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Posts Tagged 'sidecar'

Kids And Uber/Lyft

Hi everyone. Remember me? I know it’s been a while and I’ve been busy since my tech job ended which is a whole different story that I don’t plan to get into here, but I’m back and I’ve found a few things I feel I should talk about.

As you might remember I have been driving for various ridesharing companies and I recently came across something that’s a bit disturbing that no one seems to be talking about and that’s regarding kids, specifically minors, people under the age of 18 who use Uber unaccompanied by an adult.

It’s happening more and more frequently lately where parents will either:

  1. Call an Uber/Lyft to get their kids home from school.
  2. Load the app and set up their accounts on their kids phone
  3. Set up their kids with an account

These are all very terrible ideas and let me tell you why. It’s illegal. Yes, that’s right. In the San Francisco Bay Area in the rules that rideshare companies agreed to with the CPUC they are not to give rides to unaccompanied minors. 

Why aren’t any of these companies doing anything about it? My guess is because they’re making money so they don’t check the accounts of people who are willing to give them money. They don’t point this out to the drivers and definitely don’t tell the customers this because it would hurt their already failing bottom line.

OK, so it’s illegal, but it’s more convenient and will help teach my kid to take care of themselves so where’s the harm? The harm is in the terms of service agreement. That thing that nobody ever reads, but everyone is accountable for. Because it mentions that rides to unaccompanied minors are not allowed per their agreement with the CPUC if you send your kid to or from school in a rideshare vehicle and said car is involved in a crash these companies will tell you, I’m sorry, but you’ve committed a violation of our terms of service agreement so we are not liable. 

I can’t really blame the companies for having this in place as unfortunately in today’s society with all the child kidnappings that pop up it’s probably good for them to err on the side of caution in case one of the background checks on a driver misses something, but it also helps save their butt once again in case of an accident, but it won’t help protect your child.

I usually start my afternoon run between 4-5pm and I live a few blocks from a local Catholic school that is almost always my first request. What started me looking into this was a ride I gave to a couple of kids who had me drive them from San Francisco to Corte Madera to drop off one kid then drive back to the city and drop the other kid off in Tiburon. It was a bit of a long trip so I was talking to the kids on the way. They were both 16 and the Dad of the kid who ordered the ride set him up with an account so Dad didn’t have to take him to and from school. Oddly enough just as I dropped the kid who’s account it was off in Tiburon [the Corte Madera kid was just a friend of his he was doing a favor for] he said to me:

You were a really cool driver. I doubt you’re going to get anyone back from here so why don’t you just leave the ride open and close it when you get back to the city.

Uhm, why thank you sir. That is very generous of you my kind sir.

Turns out the entire trip ran about $60. I’m wondering if his Dad was very happy about that, but considering he lived in Tiburon on the hill in a house that looked more like something out of Beverly Hills I’m guessing Dad wasn’t hurting for money. Something seems so wrong with this whole thing of a kid being able to blow that kind of money just to get home from school that I had to look into it.

So please. If you’re a parent, don’t give your kids your rideshare account or set one up for them. While I’ve never been in an accident in all the time I’ve been driving for a rideshare company that doesn’t mean that it’s not going to happen and many of the drivers out there don’t have specific rideshare car insurance so their insurance won’t cover any damages either if an accident happens.

There were a couple of rideshare services aimed specifically at kids, but unfortunately those companies ran out of steam and have closed up shop. 

Last time, please, keep your kids safe and find another way to get them where their going regardless of where it is. At least Muni insurance will cover your kids.

Why Self Driving Cars Won’t Work For Ridesharing

Driverless CarsSan Francisco is where ridesharing started. Uber, Lyft and the defunct Sidecar as well as smaller players have all started here in the City and they all seem to think they can get rid of drivers now.

This is one of the strangest ideas I have heard in a long time and these companies need to look at Muni in San Francisco to understand what will happen if you remove drivers from cars. Our Muni and BART trains have tried to be autonomous in the tunnels and that didn’t work very well now did it. Many of you may not know this, but there was a time when Muni tried [for a very short time] to have the drivers step out of the compartment when trains entered West Portal Station and let the trains, on tracks, be controlled by a computer. That didn’t work and now a driver has to sit there and make sure the computer is working right and doesn’t crash when the train begins to pass 60 mpg in the tunnel.

I know what some of you are saying, but Google/Uber/some other tech company wasn’t controlling them. OK, fine, but even with a driver riding along on a Muni or BART train have you seen what happens on one of those trains? How would a driverless car picking people up and taking them to their destination on city streets be any different?

There is already the reported problem of lots of these cars getting into accidents. Most of the time it isn’t the fault of the car’s computer, but the humans that are driving around them.  You can write that off if you want, but I don’t think everyone is going to jump onboard from day one when a driverless car becomes available.

Then there are the other problems that people don’t think about. I’m one of those guys that do and here’s something to think about. A driverless car is like the set of Home Alone. People won’t have an overseer to keep them in check. I’ve given rides to young people who even with me behind the wheel have gotten into a fight in the back of my car. I stopped and threw them out, but think about what the first thing that dominates a new technology is…PORN.

VHS, DVDS, the Internet all become intrenched because of the porn industry. I would not be surprised if some of the first people who grab a driverless car will shoot a porn film in it that will be on the internet within a couple of days. The second or third will be someone who pukes and after that will probably be some kid who thinks it would be cool to take a dump in a driverless car.

Imagine if you will for a moment the amount of human body fluids that will be flooding, soaking into and dripping from the insides of a driverless car. No one has talked about safety features in these cars because that of course would be an invasion of someone personal privacy.

Will these cars be equipped with cameras that can see all over the car? Will these cars be equipped with fluid sensors to notify home base if someone barfs or pees in the car? NOTE: I have heard from lots of drivers who have had riders not just puke, but also pee in their cars. This usually happens after midnight and the person is pretty drunk and well, it seems like a good idea at the time… Maybe the companies that are on the bandwagon will make these cars self cleaning so that after a person or porn film crew leaves the car it will sanitize and sterilize the interior for the next rider’s safety.

Then there is the drunken factor that I barely touched on. People like the current ridesharing services because they don’t have to drive home drunk, but their faculties are not at their best. I’ve been asked to pull over so someone could jump out and vomit. I’ve also had a large number of people who put in the wrong address or wanted to go to Safeway, but Google’s Maps which every system uses for some reason chose not the Safeway that was closest to them, but one in the East Bay or North Bay [seriously, try it]. How will the computer controlling the vehicle know whether the customer is right? Will the car electrically zap the riders who have passed out after drinking too much to rouse them to get out because the car has hopefully arrived at the correct location?

In the end the public has been sold a science fiction novel that has been poorly written. This isn’t the taxis of Blade Runner or even Total Recall for that matter. Driverless cars for the masses are a long way off and the idea of driverless transport vehicles are an even longer way off.

A Requiem For Sidecar

Sidecar R.I.P.Today when people talk about ridesharing they don’t even use that word. They say, Uber or Lyft. Those are the big two everyone knows about, but there was a third company. This company started ridesharing where people who had a car could give other people a ride and make money in the process. That company was Sidecar.

Unfortunately, like many technology based companies, Sidecar will be ending its run tomorrow, December 31st, 2015. This saddens me in many ways because it was the first company I drove for and the people there really used to reach out to the drivers. Some of us, like myself were made Captains because of our interest in the company. We were able to give feedback, help train new drivers and host meet ups to answer questions other drivers had. This was something that Uber and Lyft didn’t do. There was very little wall between the drivers and the people who worked at Sidecar. Chances were if you drove for Sidecar you had met someone who worked there.

Sidecar was an innovative company in that it let the riders choose the drivers which for someone like me was great. I was a favorite among many of the riders and for a long time I rarely had much downtime. Then the fare wars started and Uber and Lyft started to drop prices to ridiculous levels. It used to be that if Uber fares were above 1.4x in surge it was cheaper to take a cab. Now if the fare exceeds 2.0x in surge it’s cheaper to take a cab.

The riders started to flock to Uber and Lyft and Sidecar unfortunately didn’t have the market penetration or money to advertise like the others and the riders fell off. They then moved over to incorporating deliveries which was great for drivers for a while, but then other delivery companies came in and the fare wars began again.

Ultimately, drivers needed to make a realistic amount of money to make it worth it to drive for any company and the drivers started to go where the money was. Drivers for Sidecar could set their own prices which in the end caused Sidecar to be more pricey than Uber or Lyft. This left Sidecar with only a handful of die-hard users that remained. I had made many friends and a few even had my phone number and would text me when they needed a ride, but because they were more expensive, even though the riders had more options, price beat out the service provided.

Now that will be gone and I’m sad because I probably won’t see a lot of those people anymore. I won’t have the fun chats or know ahead of time that the person I’m picking up won’t be so drunk that they’re going to pass out in my car or worse. I feel a loss that what could have been a great company from San Francisco has come to an end. Hopefully something will come out of this, but I suspect that 2016 will have many changes to the rideshare industry and gig economy so expect to see some changes here in the near future.

Hacking Uber’s Surge Pricing

Das Über SurgeSurge pricing. If you’ve ever taken Uber you know what that is. Demand is high for rides, so the price goes up. It doesn’t always seem like that is the case though when you see surge pricing in effect at odd times and I found out some interesting information yesterday.

I was at a meeting when someone mentioned that Uber has a team of employees whose job it is to keep the drivers from hacking the surge pricing system. This person thought it was only in effect on the East Coast, but I mentioned that I’ve heard from online groups that the drivers in San Francisco are doing this as well. Here’s how it works:

When Uber isn’t surging the price is usually less than a taxi. This is good for the riders, but not the drivers. So the drivers have organized online through various ways of communicating to all go offline when Uber does not have surge prices and then request and cancel rides to increase demand causing Uber’s servers to automatically turn on surge pricing thereby increasing the cost of the fare.

There have been recent articles over the past couple of days of Uber & Lyft accusing each other of booking and canceling rides as a way to take drivers off the road. While I don’t know about Lyft because I haven’t met as many Lyft drivers the same might be true there so that in reality it’s not drivers collecting to try to screw up the competition, but the drivers are actually working to increase their profitability by hacking their own systems. This is all just theory from me since none of the other companies working as TNC’s are being affected and none of the other companies increase their pricing when demand is high. In the end it seems that the only people who benefit from less drivers being on the road is the drivers because that then increases how much money you can make.

As an example, I tweeted that after Outsidelands because of Uber’s surge pricing [Lyft doesn’t give you estimates] it would have cost me $40 for a ride home just over a mile from the concert. While this wasn’t a forced form of surge pricing because demand definitely was high, there was also traffic involved which means that $40 estimate [or $75 estimate to get from Outsidelands to Russian Hill] didn’t take into account that it would be a slower ride which would increase the cost and drivers income even more making the fare more expensive.

Most of the drivers who were driving during the Outsidelands surge pricing were making between $60-$100/hour. This is much better than the $17-$30 you hear drivers talk about during non-surge times. Some of these drivers where earning the equivalent of a 40 hour week at $15/hour in six hours in one day.

Now can you see why drivers would like to be able to drive only during surge pricing? I would suspect that because surge pricing pops up so much that Uber isn’t working too hard to stop it because after all it just increases their bottom line.

A lot of this is just speculative talk as I’m not on the inside with Uber, but I am on boards where there are lots of Uber [and Lyft] drivers with loose tongues who think that no one will ever see what you’re posting on the internet and if it’s on the internet it must be true. 🙂

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Need A Ride To The Airport?

This isn’t getting mentioned in the media or even in any bloggers so I figured I better scoop this story for all my fellow TNC drivers so that the public knows and understands a current problem that we all have now that is especially bad in San Francisco.

In September of 2013 The CPUC decided that ridesharing companies such as Sidecar, Lyft & Uber had every right to operate in California. The CPUC call the companies TNC’s for Transportation Network Companies because they use cell phones to communicate ride requests as well as the processing of payments for rides. One of the little things that was sort of buried in the decision was that all TNC’s much work with local airports to establish an agreement for operating at these locations.

As you know I drive for Sidecar and it was always the general rule of thumb that you could drop off, but not pick up passengers at SFO until further agreements could be reached because at the time that was what the airport had written into it’s laws. Any company doing business on the airport premises or off for the purpose of picking up passengers on airport property had to have an agreement in writing with SFO. Nothing was said about dropping off people so that what we went with.

Well, things have changed. SFO has issued a statement to all TNC’s that until they get a permit from them they cannot drop off or pick up passengers on SFO property. I believe LAX has issued the same statement, but not pretty much every airport in California is like this. From my experience with Sidecar I know that they are actively pursuing the permit, but they have run into a few snags from SFO’s list of items TNC’s need to provide in order to get the permit. This isn’t only a Sidecar problem, but something that all TNC’s have a problem with. Some of the requests are based on old technology that doesn’t apply to new technology. Kind of like if the horse trade organization said that all cars needed to have distemper shots so they were healthy. The two don’t necessarily work together. All the TNC’s are trying to work the bugs out, but currently, no one has a permit.

The biggest problem and this is the most important thing that anyone who uses TNC’s for transportation needs to realize that as of right now the airports are off limits. Let me put that is a bit large type so it stands out:

TNC’s cannot drive you or pick you up from the airport.

Please pass this along to all your friends, neighbors, everyone. This has become more of a problem because the airports and especially SFO are starting to crack down. I see reports daily of drivers for many of these TNC’s getting stopped and ticketed for dropping off or picking up passengers at SFO. I’ve heard that it’s happening at other airports in California as well, but SFO is the worse.

Some of the TNC’s are being a bit passive aggressively defiant in that they are telling drivers they will cover the cost of the ticket [which I have heard runs between $220-$600 depending on what they write you up on], but they aren’t telling drivers not to take people to the airport. This makes some of these TNC’s look bad to the CPUC who has given them the right to operate in California. Sidecar has officially told all of it’s drivers to not accept rides to or from SFO and that is easy because riders have to put in their destination when they request a ride. Sidecar is also working on blocking requests to the airport until they can resolve the problem with SFO. Those other TNC’s aren’t doing this.

Why is this a problem for you the rider? The CPUC has given TNC’s a right to operate in California and it was the first state where this was done. All of these companies have started in San Francisco as well so we are the bullseye that everyone is aiming for. Many of you love TNC’s because they’re more pleasant than taxi’s. TNC drivers are held more accountable than taxi drivers to the point that we’re seeing a lot of taxi drivers changing their attitude and coming over to work for TNC’s because they can make more money with less outlay of cash [you do realize that taxi drivers have to pay upfront before the cab even leaves the lot]. In San Francisco and the Bay Area TNC’s have changed the way people get around. TNC’s you can request and they show up within minutes. They don’t demand a tip [though they appreciate it], you will never hear, machine is broken, cash only and in general the drivers are much more pleasant to ride with. Pricing can even be less expensive than a cab frequently.

If you want to see this all go away then go ahead and book rides to the airport. There will always be drivers who will take the risk that don’t understand that while they might get $35 from that ride to the airport [less than a taxi] in the end they could help bringing TNC’s in San Francisco, California and then spreading out to the rest of the country and world to an end. I happen to like driving for a TNC and I’ve met lots of fun and interesting people and made lots of new friends. I know I’m helping out people who need to get somewhere quickly and it’s giving me a way to make money on a flexible schedule. Please do not ask for trips to the airport because if you do you might find yourself walking home at 2am on a Saturday night or waiting an hour to find a taxi to hail.

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Cab Wars And The Taxi Mafia

Ssssh...I work for Sidecar. www.side.crChange has come. As of today Sidecar, Lyft & Uber have been made legit in spite of the cabbie protest down at city hall. While this still leaving airport pickups and drop offs up in the air [rumor is that they’re now arresting ridesharing drivers at SFO], it’s a good start. It still needs a final sign off, but it’s a step in the right direction.

For those of you who like to take a taxi in San Francisco you run into a problem. First there are only 1500 medallions so there aren’t that many drivers. Second, while against the law cabbies have been known for not taking passengers especially if they want to go out to the western side of the City. Third and finally you have the growing number of complaints levied against cab companies that don’t do much to help their image.

Enter the ridesharing companies who have crews of people who are all over the city and most of the Bay Area that don’t have a problem taking you to where the cabbies won’t. They don’t have bedbugs in their cars and they tend to be people who are more like those at a car show who are proud of their cars and work on keeping them up just to show them off.

As many of you know I’ve been driving for one of these companies and I have to say that I never realized how many people are still into taking cabs. I also hear on a daily basis all the complaints about taking a cab in San Francisco. The complaints are almost as bad if not worse than those about taking Muni. It seems like the time is right for someone who is thinking outside an old box to step in and offer an alternative.

Many of the complaints lodged against the ridesharing companies are more valid against the cab companies. Cabbies have to sit through a one week  training class. It’s not like cabbie college it’s more like traffic school in which you’re just there doing your time. There is no guarantee that the cabbies really know their way around the City and they aren’t taught things like 60 minutes isn’t an acceptable wait time and NO, according to the law you cannot deny someone a ride or pick up based on their destination. The background checks are pretty cursory as well.

I sort of feel sorry for the cabbies because they don’t realize that in of all places, especially San Francisco, you need to move forward with the technology. With the ridesharing companies you whip out your smartphone and call for a pickup the person usually calls you on the way to confirm everything and to see if there’s anything special like you’ve just been shopping and need to stash your groceries on the trip home and you can track their arrival via GPS. In most cases they get to you in under ten minutes, usually under five minutes.

When you get in many of the drivers have perks that they offer — anything from candy to water, etc. When you’re finished the driver closes out the ride and you’ll never hear, the machine is broken, cash only because there’s no machine, it’s all done with the smart phone and no cash changes hands. You’ll see the total [which with some you’ll see even before you call for the ride] and you tap a button and the money is transferred from your bank account and you’re done.

There’s no tricks or additional fees it’s just paying for the ride. No airport, child or baggage fees. Some of the drivers [myself included] have promo codes for new riders that will give them $10 credit on their first time riding with the service [my code is EventuallyEric hmmm…I might have to change that since it sounds like eventually I’ll get there which isn’t true.]

I like the ridesharing idea so much that I’ve even used it as a rider and I have to say that the ride was very pleasant and the driver who took me was a nice girl [Thanks again Jenna!] I needed to get from point A to point B quickly and without and attitude and that’s what I got. I did have a bit of a chuckle since I called for the ride in the Sunset District and she was there three minutes after I submitted the ride. Now just try THAT with a cab.

Sidecar In The City

Get Sidecar...Apparently there’s more problems in San Francisco than just Muni. It turns out that I was wrong and that there are lots of people who like to take cabs, but they have trouble getting one or getting one to take them where they need to go — enter Sidecar.

I’ve actually started driving for Sidecar mostly because it seemed like an easy way to get some extra money in my free time. It has been a good thing and I’ve learned a lot since I’ve started driving for them. First is that getting a cab in San Francisco is really difficult depending on where you live. Most of the cabbies only want to be in high traffic areas so places like the Sunset and Richmond will get you thrown out of a cab quick style. There really isn’t anything you can do about this, except call and hope you’ll get someone. If you hop in a cab downtown and tell them you’re going to the Sunset or Richmond be prepared to get thrown out quickly because they usually can’t get anyone to drive back to the high traffic areas they like.

Then you’ve got surly cab drivers. I’ll admit it’s been awhile since I took a cab in San Francisco, but I always remember they always looked and sounded grumpy. On top of that they would try and pull their tip out at the end before you could figure how how much you wanted to give them sometimes tipping themselves 50% of your fare.

Well Sidecar doesn’t work that way. You’ll need an iPhone or Android phone and download the app which uses GPS to tell the driver where you are [it gives them more info than that, but it’s based on your GPS co-ordinates]. You ask for a Sidecar and you tell it where you need to go and then all the drivers in the area are notified that you need a ride. Someone will pick up the call and come get you. There will be a suggested donation for the ride. All rides are done through donation and not a fare like a cab because that comes under a different set of rules then. Once the car gets there you hop in and they drive you to where you want to go. At the end when the driver closes out the ride on their phone you can pay then with your iPhone based on the suggested donation. You can add more for a tip or less if you like and I’ll get into that in a minute or two. People who drive Sidecars can be identified by the bright orange MOX [mirror socks] that are on their rearview mirrors. Much more discrete than the big pink moustache that Lyft drivers have to use and there’s no requisite fist bump when they pick you up [really? who’s douchebag idea was that?]

Now in the time I’ve been driving I had to say that I’ve met a lot of really fun people. No one creepy and almost all of them were happy that I was able to get to them so quickly. They’ve been all over the map from 20’s to 50’s and students to doctors so they’ve been a very interesting group of people to talk to. They always seem to like when I tell them that I’m born and raised in San Francisco and I usually hand them a card for this blog so if any of those people are reading this HI!

Now there’s a few things I’d like to suggest to anyone who uses Sidecar for a ride.

  1. The drivers only make 80% of what you pay them keep that in mind.
  2. I strongly suggest you at least pay the suggested fare and if within your means add a small tip. We appreciate it.
  3. Don’t pay less than the suggested amount. I’ve got a couple of friends who have been paid 80% under what was suggested and that sucks because the 80% is figured after the 20% is removed so it’s more like they paid 90-95% under.
  4. Don’t ever pay $0. Drivers can block you if you don’t pay or undercut the suggested price too much and if you start to collect blocks you’ll be banned from the system [it’s 3-5 to get blocked depending on who you talk to] because the idea behind it is that it’s a community of drivers and people who want to get some where not people you get to stiff for a free ride.
  5. If you need to pay less because you’re short on cash then you should think about taking the bus or at least tell the driver and try to keep the deduction at no more than 25%.
  6. Don’t wait forever to make the donation. If you don’t pay right away you’ll get a text in 24 hours and if you don’t pay then you’ll be charged the suggested fare. You have to keep in mind that the drivers don’t get their money for six days after you’ve paid so waiting a couple of days to pay is kind of bad form. Please try to pay within a couple of hours of your trip.

The drivers have to keep up their cars and pay for the gas and if you haven’t heard gas is getting expensive. I did use Sidecar as a passenger the other day and told the girl who drove me I was a driver and that I wouldn’t stiff her and even told her how much I was going to pay. My drive from the Outer Sunset to Inner Richmond was suggested at $17 and I paid her $20. She gets $16 of that. I think I made her very happy.

I’ll keep doing this for awhile because with Sidecar it’s cheaper than a cab for most people and when I want to drive people I run the app and get ready to hop in my car. I don’t have any schedules so I get to drive whenever I get free time and I drive a few hours every day. At the very least it got me to wash my car and I recharged the air conditioning today so it feels like I’ve got a new car once again. It’s also easy to move stuff around when I don’t have piles of empty McDonald’s bags in the back from my daughter anymore.

Oh and if you’ve never used Sidecar and want to give it a try you can enter the promo code EventuallyEric and get a $10 credit to make it cheaper for you the first time. I even made a little sign I put in my car.