Friday, February 26, 2016

The Phantom Responds to Lyft's Whining About having to Inspect Their Vehicles Like Everyone Else Does




“…Lyft is not aware of any evidence in the record indicating that vehicles used by Lyft drivers which are predominantly used for non-commercial purposes present any greater risk of equipment failure than other personal vehicles with which TNCs share the road, which are not subject to any inspection requirements under California law.

My Reply,

The argument is beside the point. The mere fact that the vehicle is transporting people presents a greater risk to them thus making the inspections necessary.

Thursday, January 28, 2016

Taxis Will Have a Dedicated Drop Off and Pick up Area at Levi Stadium for SB50

Contrary to a rumor published in an online rag (and passed on without thought by me), taxicabs will have a dedicated drop off and pick up area at Levi Stadium.

According to the Super Bowl 50 Committee Host Media Team,

"The reporter got this information incorrect. We have the correct information on our website

You can take a taxi - there is a dedicated space for taxis. Please see the map here.

Uber is the only rideshare to have a dedicated pick-up and drop-off zone, but people can certainly take a Lyft to the game. There will be shared curb space for pick-ups and drop-offs for other companies like Lyft, limo companies etc.

Also, you can purchase a parking pass for any type of private vehicle so RV, car, limo etc."

I did have a few other questions but the SP50 Media Team didn't write back. 

The other questions were:
  • It looks like the cab drop off is about the same distance as the one for Uber. Is this correct?
  •  Can a taxi park and wait at the Dedicated Pick up and Drop Off Area?
  • If not, how will taxis know when they should line up to pick up after the game?
  • If not, where can they park to wait?
 My final and most interesting question was:

Has Uber agreed not to "surge price" the Super Bowl customers as part of the agreement to give them their own lot?

I think we can the take answer for this as a "no" – which is good news for cab drivers working the shift. Uber's price gouging will surely be at least fives times higher than the meter and a half we charge. 

Tuesday, January 19, 2016

Sunil Paul, John Zimmer and the Art of the Lie

While Sunil Paul (photo, left) certainly deserves credit for creating the original lies, imaginary factoids and false advertising that helped peddle his product to a misinformed public, it would be remiss of me not to give Lyft President John Zimmer (photo, below) his share of the credit for fraudulent marketing – especially in light of the fact that Zimmer appears to be succeeding where Paul failed.

Indeed, it's hard to draw a precise line where one high-tech shyster starts and the other leaves off. If one of them came up with new scam, the other would soon borrow and use it himself. In the end, they both have imperiled the public with similar bogus claims.

Paul rightly takes the credit for:
  • spuriously using the word "rideshare" to describe his faux taxi service.
  • falsely calling Sidecar's fares "donations" then blackballing any passenger that didn't donate.
  • being among the first to redefine a "sharing community" as being an anonymous group where one person keeps all the profits while others in the community take all the risks and pay all the bills.
  • Inspecting vehicles to be used as Sidecars by having the new drivers upload a photo of their vehicle.
  • taking the lead in Greenwashing by claiming that putting out thousands of taxicabs with no emission controls would help reduce green house gases.
  • creating a smokescreen (deliberate bad pun) by joining numerous environmental organizations to hide the fact that his company was a major polluter.
  • telling the local mainstream media's "journalists" that SideCar carried a "Million Dollar Guarantee" so that these dedicated, in-depth "investigators" wouldn't bother to investigate and thus discover that Sidecar actually carried no insurance at all.
  • telling his own drivers that they didn't need to carry commercial insurance on their own SideCar vehicles which meant that they would be uninsured in an accident – as of course would their customers. 
John Zimmer aped most of Sunil's spins and added a few twists of his own.

Monday, January 4, 2016

SideCar Bites the Dust

SideCar CEO Sunil Paul (photo) left the vulture capital scene with a significant quote,

"We are the innovation leader in ridesharing ..." said Paul.

What makes this statement significant is that, even while going down the tubes, Paul couldn't turn off his hype machine.

He was not and is not an "innovation leader" in "ridesaharing." Not SideCar nor Lyft nor Uber have had (or have) anything to with "ridesharing" except to use the word for the purposes of double-talk, false advertising and fraud – fields in which Sunil Paul has indeed excelled as an innovator.

Ridesharing Explained

As far as I know the only real ridesharing company in California is which is a government run non-profit. The dual purpose of is fight pollution by taking vehicles off the street and allow drivers to save money by sharing the costs of a trip with their riders. In their ads for drivers to use the service, writes:

Carpooling (i.e. ridesharing) can save you money by dividing the driving expenses between members of the carpool. You can split the costs evenly between people in the carpool or you can split expenses by how often you rotate driving duties. If everyone drives equally, no money needs to change hands. If you are strictly a passenger, you can pitch in your share for gas and other expenses.”

Contrast this with a SideCar ad for drivers,

"You drive every day. Why not get paid for it? Make extra cash and meet some awesome people by driving with SideCar! ... Some SideCar drivers are earning $22+ per hour.

The difference between a true "rideshare" company, then, and SideCar is that a rideshare company is a non-profit and SideCar is a for-profit company - or was trying to be. 

Some Advantages of Being a Non-Profit:
  • Don't need to pay taxes.
  • The numbers of cars wouldn't be regulated.
  • Drivers would not need to be vetted.
  • Cars wouldn't need commercial insurance.
  • No responsibility for the welfare of their driver.
  • No responsibility for the welfare of their passengers.
  • Sidecar would not need to provide insurance for riders, drivers or vehicles.

Sunil Paul's Attacks on the Legal Definition of a Non-Profit

I was going to just summarize Paul's duplicitous career as high-tech charlatan but the arguments that his lawyers gave in an attempt to expand the definition of "non-profit" at the 2013 California Public Utilities Commission (CPUC) hearing are too rich not share with my gentle readers. Sidecar argued:

  • “ ... the ridesharing exemption does not apply if the ‘primary purpose of those persons is to make a ‘profit’ but there is no definition or any guidance on how to interpret the term ‘profit.’”
  • By its enforcement actions and policy, the CPSD (Public Utilities Commission's Consumer Protection Safety Division) has apparently chosen to interpret essential and undefined terms such as “profit” as narrowly as possible. The CPSD’s position is that only “incremental” or “variable” profit (i.e., on a per-trip basis) should be considered; however ... a reasonable and practical construction of profit and a commercial enterprise is the total expenses of operation (i.e., the fixed and variable or aggregate costs). Simply put, there’s no profit where total costs exceed income 
  • "The ridesharing exemption under section 5353(h) provides for “[t]ransportation of persons between home and work locations or of persons having a common work-related trip purpose in a vehicle having a seating capacity of 15 passengers or less…and/or transportation that is “incidental to another purpose of the driver.... It is ... important that the phrase “the purpose of the driver” not be read too narrowly. A focus on driver’s state of mind would be so difficult to discern that it would create uncertainty and be impossible to enforce."
  • My Note: Does "Work-related” means driving around while thinking about working? Or, conversely, does "non-profit" mean driving people for pay while thinking about your kids?
  • Clarify and ensure reasonable and practical guidance and commercially reasonable interpretations of certain vague and undefined ridesharing terms and phrases including “work-related” and “work locations.”  Such terms and phrases should not be construed narrowly based on outdated historical or traditional principles of an employer-employee relationship and a traditional “9-5” home- work commuting routine. ... Rather, the terms and phrases should be construed for the varied circumstances of the current California labor force and market. The CPSD has narrowly defined these terms through its enforcement policies and actions in a manner that is impracticable and unwarranted (i.e., suggesting that a driver or passenger must be an “employee” of an entity, thereby disqualifying independent contractors, freelancers, or full time moms/caregivers from the “work-related” element of the rideshare exemption).
I'm glad that's clarified.

For more in this vein see: My Reply Comments to the CPUC on Lyft, Sidecar & Willie Brown 

These argument turned out to be too obtuse, arcane and asinine even for the CPUC to swallow. They chose to regulate SideCar, Lyft and Uber anyway. However, in categorizing them as TNCs, the CPUC effectively deregulated them by putting them under the control of the State of California instead of the cities because the state had neither the personal nor the means nor the will to regulate them.

Next: Sunil and the thrill of false advertising.

Note: How the civilized world deals with charlatans who put the public at risk.

Sunday, December 20, 2015

HopSkipDrive & Shuddle: Transporting Minors – Safe or Not?

HopSkipDrive and Shuddle are recent venture capitalized startups that specialize in giving rides to unaccompanied minors.

HopSkipDrive claims to be founded by 3 mothers and actually was.

Founder and CEO Joanna McFarland has an MBA from Stanford, a BS from Wharton, has worked for 15 years in product and general management, and has two kids.

Along with the other founder mothers she claims to be part of,

 “A team that cares as much for your kids as they do theirs.’’

To an extent this appears to be true. Unlike Uber or Lyft, HopskipDrive has its drivers fingerprinted and favors Trustline , Live scan  and other safety measures for background checks.

Shuddle's CEO, on the other hand, is Nick Allen who was a co-founder of Sidecar where he clearly worked on his bs – as you can hear in this interview where he claims that Sidecar "really isn't a taxi service at all"...

Like Uber and Lyft, Shuddle formulates long and arcane arguments against using background checks like Trusline and Live scan – which are the standards for child care safety. It's unclear whether Shuddle uses fingerprinting or not. Some places they say they do. In others, they don't mention it.

OOPS - Nick Allen is out at Shuddle. Apparently the company isn't doing too well.

In any case, I would certainly favor HopSkipDrive over Shuddle. Unfortunately, they have a waiver of liability (which is normally used for dangerous activities like parachute jumping or traveling in a war zone) hidden in their Terms where they refuse to guarantee the safety of your kids after all.

I haven't had the luck to have children myself (at least not yet) but I'm advising my numerous cousins, nieces and nephews not to use either service until or unless they get rid of the waivers and guarantee the safety of the children who they transport.

For more detail you can read from my Reply Comments to the CPUC on Unaccompanied Minors below.

Note: The Austin, Texas City Council voted to require Uber and the other tncs to fingerprint their drivers.  In this they join San Antonio, Las Vegas, Portland, most of Europe and China among other places.

Remember the days when San Francisco was the leader in consumer protections and social and political innovations? Now we wonder when the Neanderthals who currently run this city and this state will catch up with the rest of the world?