Monday, May 22, 2017

Uber’s New Fare System Raises Its Cut While Angering Drivers

Uber has acknowledged that an experimental pricing system it introduced last year may result in drivers collecting a smaller portion of fares. The ride-hailing company made the disclosure in an email sent to drivers on Friday, confirming suspicions that have been breeding driver resentment for months.

Under the new system, in place in 14 major markets, driver pay is no longer directly tied to how much passengers pay. Instead, Uber can increase fares based on factors like destination and time of day, but still only pay drivers based on mileage and time spent on individual rides.

All drivers must accept the new agreement by Monday to continue driving.

Speaking to Bloomberg, Uber head of product Daniel Graf said the new fare system, billed as “route-based pricing,” crunches historical ride data to evaluate how much customers were willing to pay. As an example, Bloomberg suggested that a rider traveling from one affluent neighborhood to another may be charged more than a rider taking the same length of trip in a less affluent part of town.

However, Uber clarified in follow up comments to Engadget that it is not profiling riders based specifically on their apparent wealth.

“Route-based pricing” is part of the upfront pricing system that Uber introduced in June to certain markets that also have Uber’s lower-priced UberPool carpooling service.

Drivers quickly noticed that their payouts remained based on the old distance-based fares, rather than the Upfront fares charged to passengers. In April, a driver in California filed a lawsuit that described the system as “an active, extensive, methodical scheme … to defraud drivers.”

The new pricing system does also sometimes charge riders less than the standard fare, particularly for UberPool, while keeping driver pay the same. 

Graf says this arrangement lets Uber “serve more people in more places at fares they can afford.” Translation: it creates a bigger price spread between Uber’s high- and low-end services.

In an informal survey of 165 trips across multiple Uber service tiers in New York City, the blog TheRideShareGuy demonstrated earlier this month that the upfront fare structure often lowered the cost of UberPool rides, while raising the price of higher-end services like UberX.

But the survey found, in aggregate, that Uber kept a larger share of ride payments. The site’s very rough estimate suggested the structure could generate an extra $7.43 million monthly for Uber in additional revenue in New York alone. That sort of shift, if it were broadened to more markets, could offset a meaningful portion of Uber’s consistent operating losses, which totaled $2.8 billion in 2016.

Source : Fortune Magazine

Breaking News from the RMT

Bank Junction Exclusion, Drivers Assaulted Defending Ranks, Uber To Be Relicensed...So, What Are The Orgs Doing About It? By Harry Wall.

The ITA, Marching in to save the day after the main representative orgs failed miserably to mobilise their membership. 

What a couple of weeks that was!!
The European Court decided Uber IS a transport company.

McNamara turns up to the Derry Street demo with a couple of mates instead of the huge backing from his members he was hoping for, 
but the ITA saved the day AGAIN!

Liverpool Taxi Alliance serve notice on TFL warning that if any Uber car licensed by them should venture into Liverpool at the weekend, it would not be returning to London.
Guess what?
None were seen!!
That's how you treat piss takers.
That's how you defend your livelihood and that's how you retain pride and self respect.

Down south however, it's a different story.
One of our drivers was cruelly smashed over the back of the head with an iron bar for trying to defend South Ken cab rank, thankfully he's ok but no thanks to the cab drivers who apparently drove past, well done chaps!

Can we start helping each other now please?
The Old Axe pub on Hackney road has become a focal point for all sorts of rats lately who constantly swarm all over the 4 cab rank outside. It's active from 7pm-7am and the owners have asked for us to serve this rank specifically because they want us, some good work comes out of it so if you're passing please spend 20 mins on there if only to piss the rats off.
But be warned, one or two aren't that tame so be wise.

Now to the good news.
Last week the GMB served a 22 page Mandamus Injunction on TFL. Mandamus means "We command" which is an order from a superior court to do some specific act which that body is obliged under law to do. If this order is not complied with it automatically becomes a judicial revue on oath.

This action was taken to find out who in TFL gave the order to license Uber, whether coerced or under duress from Downing Street, who signed it and who's responsible for guiding Uber around the requirements laid out in their own rules and regulations for an operators license.
They're also challenging Uber's re-license due on 31st May.

This action is being spearheaded by Maria Ludkin, GMB's legal director who is at the top of her field.
This will open up that can of worms we all know exists but, as yet, been unable to open ourselves. 
We're finally beginning to get somewhere, pressure from the Daily Mail stories is mounting slowly and this brilliant action from the GMB can only help brighten that flickering light at the end of that very long tunnel.

Since the news broke however, the detractors and naysayers have gone into overdrive with shouts of the usual "It's a PH Union", "I won't side with PH". 
Let's put things into perspective.
The General, Municipal and Boilermakers Union is made up of over 640k members from all walks of life and various industries including private hire drivers.

GMB Pro Drivers includes coach drivers, lorry drivers, ambulance drivers, dust lorry drivers aside from private hire drivers, it's a professional driver section of a nationwide union protecting hundreds of trades and individuals. It mustn't be confused with unions and associations specific to private hire like the National Private Hire Association which some of us have tenuous links to, yet choose to forget.

The fact remains, whether we like it or not, the GMB have succeeded where our orgs have failed and we have to accept it. They've achieved more in 7/8 weeks than the orgs have in the 5 years this Uber cancer has been devastating our lives.
It's not ideal I know, but I'll cling to any lifeboat available for the sake of my family and I really couldn't care less how I'm thought of for it. 

Along with a growing number of cab drivers I've realised the only possible chance of any future for our trade is, ironically enough in the hands of a trade union non-specific to the black cab trade. That's not my fault or the fault of any cab driver that joins the GMB, that's the fault and shame of all the trade orgs for not acknowledging the dangers when pointed out to them, not listening and not acting in the way they should have, when they should have.

The LCDC have recently taken the spotlight for the brilliant stories in the Daily Mail and so they should.
Dave Davis has also revealed he's involvement in exposing various scandals surrounding TFL and Government but unless we as a trade do something with these developments they're forgotten about.

Time and time again opportunities were missed, an aggressive stance wasn't taken properly and in some quarters idleness took center stage. The end result has been 5 years of abject misery with no end in sight and extinction seemed imminent, until now.

All these drivers who spurn GMB's involvement need to get a reality check. How many spend demo days on the golf course or go fishing?
How many work during demos?
How many socialise with PH drivers?
How many use the local minicab office themselves?
How many belong to an org at all?
How many rank up all over the place (where ranks are not there) outside theatres and restaurants not giving the floating cab a chance of getting a job?
Even though this behavior is wrong it's also testament to the sheer desperation felt by us all and failures of all the orgs collectively.

Nevertheless, don't throw stones in glass houses.
If you haven't taken part in any part of this fight you have no right to an opinion on any drivers choice of representation.
Nobody's saying turn your back on the orgs, but you can turn your back on failure which has been a constant in the past and a guarantee for the future. 

The GMB are going for the angle of regulation.
Force in regulation with as much of a return to the two tier system we had before and life begins again. Uber can't function with regulation, that's the whole story of there success.
Uber have paid the authorities to put laws into place to thwart any attempt to challenge them giving them carte blanche to circumvent any law that inhibits their business through careful and skillfully placed loopholes secretly ratified by government behind closed doors.

Even ironclad statements from TFL's Luke Howard seem to be ignored-

TFL have recently refused to grant a FOI request to a driver for copies of 557 emails to and from TFL and Uber because, in a nutshell, 
"it would take to long".

It seems nothing can penetrate TFL's defenses, until now.

Good luck with that if the GMB ask!
TFL have sat pretty for years safe in the knowledge they were protected by Whitehall and untouchable. They knew the orgs weren't equipped with the wherewithal to even scratch the surface of the disgusting culture cultivated specifically to destroy our trade and that of the PH trade up and down the country. And that's what the GMB recognised and with their huge resources we can all now start thinking about the future. 

The fight isn't over by any means but the papers served on TFL last week is a huge leap forward for us all, PH drivers included. They've also entered the fight for Sean Stockings, writing to TFL on his behalf even though he's not a member and asked for details in relation to any risk assessments carried out over the credit card machines in the back of the cab, and that's for all of us.

Bank Junction closes tomorrow from 7am-7pm with access only for buses and cyclists during those times. The orgs are carrying out pollution studies to run alongside COL but it's been revealed that COL have not only placed monitoring equipment in the wrong places (knowingly) but they're also insufficient in number. Therefore any and all figures gathered will not only be obtained by deception but clearly fraudulent, let see what the orgs do about it because there will only be one set of figures acted upon and it won't be there's.
The traffic carnage that's about to fall on the City will be unbearable all for the sake of "safety". 

Yet according to the College of Paramedics,  pandering to the wants of cycling lobbyists is causing major problems with response times. When ambulances are trying to blue light through traffic their's just nowhere for the traffic to go in order to get out of the way, largely due to cycle lanes and the huge backlog they cause. Bank Junction and that whole area will be gridlock and no doubt because of that, lives will be put in perilous danger all because of ignorance, selfishness and a refusal listen to common sense.

Then there's the cries from cab drivers who can't work because of it. Where were they when the ITA held a week long demo trying to stop it happening?
Where were the orgs?
Where will they be next week and the weeks following?
Will they be waiting for the ITA?
They can wait.

What's happening next week along with the so called soul selling defection to the GMB is the result of years of failure by a trade that should have stood up like men and fought for the right to a livelihood we all earned. Any driver in this trade who doesn't believe in fighting or demonstrating for the right to earn a living is to blame for the state it's in. Only a strong, solid demonstration is a successful one but we've never achieved it. No man should stand by and allow this sort of persecution by anyone, even government. I'd go so far as to say it's a man's duty to fight for his living regardless of the odds but I imagine some people will disagree.

Whether that's the case or not, I once posed the question-
 Can you see yourself paying for your daughters wedding in five years time?
At the time it was a resounding NO!
Now however, I'm starting to think it may be possible after all.

The tide may have begun to turn in the cab trade's favour at last and the fact the GMB is steering the ship sits quite well for me as I'm confident in their ability unlike our orgs. There will come a time when we're at odds with each other but for now the plain fact is they're doing what we've been praying for since 2012. When this investigation or inquiry ends with a victory for us and PH, I hope it sets a precedent to any and all other vultures out there who wish to try their luck in the future.

Just think, if we'd have thrown rickshaws in the Thames when they first appeared on Albert Embankment would Uber be here today?
Or would a warning have gone out and a precedent set then?
We have ourselves to blame for Uber's onslaught, instead of fighting like men we bent over with our strides down.

That's how it would've stayed, that was our future until last week. Swallow your pride and encourage GMB to save your jobs, the orgs have had years to do it and failed.
I emailed McNamara last week asking for rank patrols to safeguard them from criminal Uber drivers armed with iron bars but as yet, no answer. 

They should have been in place ages ago. The GMB has written to TFL and the Met regarding Cab ranks on our behalf, specifically the Cafe Royal Hotel.

Failure is no longer a guarantee but victory has just become a distinct possibility and it's growing all the time.
With this in mind I'm once again optimistic and it feels good.

Interesting days are ahead and I hope my optimism proves valid for all ors sakes. If and when that day comes, I hope all those naysayers have the good grace to admit and accept they were wrong and apologise to those they slated.
We shall see.

Be lucky.


Saturday, May 20, 2017

Uber Extends To On-Demand Cargo And Parcel Deliveries Via App.

Ridesharing service Uber , whose San Francisco headquarters is seen here, has announced an expansion into trucking with cargo deliveries via smartphone app

Uber is expanding into a new field with a version of its on-demand ride application that lets truckers book cargo hauls with simple taps on smartphones.

Uber Freight rolling out in the US was touted by the company as an app that matches truckers or trucking companies with loads, and streamlines payments.

"We take the guesswork out of finding and booking freight, which is often the most stressful part of a driver's day," Uber said in a blog post available online Friday.

"What used to take several hours and multiple phone calls can now be achieved with the touch of a button."

Truckers signing onto the service are vetted, according to Uber, which did not provide details regarding checks done on those involved.

San Francisco-based Uber made no mention of its efforts in self-driving vehicles, particularly trucks for cargo or deliveries.

Uber acquired commercial transport-focused tech startup Otto late last year as the company pressed ahead with its pursuit of self-driving technology.

Google parent Alphabet in February filed a lawsuit accusing Uber and its self-driving vehicle unit Otto of stealing technology from Waymo, the former Google car division.

The suit contends that Waymo manager Anthony Levandowski took technical data with him when he left to launch a competing venture that went on to become Otto.

Levandowski, a co-founder of 90-person startup Otto, was put in charge of Uber's efforts to develop self-driving technology for personal driving, delivery and trucking.

The case is making its way through the court, but a partial injunction issued by a US district court judge ordered Uber to do everything in its power to prevent information taken from Waymo from being used at the on-demand ride company and to return all copies to Waymo, or the court, by the end of this month.

Cycle Lanes Putting Patients’ Lives At Risk By Delaying Ambulances, College Of Paramedics Warn

Segregated cycle lanes are putting patients’ lives at risk because they prevent traffic moving out of the way of ambulances, medical leaders have warned.

The College of Paramedics said the new model of kerbed lanes, which are fiercely supported by cycle safety campaigners, leave drivers nowhere to go when they see blue flashing lights behind them.

For some of the most critical emergency patients, such as those suffering cardiac arrest, every minute added to the time it take to reach hospital can significantly reduce the chances of survival.

The College on Friday called for town planners to re-think the introduction of fully segregated lanes in order to allow better traffic flow in congested city centres.

It is supporting calls by ambulance bosses in London to introduce so-called “light segregation” – lanes formed by intermittent objects which allow motorists to pull off the road.

Richard Webber, a paramedic and spokesman for the College, said ambulance drivers supported designated cycle lanes in principle, but that a balance had to be struck.

  Liverpool midfielder Emre Can ready to cheer on City in Manchester derby after his side's 'stupid' loss to Crystal Palace
“If you are trying to get to an emergency call, particularly at rush hour when the roads are very slow moving, you’re not able to use your sirens to any effect to get people out of the way because there is nowhere for them to go,” he said.

“You just end up sitting behind them waiting.”

NHS data is not sufficiently detailed to discern the extent to which cycle lanes are hampering swift response times, but Mr Webber said there was a general feeling among paramedics that their presence is having a negative effect.

Work started to introduce kerbs in Manchester in 2015, and segregated lanes have also started to crop up in Bristol, part of an effort to double cycling in the city.

Meanwhile Edinburgh has some dedicated cycle lanes separated by rubber barriers. As well as fully protected cycle lanes, London has led the way in the establishment of cycle “superhighways”, which aim to give cyclists fast and direct access to the city centre from outlying suburbs.
Much of these are unprotected, however, merely designated by brightly coloured tarmac.

The College of Paramedics says these have also been badly thought through in terms of their effect on emergency vehicles, including snarling up the flow of ambulances outside The Royal London Hospital, a major centre for emergency care.

“We understand the need to segregate cyclists because there have been a number of horrific fatalities, but it can be a double-edged sword,” said Mr Webber.

“You can’t allow it to slow things down for everyone else.”

In cases of cardiac arrest, every minute before a patient is resuscitated lessens their chances of survival by as much as 10 per cent.

Fully segregated lanes have been introduced in some UK cities over the past decade in response to a wave of concern at the number of cyclist deaths.

In London, fatalities peaked in 2001 and 2005, with 21 cyclists killed in each of those years, and the numbers have declined steadily to a 22-year low of 9 in 2015, despite more bicycle journeys being undertaken in the capital than ever.

  Joe Root suffers frustrating day as Yorkshire struggle for rhythm against Hampshire
The improvement in safety has been partly attributed to the proliferation of segregated cycle lanes, although removal of hundreds of miles of roadside guardrails is also believed to have had a positive effect.

Simon Munk, infrastructure campaigner at London Cycle Campaign denied segregated cycle lanes were causing a problem.

“The issue fundamentally is congestion,” he said. “The safer we can make cycling the less people will drive the fewer cars there will be on the road.

“The best evidence we have contradicts the view of the paramedics.”

Editorial Comment :
Is this man for real, just take a look at London, is gridlocked most of the day since they introduced the segregate cycle lanes....and they are set to introduce more. 

He admits the issue, fundamentally, is congestion... But turns a blind eye to the rout cause of the congestion, namely the segregated cycle lanes 

Friday, May 19, 2017

Uber To Start Charging What It Thinks You’re Willing To Pay

The ride-hailing giant is using data science to engineer a more sustainable business model, but it’s cutting drivers out from some gains.

Uber drivers have been complaining that the gap between the fare a rider pays and what the driver receives is getting wider. After months of unsatisfying answers, Uber Technologies Inc. is providing an explanation: It’s charging some passengers more because it needs the extra cash.

The company detailed for the first time in an interview with Bloomberg a new pricing system that’s been in testing for months in certain cities. On Friday, Uber acknowledged to drivers the discrepancy between their compensation and what riders pay. The new fare system is called “route-based pricing,” and it charges customers based on what it predicts they’re willing to pay. It’s a break from the past, when Uber calculated fares using a combination of mileage, time and multipliers based on geographic demand.

Daniel Graf, Uber’s head of product, said the company applies machine-learning techniques to estimate how much groups of customers are willing to shell out for a ride. Uber calculates riders’ propensity for paying a higher price for a particular route at a certain time of day. For instance, someone traveling from a wealthy neighborhood to another tony spot might be asked to pay more than another person heading to a poorer part of town, even if demand, traffic and distance are the same.

The change stems from a feature Uber introduced last year called upfront pricing. By guaranteeing customers a certain fare before they book, the company said it provides more transparency. But it hadn’t previously said how Uber was estimating those prices and continued paying drivers using the old model.

In an attempt to ease drivers’ concerns, Uber will start reporting the price a passenger pays on each ride, though it will stop breaking out the percentage Uber takes of the fare. The company will also send drivers an updated terms of service agreement reflecting the new fee system. Route-based pricing is currently limited to 14 U.S. cities where Uber offers its carpooling service.

The difference between the calculations of rider fares and driver pay could be the future of Uber’s business. The company said it pockets what’s leftover and could parlay this mathematical framework into moving closer to profitability.

Graf said Uber’s pricing techniques have grown incredibly sophisticated. He oversees a team called marketplace at headquarters in San Francisco that’s staffed with economists and statisticians. Graf, a former Google and Twitter Inc. executive, sees financial engineering as a competitive advantage, one way that Uber can stay ahead of Lyft Inc. and other ride-hailing operators. Uber said it began experimenting with route-based pricing late last year.

“Google search is very simple to do; it’s very complex what’s happening behind the scenes,” Graf said. “The same thing here. Taking a trip is easy. To make this all work in a whole market, and sustainable, is really, really hard.”

In the process, pricing became something of a black box for passengers and another source of tension with drivers. Drivers accused Uber of cutting them out of income they were entitled to and misleading them about what the company was up to.

During the last year, Uber had attributed price discrepancies to the uncertainty around estimating fares, even as it was experimenting with techniques designed to exploit the imbalance between what customers were willing to pay and what drivers would take. The Rideshare Guy, a popular blog among drivers, conducted a study in New York City published in May, finding widespread disparities between rider fares and driver pay. Workers weren’t happy. “It is immoral and unethical behavior,” said Chris Estrada, who drives for Uber in Riverside, California.

Uber has faced a torrent of scandals this year, including a trade secrets lawsuit, sexual harassment allegations, a brief boycott over its ties to the Trump administration and a video showing the chief executive officer arguing with a driver over falling fares. Two of the longest-running criticisms of the seven-year-old company are ones that are sometimes at odds: It loses too much money, and it pays drivers too little. The company told Bloomberg in April that it lost $2.8 billion in 2016, not including its China business.

In the case of upfront pricing, Uber may move closer to resolving investors’ concerns about losses but could alienate drivers along the way. “You know our numbers,” Graf said. “We do want to run and operate a sustainable business.”

“We do want to run and operate a sustainable business.”

Uber said it isn’t hoarding the additional revenue generated from route-based pricing. The company said it reinvests much of it into increasing the number of trips, subsidizing UberPool usage and paying bonuses to drivers. Christian Perea, who writes for the Rideshare Guy, said drivers will appreciate the added transparency around how much passengers are paying. “That is a big deal,” he said.

As Uber experiments with pricing models, complexity could introduce new problems. “Society is more willing to accept wealthy people paying higher fares,” said Chris Knittel, a business professor at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. “But if the repercussion of lower fares in lower-income places is longer wait times, that’s probably what they want to keep an eye on.” 

With such a dramatic change to pricing, it’s not just drivers Uber has to worry about upsetting. “They could really lose the trust of the riders,” said Glen Weyl, a senior researcher at Microsoft Corp. who is studying Uber with the company’s cooperation. Microsoft is an investor in Uber. “It’s a very dangerous moment for them, but there are good economic reasons to do it.”

Uber is a company filled with over-optimizers, who will continue to futz with prices and hope to find equilibrium. “If things are not balanced, we create levers to motivate people to make it balanced again,” Graf said. “There’s choices, right? Always. There’s never, ‘I have to use Uber.’”

Silent Taxis: Japanese cab company bans drivers from starting conversations

A cab company in one of Japan’s major cities is trialling a new feature by introducing silent taxi drivers.

Miyako Taxi, which is based in Kyoto, unveiled the new idea last month without much fanfare.

The business is currently operating five “Silence Taxis” across the city as part of a trial.

The cars look like any ordinary taxi but a notice written on the back of the passenger seat will inform passengers that they have entered one of the new silent fleet.

Drivers will offer a greeting when their fare enters the car, and aside from confirming the route they will not engage in small talk.

The drivers can indulge in conversation, but only if they are spoken to first, and they are also allowed to communicate in emergency situations.

Announcing the idea, Miyako Taxi said: “This service is currently in a trial stage, with the goal of creating an in-car atmosphere that provides the most comfortable ride for passengers through limiting the driver’s speaking.”

Other than the latest initiative, the company has no official policy either way covering chatting in taxis.

According to Japan Today, they made the move after hearing reports from passengers that they were fed up being forced to indulge in chit-chat with their drivers.

And while some fares enjoyed being regaled with tales of Kyoto’s sights and attractions, it was seen as less appealing for residents of the sprawling city.

The company will assess the popularity of the trial before deciding whether to expand it and roll it out across more of their drivers in their 354 taxis.