Category Archives: Uber all up in this

Pimp my Taximeter

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As the prime movers behind the Uberization of San Francisco’s taxi industry, Flywheel, the taxi-hailing app, and Flywheel, the taxi company, seem so intent on emulating Uber that they’re even taking a page out of deposed CEO Travis Kalanick’s “Guide to Being a Complete Dirtbag.”

Last Wednesday, Flywheel sent out a message informing drivers not affiliated with one of their color scheme partners that we’ll no longer be receiving orders through the app. Unless, that is, we switch to one of the six color scheme partners.

Drivers were understandably outraged that Hansu Kim, the owner of Flywheel, the app, and Flywheel, the taxi company, would actually kneecap 1,000s of drivers who rely on the app for part of their income, as well as stymie users who expect Flywheel to provide prompt service and, through this divisive act, traduce the industry in the public eye.

As one driver put it: “Just when you think it can’t get any worse …”

But wait. It gets worse.

Since the color scheme partners listed in their first message all use Flywheel’s TaxiOS, instead of the traditional taximeter, most drivers assumed that was the proviso: Adopt their backend, app-based metering system and shoulder the massive costs associated with acquiring hundreds of smartphones to run the app, removing the old taximeter equipment and then paying them monthly service and network charges and a percentage of Flywheel orders, credit card-processing fees and dispatch orders routed through the app.

Displaying Uber-like greed, Flywheel seems to want a piece of all our action, on top of what we’re already giving the cab companies for leasing vehicles.

In return, we get the Flywheel orders back, for which we’d been paying them a cut of appropriately 13 percent.

Now that’s what you call a hornswoggling.

Read the rest here.

[photo by Christian Lewis]

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Canary in the Coal Mine

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I was talking with a journalist recently about the inevitable death of the taxi industry. He seemed surprised by my response, that taxis aren’t going anywhere.

“They may not look the same in the future,” I said, “or function the same, but when the day comes that a retired couple from Omaha flying into SFO is required to not only possess a smartphone but also download an app, give a third-party company their personal information, agree to terms of service that allow them to track their movements and then sell that information to other companies for marketing purposes just to get a ride into The City is the day you can officially say San Francisco has lost its soul.”

We were at The Orbit Room, and while he wrote down my comment, one of those old streetcars from Vienna clattered past on Market Street.

No, taxis aren’t going anywhere. And automated vehicles are a long, long way off. In San Francisco, anyway. Unless The City invests millions of dollars in public infrastructure.

Several months ago, I drove two guys who picked my brain about which streets in The City were the worst to drive on. As soon as I found out they worked for Ford, I challenged them on the issue of self-driving cars.

“You know they’ll never work here, don’t you?” I demanded. “It’s hard enough for a human to drive in this city, much less a computer. Besides potholes the size of Lake Merritt, many streets don’t even have clearly marked lanes. How are lasers supposed to detect something that’s not there? It’s impossible, right?”

Both guys nodded.

No, taxis aren’t going anywhere.

Read the rest here.

[photo by Douglas O’Connor]

Uber/Lyft drivers just wanna be taxi drivers

If Uber is so cool and taxis are so lame, why do so many Uber drivers try to turn their cars into taxis?

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Used to see this one around for a while. Not so much anymore. Guess they got tired of being mascots for a lost cause.

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A few touches here are there to make sure the car is branded just right…

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This guy is the chicken dinner winner of the dipshit Uber mascots. Willing to bet he’s since painted this over.

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Creepy Uber driver with a little Uber toplight.

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Not sure what’s more pathetic, the personalized license plate advertising Uber or that the driver actually thinks people love Uber.

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Even drivers who don’t brand their cars covet what taxi drivers get without question: tips. This guy is so desperate for them he’s willing to offer free water, phone chargers, jerk off cream and dental care.

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The silver Prius with the SpoonRocket car topper placed like a taxi toplight. He was all over town for several months…

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Until he was eventually run out of town when confronted by a group of taxi drivers and the SFPD.

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Whatever the fuck this guy is up to, he’s got all the bases covered.

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Company branding for SF Pride. Rainbow spots? Like a pox?

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Uber’s “self-driving” cars are so desperate for attention…

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A self-driving car looks like a futuristic taxi… At some point, they’ll probably cover the sensors with ad boards. Because why not?

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For Halloween one year, I was a Lyft driver. It was scary. And all I did was confuse people.

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As Uber/Lyft drivers complete the transformation into half-assed taxi drivers , they’ll start refusing to provide service unless the circumstances are exactly to their liking, just like the taxi drivers did before Uber and Lyft, and the golden age of the passenger will come to a screeching halt. I think we can all agree on one thing: that day can’t come soon enough.

 

Friends Don’t Let Friends Uber

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An op-ed about the latest #DeleteUber trend. From Broke-Ass Stuart’s Goddamn Website.

Ahhh… there’s nothing like waking up to a good Boycott Uber movement. The joy of seeing their louche brand dragged through the mud is always exhilarating. But it’s fleeting. Because the latest #DeleteUber trend, like every other wave of public outrage directed at the company in the past, will eventually fizzle away and be forgotten.

So what if Uber CEO Travis Kalanick agreed to join a Trump advisory group… So what if Kalanick defended this position by stating that they would “partner with anyone in the world,” even if – apparently – their policies threaten global stability… So what if Uber crossed picket lines during a protest of Trump’s Muslim ban at JFK airport… So what if they deactivated surge pricing and – sort of – said they were sorry…

That’s some fucked-up shit. But they’ve been doing fucked-up shit from day one.

Read the rest here.

[image via]

Bring on the Self-Driving Ubers

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The news last week that Uber had unleashed a fleet of driverless vehicles in San Francisco — much like the San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency’s recent announcement that Uber and Lyft are causing most of The City’s traffic congestion — was met by the majority of taxi drivers with a resounding: “Uh doy!”

We’ve been seeing these vehicles, as well as others outfitted with antennas and various gadgets, for months. The other day, I drove past an 18-wheeler run by OTTO, a company recently acquired by Uber that’s developing autonomous big-rigs.

Uber’s official roll out last on December 14, however, didn’t go as planned. By that afternoon, someone had photographed one of their self-driving cars almost running into an intersection on Van Ness, and a Luxor cab recorded video of another one blowing through a red light in front of SFMOMA, narrowly missing a pedestrian.

In the media feeding frenzy that followed, Uber blamed the mishaps on human error. OK. But if they can’t train humans to obey traffic laws, what does that say about their ability to create driverless cars?

Personally, I’d much rather share the road with automated vehicles than the typical inexperienced, out-of-town drivers who disrupt the flow of traffic. If Uber’s hiccup of a launch last week proved anything, it’s that the problem really is — in their own words — “the other dude in the car.”

As anyone who has spent a significant amount of time driving in San Francisco can attest, most Uber drivers are totally unpredictable, usually confused and potentially unhinged psychopaths…

Read the rest of this column, including my experience with a crazy Uber driver here.

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Don’t let the door hit you on the way out: Uber’s fleet of self-driving cars leave San Francisco… transported to Arizona, appropriately enough, on semi-autonomous semis.

This column generated some Facebook love:

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Self-Driving Uber Car on the Streets of San Francisco

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Spotted on Harrison between 7th and 8th, one of Uber’s self-driving cars. Notice the Pennsylvania plates. There were two people up front and two in the back. When the light turned green, the other cars took off, while the self-driving car didn’t seem to move. 

A fleet of Uber’s self-driving cars were released onto the streets of Pittsburgh last week with limited autonomous features. A driver is always in the front seat with his hands on the wheel as a technician sits shotgun. After watching multiple videos from tech sites and news sources, I can’t say I was impressed. 

After all, there’s only so much a driverless car can do:

 

Oh, those bad, sleazy taxi medallion owners…

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This discussion with Bradley Tusk, an Uber advisor, about how Airbnb is making mistakes in how they deal with local governments by suing San Francisco over the enforcement of legislation they helped create was somewhat interesting… I was just starting to think this Tusk guy was smart and then he mentions the medallion system and it’s obvious he has no clue how the taxi industry works, just talking out of a hole in his ass.

Tusk may know about tech and VC speculation, but he knows shit about the taxi industry.

Medallion holders are the working class stiffs, you fucking asshole. The owners of the cab companies may be scum, or just ignorant old men, but it’s a sign of the rampant arrogance of Uber to discuss things like taxi medallions with no understanding of them whatsoever. 

As always, tech reporting fails to be real journalism…

Click bait: the new normal:

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