Industry

NEXTAXI helped reduce DUI! LPD: DUI numbers on the decline

  • By: Brittany Paris of KLKNTV
  • Posted: January 2, 2014
 

CLICK HERE FOR VIDEO

You’re probably seeing them more and more throughout Lincoln. Taxis. And they could help fix a potentially fatal problem.

In the past year, drunken driving has fallen 28 percent. Officers say they made 134 DUI arrests in 2013. The year before, 186 people were arrested.

But what’s helping those who drink put down their keys?

Officers say it’s probably a few things. Their recent, “You Drink & Drive, You Lose,” campaign helped get 78 impaired drivers off the road.

And more cabs in the Capital City are helping people avoid driving drunk.

“I think it’s making a difference because if you go down to 14th and O Street, you will wind up seeing citizens using the taxi cabs down there,” Chief Jim Peschong, Lincoln Police Department, said.”

Even Mothers Against Drunk Driving, MADD, says they’ve noticed more awareness.

“We used to get a lot of calls complaining about the taxi cab service. We’re getting less complaints about alternative transportation, and so that’s great that Lincoln is finally becoming a little more proactive in providing safer transportation for those who do go out and consume alcohol,” Andrea Frazier, Program Manager, MADD, said.

And taxi companies say people are using cabs more often. They say they understand it’s difficult to grab a cab, especially during Husker games. And when people have to wait hours  for a ride, they’re probably not going to.

Happy Cab developed an app with the hope of eliminating that problem. It’s called NexTaxi and it’s free.

“For a lot of people, when you’re downtown, you don’t know exactly where you are or you don’t have an exact address,” Rachel Wade, Happy Cab Lincoln Manager, said. “All you have to do is hit on this app and it says find me. And it will locate where you are. You put in where you want to go and we locate a cab for you.”

But while DUI numbers are down, MADD says drunk driving is still a problem.

The average blood alcohol content in Lincoln in 2013 was .15. And the youngest person caught driving impaired was 16.

“Remember that drunk driving is 100 percent preventable. Not only are people killed, they’re injured,” Frazier said.

Lincoln police say they hope the numbers continue to go down in 2014.

On New Year’s Eve, they had 6 DUI arrests, up just one from last year. But that is progress, in 2011, there were 29 New Year’s Eve DUI’s.

California agency set to hammer down regulations for ride services such as Uber, Lyft, Sidecar

 

Lyft driver picking up passenger

ESSDRAS M SUAREZ/THE BOSTON GLOBE VIA GETTY IMAGES

A conflict in San Francisco between the troubled taxi industry and opportunistic ride services will reach a milestone Thursday when the California Public Utilities Commission votes on proposed regulations for the mobile app-based startups and possibly sets a precedent for the rest of the nation.

Since ride services such as Uber, Lyft and Sidecar launched in The City in the past few years, heavily regulated taxi drivers have been accusing them of using personal cars for commercial reasons and without comprehensive insurance. They also have said government agencies have unfairly allowed them to continue operating.

In August 2012, the CPUC sent cease-and-desist letters to the ride services. After they failed to comply, the commission allowed them to stay in business as it drafted regulations, which require background checks on drivers, specific insurance requirements, zero tolerance on alcohol and drugs, and driver training. The proposed regulations also put a name to the services: Transportation Network Company vehicles.

The companies don’t see the developments as a bad thing.

“We started having criminal background checks, having insurance from the beginning because we’ve always wanted to do them, not because of our regulatory structure,” said Lyft co-founder John Zimmer. “I think as long as the focus remains on safety and allows for innovation to provide the solution that consumers want, then it’s a positive thing.”

But Hansu Kim, president of DeSoto Cab Co., which has a 170-taxi fleet, said the concern should be about drivers using personal vehicles for commercial purposes, which Lyft and Sidecar introduced and Uber followed.

Kim admitted he is “all for consumer choice” and that his own industry has been failing to meet demand, but regulations for these companies need to be on par with the stringent requirements for taxis.

Even if the new regulations level the playing field, Kim had another concern: “You really think CPUC is going to regulate and enforce rideshares locally? No way. They don’t have any kind of edifice to even enforce them on a state level.”

Regulations would be a good thing simply because “right now is, there is no regulation everywhere,” said Earl Epstein, a founding partner and chief technology officer of NexTaxi, which has been working on taxi dispatch systems for two decades and integrated an app for cab fleets three years ago.

“Any kind of new technology has a good time at first because they enter the space and don’t need to play by rules,” Epstein said. “And until someone comes up with rules, they get away with it.”

Drive On: Cambridge loses lawsuit to keep Uber off the roads

 

 File Photo

The City of Cambridge has lost its court battle to overturn the state’s ruling allowing Uber, maker of a smartphone app that customers use for private transportation, to continue operating despite complaints from traditional taxi companies.

A Massachusetts state agency last August initially ordered Uber to cease operations, contending that its system of determining fares based on GPS-location technology was untested. The agency, the Massachusetts Division of Standards, then abruptly reversed itself after an outcry from users and others in the local tech sector reached a sympathetic Gov. Deval Patrick.

The City of Cambridge then filed suit in Middlesex Superior Court, contending that the state ruling allowing Uber to continue operating was “unsupported by substantial evidence, arbitrary and capricious” and “an abuse of discretion.”

The court disagreed. “The City has not demonstrated that the [division’s ruling] is in excess of the Division’s statutory authority, is based on an error of law, is arbitrary and capricious [or] is unsupported by substantial evidence,” wrote Judge Bruce Henry in his June 17 decision.

“We’re pleased with the Superior Court’s decision to uphold the Division of Standards ruling allowing Uber to continue serving hundreds of thousands of riders in the greater Boston area,” said Uber chief executive Travis Kalanick. Adds Barbara Anthony, Undersecretary of Consumer and Business Regulations for the state, “This ruling affirms that our regulatory structure can adapt to changing technologies.”

Elizabeth Lashway, the city attorney for Cambridge, declined to comment on the ruling, and would not say whether the city would appeal. At the time the suit was filed, Lashway told the Globe, “The taxi industry is heavily regulated for reasons of public safety, consumer protection, and fair competition. To allow Uber to sidestep the applicable laws and regulations goes against those principles.”

Uber styles itself as “Everyone’s Private Driver” with an app that allows passengers to summon a ride in one of its sleek, high-end black sedans or SUVs, for example. The app uses a metering system based on GPS-location technology to calculate fares based on time, distance and speed.

Cambridge mounted a sting operation against Uber last year and cited the San Francisco-based company for using a non-conforming measuring device for calculating fares, and for operating an unlicensed livery. Unlike a traditional taxi meter, some government officials say they have no way of knowing if Uber’s system is accurate and is not overcharging people.

Founded in 2009, Uber now operates in several major cities besides Boston, including New York, Chicago, Los Angeles, and Denver, often drawing complaints from rival taxi services who say it has an unfair advantage because it is not as regulated as cabs.

In Boston, Uber currently charges about $33 for a sedan ride from Downtown to Harvard Square. A regular taxi ride for this trip would run about $22. Uber also cautions customers that, “At times of intense demand, our rates change over time to keep vehicles available.”

Life Behind The Wheel In The New Rideshare Economy

 

In streets across the country, taxis, rideshare companies, and regulators are locked in a fight to the death. To sort out the confusion and controversy, I got behind the wheel.

 

The young blonde woman sitting shotgun in my car was focused intently on her phone. I had just picked her up from her tech job in San Francisco’s SOMA neighborhood — after dropping off another tech worker at a happy hour nearby — and was headed toward the Mission, where her coworker was having a house party. I was supposed to be making small talk, exuding friendliness, and playing temporary bestie. But I was starting to feel intrusive.

Plus, I was distracted. The rush-hour traffic was a chaotic maze. The GPS app I was using kept ordering me to turn in the wrong direction, toward the bridge headed to Oakland. I wanted to shut the app off, but I was afraid that would mean I wouldn’t get paid. On top of that, the giant pink furry mustache on my car’s front grill was coming loose and flapping around perilously.

If you live in San Francisco, you know the kind of mustache I’m talking about, and have no doubt reacted with either enthusiasm or condescending mockery — or at least a bit of embarrassment for the drivers. It’s the brand logo for Lyft, the so-called ridesharing company, which is rapidly growing in both popularity and profile. But while its ridesharing concept is easy enough to understand, the way it actually works is confusing and more than a little opaque. So I decided to try it for myself.

Lyft and its direct competitor SideCar are quasi taxi companies that are either revolutionary DIY ridesharing programs, or illegal cab companies, depending on whom you ask. Instead of hiring drivers and buying their own fleets of cars, these companies sign up individuals who use their own cars to pick up riders. Riders pay a voluntary donation via a phone app, and the ridesharing company takes a cut. Publicly, ridesharing companies argue that they don’t fall under the legal definition of a cab company. Under that loophole, they argue, they can skirt the industry regulations. And what are regulations but technicalities, anyway?

There is also Uber, an app that lets you hail a car service or limo, which often gets lumped in with Lyft and SideCar. But for now their model is different from ridesharing companies, because they partner with limo companies with professional drivers, instead of relying on individuals who happen to own cars. But Uber, too, has announced plans to dabble in the ridesharing model. Its drivers in Austin, at SXSW this year, were civilian drivers.

Lyft suggests the best comparison to ridesharing is eBay, an online platform that “connects” sellers and buyers just as Lyft connects drivers and riders. It is essentially a coordinated carpooling system, the company says. “As a movement, we remain focused on changing the fact that 80 percent of seats on our roads are empty while transportation continues to be America’s second highest household expense,” Lyft says on its website. Don’t think of a Lyft as a cab, it says, but as a best friend with a car.

But a more apt comparison is to AirBnB, which has also created a business model that has been criticized for avoiding hotel taxes; ignoring commercial licensing laws needed to run a hotel or bed-and-breakfast; eschewing safety regulations, such as fire evacuation requirements; and implicitly encouraging users to flout rental laws. In the meantime, it is waiting—and hoping—for the legislators and regulations to catch up.

Ridesharing companies aren’t just a new transportation model, but an employer one as well. Since they don’t hire their drivers, they don’t have to pay health insurance or workers’ comp, or follow any Occupational Safety and Health Administration regulations. There is no monitoring of their hiring practices or how their drivers are treated.


Community – a brief video about Lyft
(at Youtube)

 
 

Officials nationwide are debating the legality of ridesharing. Last year, California’s Public Utilities Commission (CPUC) issued $20,000 in fines and cease and desist orders to Lyft, SideCar, and Uber for running “charter-party carriers” without proper permits, registrations, and safety checks in place.

On Jan. 30, 2013, Lyft reached an interim agreement with the CPUC. Its cease and desist order was suspended and the $20,000 fine waived. Lyft is temporarily being allowed to operate while the state finalizes regulations, as long as it has certain safety checks in place, including making sure all drivers have proof of insurance, a DMV record check, and national criminal background checks. “The purpose of this rulemaking is not to stifle innovation and the provision of new services that consumers want, but rather to assess public safety risks, and to ensure that the safety of the public is not compromised in the operation of these new business models,” said the CPUC in its ruling. The following day, the CPUC also suspended Uber’s cease and desist order and waived the $20,000 fine. SideCar, however, is still under its cease and desist order and is operating illegally in the state. The others are in a sort of legal limbo.

As the ridesharing companies spread outside of California, they are facing headwinds. The Philadelphia Parking Authority set up sting operations to bust drivers and hit them with $1,000 fines. Austin issued SideCar a cease and desist letter two weeks before SXSW, followed by a law allowing police impoundment of cars suspected of working for ridesharing companies. In retaliation, SideCar sued the city. (Not wanting to miss SXSW advertising opportunities, SideCar hired drivers for the event through Craigslist, and Lyft offered piggyback rides.) The New York City Taxi and Limousine Commission (NYC TLC) told me that they will take legal action against ridesharers that behaves like cabbies, even if they claim not to be. “If someone is trolling the Meatpacking District using an app to get rides, we will enforce the legislation,” says the NYC TLC, which takes about 800 illegal livery services off the streets each month. “If it walks like a duck, it talks like a duck.”

“It might work in San Francisco, a bigger city that is more sprawling with fewer cabs,” says the NYC TLC. “But New York City has a different dynamic. You don’t get into a stranger’s car here unless it is a licensed taxi or black car.”

 

 

The fight between ridesharing and cab companies has become intense in San Francisco. According to police reports, cabbies have harassed Lyft drivers. There are stories about verbal abuse, cabbies giving them the finger, cutting them off, and making vague threats. There are rumors of cab drivers acting as moles and spies looking for information to take them down. Cab drivers have testified at San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency (SFMTA) public hearings that Lyft drivers are picking up passengers on the street and taking cash (which would legally qualify them as cab companies), all of which Lyft denies. Lyft has reached out to managers of all major taxi companies. “There were multiple meetings, some more friendly than others,” John Zimmer, cofounder and president of Lyft, later told me.

“This is the ultimate decimation of the taxi industry,” a cab driver said at a public SFMTA meeting. “Who would pay to get a license or a medallion if there is no money in it because these apps have become the way to get around town?”

Which presents a good question: Why don’t they all just switch over to Lyft?

More than 20 cities experimented with taxi deregulation in the late ’70s and early ’80s. It generally resulted in a decline in cabs but also a decline in efficiency and productivity. Additionally, it produced higher rates, lower driver income, a decrease in service quality, higher response times, and more complaints from riders. Almost all of the cities reinstated regulation.

“Most cab drivers have been assaulted, robbed, worked the very slowest shifts, dealt with countless assholes, cleaned up many barfs, and earned a meager living,” says Barry Korengold, president of the San Francisco Cab Drivers’ Association. “This makes for a race to the bottom, and when it hits bottom, and even on the way down, it won’t be pretty.”

Incumbent taxi services and legislators aren’t the only ones grappling with the Lyft concept. Drivers and passengers have a lot of questions too — and not all of them have clear answers right now. Are the drivers breaking the law? Are they just offering people rides to places they are going anyway? Is it safe? Are they doing this to make a living or just as a hobby when they have spare time?

That, in short, is why I decided to join Lyft — to don the furry pink mustache. What I discovered: Legally they aren’t who they say they are. Donations aren’t entirely voluntary; customers who don’t pay can be blacklisted. Drivers use it as a way to make a living. They pay taxes, deduct expenses, and follow Lyft guidelines on how to make more cash. It is essentially impossible to use the app to coordinate carpooling. They don’t fulfill the legal loopholes they claim to. Lyft even admits as much themselves.

 

 

“If you could give a Lyft to anyone, living or dead, who would it be?”

It was the first question during my initial phone interview to become a Lyft driver. I absolutely hate that kind of question. Off the top of my head, I said Joan of Arc. I don’t know why. It just came to me. She was kind of a badass, right?

The chatty Lyft employee asked me how I like my car, my neighborhood, and how my friends would describe me. He then went through a checklist of questions: Do I have more than two points on my record, a reckless driving violation, a DUI, or any other major violations? Was I at least 23 years old, do I possess a valid California license, and have I had that license for at least three years? Do I smoke in my car? Do I have insurance and registration? Am I comfortable with smartphones and GPS devices? He wanted the year and make of my car to ensure it was a four-door car, 2000 model year or newer.

The interview lasted five minutes, tops.

The following business day, I headed down to the Lyft office in SOMA for my in-person interview. The office, a converted garage, had a spray-painted Lyft logo on one wall, paper mustaches hanging from the ceiling, and a group of seriously cheerful people with cool haircuts and bright T-shirts. In hand-painted letters over the doorway: “Communities aren’t born. They’re made, built on the shoulders of shared experiences, created by people with a common cause, a common history, or in our case, a common destination.”

I was greeted by the receptionist, with what turned out to be the first of many fist bumps, the Lyft hallmark greeting. Whenever someone gets into a Lyft car, the passenger and driver are supposed to fist-bump. That day I fist-bumped half a dozen people on my way to have my photo taken in front of an Astroturf background (wacky faces and giving thumbs-up are encouraged), get interviewed, and fill out paperwork.

The hardest question during the in-person interview was, “How will you make your car unique?” Just like Jennifer Aniston’s waitressing gig in Office Space, this job requires flair. (One driver is a yoga instructor, the interviewer explained, so she mists her car with lavender scent, gives out organic sugar-free gum, and puts Post-it notes with positive affirmations on her dashboard. Another is a DJ, so he has disco lights and a karaoke setup, and spins records out of the back of his car while waiting for riders.)

“Maybe I’d hand out bottled water?” I said.

 

Lyft driver pimps his ride with disco flair.

They wouldn’t tell me exactly how much money I would make. Lyft takes a 20% cut of drivers’ fares (lowered temporarily to 15%), except during “power hours”: on Friday and Saturday nights, early commute hours, and holidays that involve lots of drinking, when the driver gets all the money. Most people make about $18 to $35 an hour, I was told, but it varies depending on how busy it is and whether you are driving during power hours.

I filled out the paperwork for the DMV and criminal background checks. Cab companies also do criminal background and DMV checks — plus fingerprinting and a drug test. However, cab companies don’t have specific criteria on what violations or crimes disqualify you: They do it on a case-by-case basis.

Lyft’s vehicle safety inspection, which it claims is stricter than those of taxicab services, consisted of checking that my car was clean inside and out and having me demonstrate that my break lights, blinkers, and headlights worked. They copied my driver’s license and insurance card and photographed my license plate — there was no need, they explained, to see my registration as long as I had the sticker.

Unlike at a cab company, there was no driver safety test or quiz on city geography. They didn’t check references or ask for a résumé. I don’t think they even Googled me.

With a fist bump through my car window, I was on my way. A few days later I was contacted that I passed. I was now an official Lyft driver.

A few relevant personal notes here: I have lived my whole life in New York City and San Francisco. I got my driver’s license at 21, which I used in my twenties to get into bars, not to drive. I bought my first car last year. I know the city by bus and bike routes. The maze of one-way streets in downtown San Francisco is as much a mystery to me as it is to my prospective passengers. My driving history does not fit the profile of a cab driver.

 

Drivers are encouraged to offer snacks

A few weeks later, I joined about a dozen other people back at the office for training. There was one former cab driver there, who told me he was going to be seen as a traitor amongst his former colleagues. There was a father with graying hair who said his hospital job wasn’t bringing in enough money. But the majority of people there were young guys in their twenties and thirties, excited about jumping on the Lyft bandwagon. Some were artists and freelancers looking for a side income, others were in between jobs. There was the typical shyness you’d expect amongst strangers, but when we went around the room and offered our flair ideas, there was major enthusiasm. Snacks, baked goods, Girl Scout cookies, playlists.

Our training focused on using the app, signing up for work hours online, and being friendly. In teams of two, we sat in chairs side by side (Lyft riders are supposed to sit shotgun), acting out welcoming and fist-bumping the rider, making small talk during the mock drive, and using the app on tester phones. We never actually got in a car.

There was, of course, advice about mustache maintenance: Never leave it abandoned since they tend to get stolen (whether by angry cab drivers or avid fans was unclear), and replacements cost $30. They have the unfortunate trait of being absorbent — they get soggy in the rain.

Much of the training concerned Lyft’s model and lingo. We were repeatedly reminded, “You are a best friend with a car.” “It is a community movement.” “Don’t make them feel like it is a cab.”

We were reassured that allowing strangers in our car was safe, since Lyft has each rider’s credit card information, Facebook profile, and their smartphone’s GPS location.

We were warned that some people would try to goad us and that cab drivers may harass us. If anyone asks, we were told to give the line that “Lyft is a pre-arranged and noncommercial personal platform to connect riders and drivers. Lyft doesn’t employ drivers.”

When pressed about cab harassment, the instructor reassured us that Lyft is “building relationships” with the cab companies. For now, we were instructed to always “avoid friction,” “keep people calm and happy,” and “try not to be aggressive” both from a safety perspective and to avoid making the passenger uncomfortable. “Remember, we are all doing something cool,” we were told. “We have no animosity with other companies.”

One trainee raised concerns about rumors that you need to remove the mustache when driving to the airport. But we were told that Lyft is also “building a relationship” with the airport.

Legally, taxis and limos have to have a permit to pick people up at the airport, and they have to pay a fee for each trip. Lyft argues they don’t have to, which has caused anger amongst cab drivers and the airport itself.

(Since my training, the airport issued a cease and desist letter to ridesharing car companies including Lyft until CPUC regulations are finalized. Airport authorities are stopping drivers and threatening them with $200 citations. Lyft has told drivers to keep taking people to the airport, and if they are ticketed, Lyft will fight back and if need be, pay the fine for the driver.)

There were some strict prohibitions: You cannot pick up people flagging down a cab (as cab companies have accused Lyfters of doing). If you see them, suggest they download the app, and use it to hire a driver. We had to watch out for “Lyft jackings,” when people who didn’t request a Lyft try to get into the car anyway. And you absolutely cannot accept cash under any circumstances. Always get paid through the app.

An important thing for any Lyfter to remember: You aren’t actually earning money; you are getting “Lyft Loot” in the form of voluntary donations. “It is less of a financial transaction and more of a social interaction,” we are told. Since it’s “awkward” to pay a friend, the passenger pays you with the app, after they get out of your car.

During training, we filled out W-9s and were told that if we made over $20,000 and had more than 200 Lyfts annually, we would would be sent a 1099K form, a relatively new tax form for e-commerce merchants. Otherwise we didn’t need to pay taxes. If you do file taxes, though, you can write off any expenses, like gas, car maintenance, your phone, or flair.

 

 

We were given strategies on how to maximize our “Lyft Loot,” i.e., make more money, by driving during peak hours and waiting in optimal locations. We were shown a map of the city with Outer and Inner Richmond areas labeled as “No” and downtown, SOMA and the Marina as “Yes.” In other words, follow the tech money. In the mornings, being closer to the edges of town works as well, since people take Lyft to work.

Hunters Point and the Bayview, low-income minority communities, didn’t even make it onto the map. Since the app connects drivers with rides nearest them, Lyft is essentially not available for people in those communities. Granted, it’s infamously difficult to get a taxi from any company to come to inner city neighborhoods. But for better or for worse, other companies aren’t as explicit about it.

The potential for problematic discrimination is high. Not that this doesn’t happen anyway — simply ask Nikki Pearle or just about any African-Americanliving in a major city.

Not just anyone can use Lyft. You can’t hail one on the street. To book one, you need a smartphone, good reception, and a Facebook account. Building a platform using Facebook is supposed to create a greater sense of trust between people — as long as they are the type of people who are on Facebook.

Drivers can turn down anyone they like. When someone requests a ride, you see their name, photo, and location, as well as the star rating, which is determined by other Lyft drivers, and decide whether or not you want to pick them up. Even once you arrive, you can turn them down on the spot. Examples given included the caller having a dog, having a child but no car seat, or being an ex-boyfriend.

Drivers can set the app to get calls only from riders who pay above a certain percentage. Cheapskates can be weeded out. If their star rating is low, they won’t get kicked out; they just won’t get rides.

“They aren’t great people to keep in the community,” one Lyfter explained to me. Low star ratings can be given out for arbitrary reasons. There are some Lyfter complaints on Facebook that riders won’t sit shotgun, preferring to be “Miss Daisies” and treating them like cabbies. “I actually started giving four stars to people who didn’t do anything really wrong, except they were far less interesting or not as nice as a lot of my five star people,” posted a driver on the Lyft driver Facebook page. “Some people just sit there in silence with that ‘you’re nothing but a cabbie’ attitude.”

“Most oft heard comment from my Lyft Passengers: ‘Don’t Judge Me,’” posted another. “Is it that obvious?”

Most Lyft drivers I spoke with said they drive almost exclusively young tech people. Which in part makes sense: Lyft is a start-up, and these are early-adopter types. Many of the big tech companies reimburse employees for transportation. Some drivers I met even use Lyft as a networking opportunity to hand out business cards or tell people about their start-ups.

“You have to be in the know,” points out Kelley, who has used his Lyft job to make friends and professionally network. “The majority are [in the] young, successful, twenties and thirties tech start-up kind of crowd. It comes down to [the] community striving to do something more than just get a ride. I haven’t felt a community like this in years.”

If Lyft is building a community, however, it’s doing so within the larger tech community, in a city increasingly divided into two populations: Those who are part of its biggest industry and those who aren’t.

 

 

Before we started driving, we were urged to sign onto the Lyft’s Drivers’ Facebook page. The “Lyft Lounge” is a mix of Lyft fandom and confusion. Among the photos of pink-mustache cookies which drivers have baked for their customers, fun times at driver hangouts, raves about how great Lyft itself and the customers are, there were questions about payments, taxes, and insurance.

Mostly drivers just share advice: how to stop people trying to cram extra passengers in, tips on the best public restrooms, where to get the most riders. There were lots of questions about the app and poor connection areas.

There is a strict, nearly enforced vibe in the group. One driver who tried out Lyft as a passenger complained that her driver went the wrong way down a one-way street because of faulty GPS directions. Users ganged up on her for criticizing one of their own. (“I’m sort of disappointed, I thought we are here to help each other out as Lyft drivers and not criticize each other,” wrote one.) Instead of calling for driver training, many sympathized about how hard driving is in the city. Some even admitted to making the same mistake.

When a driver posed a question about taxes, Lyft directed the poster to a fellow driver who is also a tax accountant. “Calling a voluntary payment for service received a ‘donation’ does not affect whether it’s taxable unless the receiver is a tax-exempt organization,” she posted. “So all of your Lyft income is taxable since you are not a tax-exempt organization. Hope this helps guys. This is considered self employment income, not a hobby. You can further discuss with your tax advisor for more details.” To help out with taxes, in March, Lyft sends each driver their total number of Lyfts, amount of “donations” they’ve received over the past year, and, if they have earned more than $20,000 in donations, a 1099K form.

Others raised questions about insurance, which is important to people taking rides from Lyft, not just the drivers. Lyft requires drivers have “valid personal auto-insurance that meets or exceeds state requirements.” But if you are using your car for commercial purposes, you need commercial insurance, which is expensive. “In situations where a vehicle is insured as a private vehicle and is used to transport passengers for a fee, no insurance coverage would exist,” wrote the Personal Insurance Federation of California, which represents six of the nation’s largest insurance companies, to the CPUC. “Tracking if accidents have occurred involving such vehicles is difficult, as the insurer will not always have the knowledge that the passenger paid for transport.”

Lyft has a “first-of-its-kind” $1 million liability insurance, which, according to its website, covers liability but not collisions or wear and tear to the car. Lyft drivers have reported difficulty in getting the company to answer their questions about the proprietary insurance policy or show them a copy. Lyft confirms that it is careful with who sees the plan because this is its competitive edge over other rideshare companies, but says that it would let any rider look at a copy at the office if they want. So I asked them to show it to me.

With the name of the company Lyft works with blacked out (although they forgot to black out the name of the risk management company by the signature), they showed me the secret document. Lyft has created a new category of drivers, called “Symbol 10,” specifically for its insurance policy. They wouldn’t offer more explanation of what that entails, other than it covers Lyft drivers. The CPUC confirms that it reviewed the insurance policy and approved it.

By contrast, SideCar offers $1 million in “assurance,” not insurance. “We understand additional assurance provides an added layer of peace of mind for everyone. We want you to know that SideCar has your back,” says SideCar’s website. Its “guarantee,” the company explains, is not insurance, and does not cover “certain excluded losses.” Its website directs readers to ask SideCar directly for more information. When I asked, as a journalist, SideCar would not offer any further information.

There is a potential loophole in Lyft’s terms of service. It states, “Lyft has no responsibility or liability for any transportation services voluntarily provided to any rider by any driver using the Lyft Platform.” Furthermore, the Lyft driver is “solely responsible for any and all liability” while Lyfting, “including, but not limited to personal injuries, death and property damages.”

When, as a reporter, I asked Zimmer about this later, he explained, “It is standard for any web platform like this to have that type of terms and conditions. We have done the industry standard.”

 

 

When the time arrived for me to hit the road, I was oddly anxious — not about letting strangers in my car or getting in an accident, but about whether the app was going to work, and if the mustache was going to fall off and I’d be docked $30. I kept fiddling with both.

I got in the driver’s seat, turned on the app. And then: nothing. I sat there and waited, went upstairs to grab a book, and then decided I may as well head out. If nothing else, I could see if people would react to the mustache.

Ding! After 15 minutes of waiting, the app chimed, and I accepted my first ride request. I drove a few blocks away and picked up an immensely tall young man at his Mission house, who was headed to the Creamery, a hip coffee shop tech hangout in SOMA. I turned on the app, and it couldn’t get reception. I was worried that it wasn’t going to calculate the job properly. It wasn’t giving me any directions. I knew the way, though, so I just started driving. I made some small talk. He told me about his work as an engineer at a gaming company and shared some tech gossip. I dropped him off, we bumped fists, and I hoped, despite the technological breakdowns, I would get a good rating.

Drivers are evaluated based on three factors: reliability (i.e., how often they flake), acceptance rates (how many Lyfts they accept), and star ratings (how much riders like them). The first two affect whether you get first dibs on popular shifts. The last one determines whether you get to keep using Lyft. You are evaluated solely upon a Yelp-style star rating from your customers. Go below a 4.5 and you may be asked to leave. It is a highly unorthodox — and nerve-racking — approach to performance review.

Soon, I made my first mistake: While getting out to adjust the mustache, I missed an alert. You have 30-second window to accept a ride, and I failed. Good-bye, “reliability” points.

Anytime you can’t respond to the app or need a break, even just for a moment, you are supposed to turn your app off of driver mode. You are allowed to take 15% of your time on a shift as breaks — which follows California’s legal labor requirements — before it starts to affect your reliability rating.

I had three other rides that night over a two-hour period. A French software engineer who was buying kitchen stuff downtown and needed a lift to his place in the Fillmore, the young woman working in finance going to a house party in the Mission, and an exhausted waitress ending her shift at a Mission restaurant on her way to yoga class and a rest before heading out for her second job. All were friendly, but there was a slightly awkward feeling, especially when they pulled out their phones to text or make calls. More like a disinterested blind date than a bestie. Everyone seemed a little hesitant about the fist bump, and I considered abandoning it.

 

 

Toward the end of my shift, I was about to sign out when I figured I may as well accept one last request for my drive home across the city. But then I remembered that there was no way for me to tell if someone was going in my direction or, say, to the airport.

To refer to hosting a Lyft ride as carpooling is most assuredly wrong, according to any known definition of the word. You can’t see where the person requesting the ride is headed. Technically you could call all the ride requests, hoping one of them is going in your direction, but it was highly unlikely that would work.

I later confronted Zimmer about this. “Ridesharing is where we are heading. Right now we are at page one of a 100-page book,” he says. “You have to build up a base service that is reliable, be careful about the math of the supply and demand, and get people used to riding with each other, and then add incidental trips. Without that peer-to-peer base, real-time ridesharing has no chance.”

Lyft’s parent company, ZimRide, started as a long-distance carpooling company coordinating rides for college kids leaving campus. ZimRide still arranges rideshares between cities like Los Angeles and San Francisco, but that isn’t what is happening around town.

When I asked Zimmer why call themselves a ridesharing company if that isn’t what they are doing, he said, “I’m not sure how much that word matters. [Lyft] is more encompassing. There is not a category that fits well for this.” None of this was discussed during training.

I never saw how much any of my rides paid, individually. The app provides the rider a suggested donation, but they are free to pay anything they want. If they forget to pay, or don’t know to enter zero to opt for no donation, the app automatically pays the suggested amount. Lyft emailed me my “estimated earnings” report, predicting I would get $38 for the two hours. The estimated earnings, though, can be significantly lower than the “actual” earnings deposited into Lyfters’ bank accounts. But I earned $40. Not bad.

Taxi drivers who don’t own medallions have to pay their companies to rent a car, ranging from $75 to $140 depending on the day and time. The first half of their shift is often devoted to paying the fee. When it is slow, they can come away with no money at all, or less than minimum wage. Many also tip the dispatchers, cashiers, mechanics, and gasmen at the companies. There are currently 1,450 drivers on the list for a medallion in San Francisco. The typical wait to reach the top is about 15 years or more.

Lyft, it turns out, is a good way to make money on a flexible schedule — as long as you don’t need health benefits or things like job security or workers’ comp. Many Lyfters I spoke with are temporarily Lyfting while looking for work; others are committed full-timers. I have met Lyfters who are stay-at-home parents, college students, as well as freelancers, artists, and musicians.

“Professionally it has helped my networking take off. But I have turned down a ton of jobs in order to Lyft,” says Kelley, who moved to San Francisco from Oklahoma without a job. “It pays well, is a ton of fun and a fantastic way to discover the city. My face hurts end of day from laughing and smiling. What kind of job do you get that?”

“I am guessing no driver is being altruistic by Lyfting,” wrote another driver on Facebook. “Not to say it isn’t a great activity, and a community-building activity, and an awesome gig, because of course it is…But altruism means a completely selfless act… if that were true we wouldn’t need/want any donations for driving folks around.”

SideCar ‘taxi’ is off-duty

 

SideCar has gotten stung by a sting.

Undercover city taxi regulators over the weekend conducted a sting operation on Gotham’s first app-centric ride-sharing service to see if they were collecting fares without a license to do so.

Ad investigators for the Taxi and Limousine Commission caught two private drivers in their own cars taking fares. The TLC issued summonses and impounded the cars.

“If you are acting as a taxi or car service without benefit of a license, we will shut you down,” a TLC spokesman told The Post.

SideCar launched its mobile app last month, a personal car-pooling service that, according to CEO Sunil Paul, is seen as giving a lift to users going in the same direction.

David Yassky

Laura Cavanaugh
David Yassky

The TLC, headed by David Yassky, has said it supports the concept of ride-sharing, but it doesn’t want drivers on SideCar operating like unlicensed taxis.

Paul wrote about the sting — which he characterized as heavy-handed yesterday at a TechCrunch conference in the city — on SideCar’s blog, asking users to petition the TLC to allow the service to continue.

In a blogpost to garner support for the service, he said, “Unfortunately, New York regulators view rideshare as competition to taxis and want to shut SideCar down.”

Rogue Transportation Apps Pose Grave Safety Threat

 

Apps that allow people to hail taxicabs and limousines are spreading rapidly across the United States. Some of these are wonderful innovations, allowing a passenger to hail a taxi with the push of a button. Others, called “rogue apps,” can amount to little more than 21st century hitchhiking, and can be every bit as dangerous.

The first major rogue app to appear was Uber. It showed up in cities and didn’t ask anyone for permission to start operating on-demand vehicle service. When regulatory officials caught up to them to try to make them play by the same rules as taxicab and limousine companies, Uber unleashed its followers and PR machine in an attempt to browbeat authorities under the guise of supporting innovation. In some cases it has worked, while in other instances Uber has complied with local for-hire vehicle regulations or is in litigation.

Now comes an even greater threat to public safety, the so-called peer-to-peer ride sharing apps. These allow almost anyone with a vehicle who can pass an undefined background check to suddenly play taxi driver on a Saturday night to pick up extra cash. These include apps such as SideCar and Lyft, both of which purportedly claim that no one can regulate them because passengers pay suggested “donations” rather than a required fare.

The vast majority of licensed taxi drivers in the US, for example, have to undergo stringent criminal background checks through a government regulatory agency. If these drivers for Lyft or SideCar are not governed by a regulatory agency, how can these companies assure us that their drivers have clean criminal records? A Google search — or will they simply sign a piece of paper self-certifying their own clean record? These companies are fond of saying they run background checks, yet are vague as to how they do that.

Such apps open wide the door for sex offenders, felons or just plain bad drivers to get behind the wheel and drive unwitting passengers around town. At South by Southwest Interactive in Austin, Texas, this year, The New Yorker magazine reported that drivers for Uber recruited for the conference were given as little as five minutes of instruction before they hit the street and started picking up passengers.

Speaking of passengers, as someone who has been involved in the taxicab industry for decades, I can say that drivers meet all kinds of people. Many are nice, quiet passengers. Others can be violent, angry, drunk, belligerant, cheap, haughty, or any combination thereof. The dangers that can ensue when a relatively untrained driver meets up with a difficult passenger are easily imaginable. In Washington, DC, a passenger has launched a $750,000 lawsuit involving an Uber driver who allegedly slapped him, spit in his face and told him he “hates Americans and homosexuals.”

Don’t worry, say the rogue apps. They tell us that their services will, over time, weed out the bad apples by rating passengers. This practice opens up the enormous possibility of discrimination. Secret ratings of passengers fosters and institutionalizes unlawful denial of service based on a passenger’s race, age, sex, neighborhood, use of a service animal, or use of a wheelchair. Passengers could be effectively banned from future service because they are a minority, or because the driver didn’t want a service dog in his vehicle, or because he felt the payment or “donation” wasn’t big enough.

Regulations provide assurances that all passengers must be treated equally. Limited regulation is crucial to the survival of accountable, non-discriminatory service. Regulation sets the number of taxicabs on the streets. Without it, the streets would be flooded with taxis. Are you a student who needs an extra 50 bucks tonight? All you have to do is sign up as an app driver, drive your car around and poach customers from the taxicab driver working the same streets. The city isn’t counting you as a licensed driver bcause you aren’t regulated.

Now imagine 250 students, or 1,000 students, all trying to do the same thing on Saturday night in the same city and you get the picture of what deregulation looks like: utter chaos where quality of service plummets and every ride turns into a negotiation. Equally critical, these students presumeably have regular car insurance, but regular insurance does not cover commercial transportation service. So the students and the passengers would both put themselves at great risk.

To put part of this issue in context, consider that in the 1970s and 1980s deregulation, including in the taxicab industry, swept across America. Cities found it was the wrong direction (higher fares, increased trip refusals, significant overcharging of passengers, other illegal activities, aggressive solicitation, vehicles operating without insurance, deterioration of vehicles, dramatic consumer complaints) and have since re-regulated taxicabs.

The taxicab industry believes in limited regulation that provides for the safety of the public, including commercial taxicab insurance; that sets fares to avoid price gouging; and that serves all areas of a community at all times in a nondiscriminatory manner.

Rogue apps, meanwhile, refuse to characterize themselves as taxicab dispatching services and insist they do not need to comply with local laws governing all other taxicab dispatching services.

What about serving the elderly, low-income or disabled? The elderly may not have a smartphone with which to use an app in the first place. Low-income residents may not have a credit card, a requirement of most apps. Passengers with disabilities—especially those who use a wheelchair—might as well not bother hailing Uber, SideCar or Lyft for an accesisble vehicle with a ramp, because those services claim they don’t have to comply with regulations so they don’t have to offer those types of vehicles in their fleets.

I want to be clear: no one is saying the public shouldn’t have access to transportation apps. The public wants apps, and our industry wants apps that connect them with more customers. However, for a reasonable debate over how apps are used to move forward, the public and regulators need to fully understand the dangers being opened up by drivers with little to no training or background checks, operating vehicles that are not subject to the same safety and insurance standards as regulated taxicabs.

If rogue apps are allowed to continue, it’s an inevitability that passengers will be harmed at the hands of unprofessional drivers—leading us too late to realize we should have done more to enforce taxicab regulations that protect public safety, guard against discrimination and ensure community-wide service.

Alfred LaGasse is the CEO of the Taxicab, Limousine & Paratransit Association.

The Use of “Rogue” Apps for Ordering Taxi Services at Airports

 

At first blush, the issue of rogue phone apps to arrange local taxi services may seem to be an issue impacting only local taxi regulatory authorities. However the primary market being targeted by such technologies is that of the airport taxi and limousine market. As such, it behooves the members of the Airport Ground Transportation Association to become involved and to understand the issues surrounding these apps in order to determine what issues or actions(s) if any might be appropriate.

Rogue taxi apps are simply defined as web-based and/or cell phone based sites that electronically connect the user seeking a taxi ride to the closest taxi driver that has signed up to be on their network. Using this operational methodology, these rogue apps information providers are able to avoid compliance with local regulations as they dispatch cabs or limousines. In essence, they are operating as taxi and limousine dispatch companies without bothering to obtain a license or comply with any requirements of the local ground transportation agency.

The primary firm involved in this activity at this time is UBER. In current litigation, this firm is challenging traditional city taxi and limousine regulatory authorities, arguing as a defendant that they not dispatch companies, and therefore do not fall under local regulations. Their primary argument is that they are using new technology to assist taxi drivers to secure more business. Under their contention, they are similar to other travel internet firms such as Expedia or Travelocity, and are merely providing information to the potential customer and accepting payment as service to their customers.

These types of transportation apps have the potential to become extremely popular and cities, and to a more limited extent airports, need to be prepared to respond appropriately to this new technology and its implications for the public. Instead of electronically connecting the user with a taxi or limousine (sedan) dispatch system which uses its automatic GPS based system to offer the trip to the closest or next in the zone for pickup, these rogue apps connect directly to the taxi or sedan driver.

Basically, local regulators need to determine whether the public’s interest is being served by these rogue apps. For airports, however, there are at least two serious questions to address. One is the need to determine how this rogue app is different from an individual taxi driver giving his contact information to a user or using his own web site on the internet to ask users to call him directly. The other, is the rogue app provider conducting a business from the airport when a customer is in the airport and requests a taxi or sedan ride?

Local taxi and sedan regulators, as well as operators, have vocally protested these rogue apps as not being in the public’s interest, arguing that they will cherry-pick the best fares (i.e. airport trips), leaving local operators with the obligation to serve the transportation dependent users –– often poorer inner city residents. Secondly, these local groups further contend that these apps are not the same as Expedia/Travelocity-type internet sites, but rather, taxi or sedan dispatch companies and should follow the same local regulations as the local companies.

It is the position of AGTA (the Airport Ground Transportation Association) that airports and their ground transportation operators should support the position of local regulators — that these rogue apps companies are dispatch companies. Furthermore, when such apps are utilized to arrange trips from the airport, they are essentially conducting a business from the airport and therefore, should be required to apply for an airport business license to do so –– taking full legal responsibility for airport trips.

SideCar, a new ride-sharing service, arrives in D.C.

 

Looking for some company — and maybe a little cash — the next time you drive? A new ride-sharing service wants to help.

SideCar, an app-based service that is basically a 21st-century version of carpooling, arrived in the District on Friday.

The premise is simple: Travelers can use the app to hitch rides with nearby drivers, while drivers who sign up can get paid for giving these rides. There’s no set fee, so passengers can pay the drivers any amount. (The app does come with a suggested donation, but riders can pay more or less if they want.)

Of course, the idea of getting into an unfamiliar person’s car raises some obvious questions. But the company says it takes safety seriously.

“Every time you get into a taxicab you get into a stranger’s car,” said Nick Allen, the company’s co-founder. “And we go through a lot of measures to make sure it’s safe.”

Allen said that all drivers are given a “full background check,” which includes looking for any criminal history. SideCar also verifies that drivers have license, insurance and registration. Drivers are also given additional training, and all rides are tracked by GPS.

Riders also have the option to pick specific drivers or, if they want, to block some drivers from seeing that they need a lift.

SideCar began offering rides in San Francisco, where the company is based, and in Seattle in 2012. It began service in Austin, Los Angeles and Philadelphia last month, and expanded into New York, Boston and Chicago last week. D.C. represents the last bit of expansion for now, Allen said.

The rollout hasn’t been without any headaches for the company, which raised $10 million in financing from Google Ventures and Lightspeed Venture Partners last November. SideCar sued Austin recently, following a cease-and-desist letter from the city accusing the company of running an unlicensed taxi service, according to the Austin American-Statesman.

After SideCar arrived in Philadelphia, the city responded by impounding and fining vehicles. Last year, a California commission fined SideCar and similar services for lacking the proper permits.

The notion of an app-based car service encountering problems with local officials obviously sounds familiar in the District. Uber, the car-dispatch app, had repeated problems with local officials before gaining legislative acceptance in December.

Allen said that Uber and SideCar aren’t really comparable, because Uber is a car service that charges a fare. But he said these early hiccups are just a matter of regulators trying to figure out how to properly oversee these services, which don’t always fit into preexisting categories.

“They think we’re a taxi or a limousine, and we’re actually very different,” Allen said. He said it’s more like an app-based slug line.

For the first few weeks, SideCar will only be available on Fridays and Saturdays between 5 p.m. and 3 a.m. the following morning. After that, it should become available every hour of every day of the week — as long as drivers are available.

“It’s just another option in transportation,” Allen said. “There’s buses and there’s trains and taxis and personal automobiles, and we are another option.”

The app is available on Android and Apple. You can follow SideCar in D.C. on Twitter at @SideCarDC.

What do you think of SideCar? Does it sound like something you might use, or are there potential issues that may keep you away? Let us know in the comments below

Drivers: Uber Is Skimming Our Tips

 

Hailing a taxi in San Francisco used to be about as easy as panning for gold, but that was before the advent of Uber, the San-Francisco-based tech company that’s shaking up the taxi and town-car businesses in major cities. Tapping a button on my iPhone’s Uber app last Thursday produced a Yellow Cab at my downtown office in less than two minutes. “It is the best thing, my friend!” my beaming driver, Solomon Alemayhu, said of the GPS-based cab-hailing service. He likes the convenience factor so much, in fact, that he’s willing to overlook allegations that Uber is improperly skimming from its drivers’ tips.

According to the company website, Uber’s smartphone-based payment system automatically adds to the rider’s tab a $1 booking fee plus a 20 percent gratuity “for the driver.” But as Alemaythu and I drove through Chinatown, he told me that half of that gratuity actually goes to Uber. If that’s true—and Uber insists that it is not—then the company would be misleading consumers and breaking the law in some cities.

In Boston, for instance, Uber faces a class-action lawsuit over the tip-skimming allegation. Filed in late December on behalf of taxi driver David Lavitman, it accuses Uber of violating a state law stipulating that “no employer or other person” may take any portion of a worker’s gratuity. The lawsuit refers to a company document that explains how Uber and the driver divide the earnings: “We will automatically deposit the metered fare + 10% tip to your bank account each week,” it says. It cites the following example of how Uber would handle a $10 fare:

Uber Boston general manager Mike Pao says the document was just a promotional handout and doesn’t reflect Uber’s actual partnership agreement with drivers. “Since we launched here in Boston, the agreement with taxi driver partners has been that 10 percent of the metered fare goes to Uber as a marketing fee,” he insists. “Uber does not touch the tip.”

When I asked Pao for a copy of Uber’s partnership agreement, he referred me to an Uber “terms and conditions” page that lacks specific details about how Uber and drivers share profits. I repeated my request to Uber’s national PR guy, Kenneth Baer, but only received another statement from Pao: “Uber takes 10% of the metered fare as commission, plus the rider’s $1 booking fee, and all drivers are told this during the on-boarding process.”

The next day, Uber’s explanation of its tips policy seemed to have changed again [see below for comment from Uber]. “We don’t take our cut from the fare or the tip,” Uber’s head of policy, Corey Owens, told me when I ran into him outside Uber’s headquarters. “What happens is that the driver pays Uber a commission based on the services rendered.” He added that the commission amount varies widely depending on city and partner company and refused to cite any specific numbers.

Uber is just “backtracking off of what was very clearly the arrangement between it and the drivers from the beginning,” contends Lavitman’s attorney, Hillary Schwab.

To some drivers, the wording of the deal may not matter so much—the company’s “commission” would be the same whether it’s half of a 20 percent gratuity or a 10 percent surcharge on the fare. The distinction may matter more to passengers, however. In October, Uber rider Caren Ehret filed a class-action lawsuit in Chicago arguing that its practice of snapping up a portion of the “gratuity” charge had defrauded her and other passengers by making the “metered fare” appear misleadingly low. “She has a right for her gratuity to be remitted to the driver,” contends Ehret’s attorney, Hall Adams III.

These skirmishes highlight the types of challenges faced by startups aiming to buck an established industry with smartphone-based transportation apps. The San Francisco ride-sharing services Lyft and SideCar rely on drivers who lack taxi medallions; they bypass the regulated market by asking riders for “voluntary donations” in lieu of fares. Uber also features town-car services called Uber Black and Uberx (a lower-cost version that utilizes hybrids)—and it’s planning to enter the ride-sharing market too. All of these services appeal to consumers because they’re cheap, convenient, and allow people to rate their drivers, adding a layer of accountability to an industry with notoriously bad customer service.

Yet Uber’s honeymoon with its hometown may be coming to an end. With increasing competition, it recently cut its town car fares in San Francisco by 10 percent. Late last year, the California Public Utilities Commission threatened Uber with $20,000 fine for allegedly ignoring insurance regulations, then began drafting a new set of ride sharing rules that could give Uber the squeeze.

This past November, two long-time San Francisco cabbies filed a class-action lawsuit against Uber claiming that it breaks the law by dispatching limos and town cars that are not licensed as taxis. “Simply stated, Uber’s ‘partner’ drivers, who are operating without restriction, are taking passengers, and thus income, away from legally sanctioned taxicab drivers who are literally playing by the rules,” the suit says.

“My biggest beef with these guys is that this app is allowing them to break the law, and the Pubic Utilities Commission is allowing them to get away with it, because they have $50-million venture capitalists as backers,” says Barry Korengold, the president of the San Francisco Cab Drivers Association. “The cab drivers don’t have that kind of money to hire lawyers to fight this.”

Uber’s defenders write off the complaints as sour grapes from a monopolistic industry that loathes competition and accountability. But the grumbling is growing among Uber’s own partners; in recent weeks, dozens of Uber Black drivers have picketed the company’s San Francisco headquarters over what they consider unfair labor practices. A banner held up last Friday read, “Stop stealing our tips!”

Alemayhu, my taxi driver last Thursday, was trying to keep a positive attitude about the taxi-tech revolution. He said he hoped Yellow Cab’s own taxi-hailing app could eventually defeat Uber at its own game. “They can beat them on price, easy!” he said, snapping his fingers. “They just have to change their system.”

UPDATE: Uber representative Kenneth Baer says that Owens was only referring to Uber Black drivers, who, unlike Uber’s taxi driver partners, do not receive any tips through Uber’s payment system.

Josh Harkinson

Nissan Unveils Taxi of Tomorrow

  • By Auto123.com
  • Tuesday, April 03, 2012

 

Nissan debuts its 2014 Nissan NV200 Taxi — Manhattan’s Taxi of Tomorrow — to the press this week at the New York Auto Show, which opens to the public April 6.

After a two-year competitive bid process, the New York City Taxi and Limousine Commission selected the NV200 as the exclusive taxi of New York City starting late in 2013. Nissan and the taxi commission, along with the Cooper-Hewitt National Design Museum, the Design Trust for Public Space and Smart Design, collaborated on the vehicle.
Standard interior features include room for four passengers and their luggage, sliding doors with entry step and grab handles, transparent roof panel offering nifty city views, side windows that open, independently controlled rear air conditioning, Active Carbon Lined headliner to help minimize that taxi funk, overhead reading lights and floor lights, mobile charging station including 12-volt electrical outlet and two USB ports and a flat, no-hump passenger floor area. Stimulated leather upholstery is breathable, antimicrobial, durable, environmentally friendly and easy to clean.New York City mayor Michael Bloomberg called it the “safest, most comfortable and most convenient taxi the city has ever had.” With 600,000 New Yorkers jumping into cabs each day, it had better be.

The cab is powered by a 2.0L 4-cylinder engine and pre-wired for a taxi T-PEP system (for Taxicab Passenger Enhancements Project, which includes debit card/credit card function in the rear of the cab, passenger information monitor , and trip sheet automation.

It also features a low-annoyance horn complete with exterior lights that come on when the horn is being used.

The Taxi of Tomorrow will cost $29,700 US. There are currently 13,000 taxis on New York roads, together logging 800 million kilometres a year.

Page 1 of 212