under Section 1542 of the Civil Code of the State of California (or any analogous law of any other state) ... "

Lawyers tell me that this probably wouldn't hold up in court (If you hadn't read the agreement and there is no reason to think that your are signing away your rights, how could you knowingly sign away your rights to not sign away your rights?) but it would intimidate a lot of people. In any case, the text provides an answer to questions I've been asking myself since I first started talking with these characters.

Morality aside, how could they make themselves so vulnerable to legal actions?

It would cost money to have an actual mechanic inspect the vehicles but it's a standard cost for anyone in the transportation business. On the other hand, it would not cost the companies money to require a driving course for new drivers or have them get fingerprinted. The new workers in any industry traditionally pay for these things themselves.

What it would do is slow down the hiring process and eliminate some of drivers they could put out on the streets. This was very obvious during my 3 minute interview at Lyft. It was seconded more recently in an article by John Brooks of KQED,

“It was like a factory,” said a 27-year-old male driver from Oakland. “I went in there and in a five-minute turnaround, I was an Uber driver.”

“I went down there and there were just hundreds of people signing up,” said Mikey, a 32-year-old UberX driver from the East Bay. “I see someone, he gives me the phone and asks if I saw the training video. He said, ‘You’re all good to go.’ 
The thing that struck me was the refusal of Uber, Lyft and Sidecar to fingerprint anyone.

For once Zimmer wasn't lying. I looked it up. The condition is caused by a genetic mutation. According to researchers there are only FOUR FAMILIES ON THE FACE OF THE EARTH whose members do not have fingerprints.

Fingerprints are the only way you actually tell if a person is who they say they are. (As for the four families – there lack of fingerprints should identify them.) From Zimmer's refusal to use fingerprints, I conclude that he and his pals would rather deal with an occasional assault on a customer or a reckless driving accident than miss out on the 20% the driver would be giving them in the meantime.

The Uber, Lyft and Sidecar apparently think that their sleazy terms and conditions will protect them in most cases. For the rest, they'll force people to sue them. They've got the lawyers, the venture capital and time on their side.

Notes on insurance; or, is there a lie that Uber wouldn't tell?

Insurance is really pretty simple.

What you start with is the danger to a person and the cost of an accident.

1.There is a high risk or danger in driving a commercial vehicle, especially when transporting passengers because: the driver is under the pressure of time, usually drives during the most dangerous hours of the day or night, drives in heavy traffic and has to deal with many distractions such as talking to customers, figuring out the best routes, looking for the next customer or taking a dispatched call.

2. This is why personal liability policies all exclude commercial activity and won't pay if a driver uses his or her own car commercially. According to the Personal Insurance Federation of California whose members write the majority of personal lines auto insurance in California,

"... using a private vehicle as a livery service ... is clearly not covered under a standard policy; if an accident occurs, coverage would not exist."

3. There is no difference between a working taxicab and a TNC vehicle that is connected to a TNC app. Whether or not a customer is in the car is irrelevant. The vehicle is working commercially in either case.

4. From the standpoint of a pedestrian it is the same whether they are hit by a car a with or without a customer.

5. There is no greater risk when driving a customer then when the driver is empty and looking for a customer. If anything it's the other way around. The driver without a passenger is more likely to be distracted by looking for dispatched calls or street flags or speeding to get to an area where there is more business.

6. The amount of insurance coverage for a risk should be calculated by how much potential damage an accident is likely to cost – not by how much a company feels that they should pay. Given the costs of surgery and hospitalization anything less than $1 million is inadequate.

This is why taxi companies in San Francisco carry one million dollar liability policies that apply 24/7.

Uber and Lyft, however, want to make it complicated. They want to claim that there is a big difference between how much insurance is needed for a driver with a customer and one who doesn't have a customer but is looking for one. One Million Dollar insurance should cover the driver with a customer. But Fifteen thousand is good enough when a driver has no customer but is looking for one.

Are the cars that much lighter without a customer?

Apparently not light enough. When an Uber killed Sofia Liu last New Years Eve the driver didn't have a customer and was looking for one. The bills for this accident are calculated to go over a million dollars.

But, Uber not only doesn't want to pay for the Liu accident but doesn't want to pay for insurance against any future accidents of this kind either. See this comment from an Uber attorney given during the CPUC hearing last spring,

"Contrary to information circulated by certain interests, personal insurance companies have covered incidents that have occurred during period 1." (7) (Period 1 is the time when a driver is looking for a customer but doesn't have one).

This contradicts the policy of the PIFC stated above and information that I've gotten from 14 different personal insurance companies all of whom said that they would not pay if the driver was working commercially. And, the Uber lawyer makes the statement without giving a concrete example except for footnote (7) which reads,

"For instance, the tragic accident in San Francisco on New Year's Eve that occurred during such a period, the driver's insurance company has offered up the limits of the driver's personal auto policy."

"The tragic accident" was the killing of Sophia Liu and the statement is a flat out lie.

According to the Liu family attorney, Christopher Dolan, the insurance company who covered the Uber driver did not pay the Liu family and did not offer to do so.

Uber wants to make sure that the next family destroyed by one of their unvetted drivers won't collect enough damages either.

Uber, Lyft and Sidecar, if nothing else, are consistent. They are as callous to their own people as they are to the public. Despite knowing full well that their drivers will not be covered by personal liability or collision insurance if they cause an accident, Uber, Lyft and Sidecare continue to tell their drivers that personal liability insurance is "all you need."

Thus, in case of an accident, their "community drivers" will share all the bills by themselves.

Who is driving the car?

Among the more absurd claims that Uber spokespersons and Lyft CEO John Zimmer repeatedly make are that their background checks are "stricter than that of taxicabs."

A good response might be to ask them:  Why wasn't the Uber driver who killed Sophia Liu driving a cab?

The answer is that a taxi background check would have turned up his reckless driving record.

In any case, here's a sample of what you get from cattle calls without fingerprints.

Numerous reports throughout the county like this on one August 27, 2014 at NBC have turned up things like this:

San Francisco Police Department Commander Richard Corriea said that,

 "In just the last three weeks, airport officials at SFO identified more than 295 TNC drivers without permits, and some who did not even have licenses. They also found drivers breaking their own company’s rules by borrowing cars or sharing company issued phones with drivers not approved by the TNC. Officials at Oakland, San Jose, and Los Angeles airports also issue citations to TNC drivers without permits. LAX police have written over 200 citations to UberX drivers in the last four months for illegally picking up passengers at the airport."

"Police said that some of the UberX drivers they have encountered have criminal records. One driver was a registered sex offender and was at the airport to pick up a 22-year-old woman who was traveling alone."

"Police warn the public not to use the ride service companies... A public that they feel, may not even realize includes drivers breaking the law.

“You put yourself at risk,” said Corriea. “You don't know whether the driver has a licenses or not, whether that car is insured, who that driver is.”

The lack of real backgrounds checks and accountability make Uber and Lyft magnets for people with bad driving and criminal records.

Where there is smoke ...

If you look online, there have been numerous incidents of violence and abuse.. These include:
Unfortunately, I could go on. Considering how short a time the faux taxis have been operating there have been an awesome amount of these attacks.

To be fair, taxis are not free from sin either as this writer for RYOT so subtly contends. The writer gives two examples: a New York driver who committed his crime in 2011 and Santa Cruz driver who actually was not a cab driver but an illegal cab driver who had been refused a taxi license three times. In short, there is a reason why Uber drivers keep turning up in the press.

No matter how well a background check is done there is no guarantee that you won't have problems. Some violent people fly under the radar. The world appears to be full of serial killers who everybody thinks are nice guys. Some people might not be violent except in certain situations. The job is naturally aggravating, customers can be abusive and this can lead to aggressive behavior. A person in job alone like that might suddenly give into temptations that he wouldn't ordinarily have.

What legitimate business people would want to go is make certain that their service as safe as they possibly can. But, as I think I pointed out earlier – Uber, Lyft and Sidecar are not run by legitimate business people.

Uber gave this response to reports of a woman who claimed she'd been chocked and assaulted by an Uber driver,

"... our understanding is that an argument broke out between the driver utilizing Uber’s technology and one of his passengers - an argument that was provoked by the passenger."

That's possible. I've driven a taxi on Friday and Saturday nights for more than 20 years and I've been in innumerable arguments started by customers. In fact, I've been punched, spit on, hit with a bottle and threatened with death. But I have yet to put hands around anyone's neck or so much as touch a woman. The only time I've ever touched anybody was to either block a punch or push an assailant harmlessly out of my cab.

Travis Kalanick used this incident as a forum to blame "the media for thinking that Uber is 'somehow liable for these incidents that aren't even real in the first place.' Kalanick also stressed that Uber needs to 'make sure that these writers don't come away thinking we are responsible even when things go bad.'"

Of course, what he was referring to is the waver of liability that everyone who uses the Uber app agrees to without knowing it. I can't wait for the suite on that one.

Although the leaders of Lyft and Sidecar are less obnoxious than Kalanick, they are on the same page when it comes to the safely of their passengers, drivers and the public. It's the one that reads: "we don't give a fuck!"

It was in that spirit that the sleazy threesome used their army of lobbyists and Internet trolls to kill bill AB 612 when it was presented in the California State Legislature.

"The bill would have required the companies to get driver background checks from the state Justice Department and driving record information from the DMV. " Those agencies will only provide that information if the legislature requires them to. "It also would have implemented period drug and alcohol screening, and barred the companies from hiring drivers within seven years of felony convictions for such crimes as fraud, forgery or larceny.

All those requirements are identical to those for taxi and limousine drivers. Furthermore, it is the same background check used by the NSA and the FBI.

An interesting question is why, a legislature charged with legislating public safety, hung the public out to dry? A query for another day.

In the meantime – take a taxi. That's what I do when I'm not driving one.