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This Week In Rideshare: Tesla, Minneapolis, and Instacart

— January 13, 2023

Instacart “workouts”, pay ups, and a Tesla that took a wrong turn… on the San Francisco Bay Bridge. It’s all here in This Week in Rideshare.

A part-time Instacart shopper details the ups and down of the job. Scary Mommy adds:

I learned a lot during those first few “batches” or trips. For instance, on my second attempt at grabbing groceries, I didn’t stop to look at what was being ordered — nor did I consider that I should.

Fresh out of a battle with bronchitis, imagine my horror when that $18 “batch” of 24 items included two flats of water, multiple twelve packs of pop, and a giant jug of laundry detergent. OK, so the cart was heavy. It gets worse. They lived in a second-floor condo. If they hadn’t been elderly and clearly struggling with their health, too, I might have left the groceries by the security door and bid them good luck. I heaved them up the stairs with a smile, though… and then collapsed into my car to pant and cough.

Tesla’s self-driving feature caused a major accident in San Francisco. The Intercept reported:

HIGHWAY SURVEILLANCE FOOTAGE from Thanksgiving Day shows a Tesla Model S vehicle changing lanes and then abruptly braking in the far-left lane of the San Francisco Bay Bridge, resulting in an eight-vehicle crash. The crash injured nine people, including a 2-year-old child, and blocked traffic on the bridge for over an hour.

The driver told police that he had been using Tesla’s new “Full Self-Driving” feature, the report notes, before the Tesla’s “left signal activated” and its “brakes activated,” and it moved into the left lane, “slowing to a stop directly in [the second vehicle’s] path of travel.”

Just hours before the crash, Tesla CEO Elon Musk had triumphantly announced that Tesla’s “Full Self-Driving” capability was available in North America, congratulating Tesla employees on a “major milestone.” By the end of last year, Tesla had rolled out the feature to over 285,000 people in North America, according to the company.

Image by Andrew Khoroshavin, courtesy of Pixabay.
Image by Andrew Khoroshavin, courtesy of Pixabay.

Drivers continue to struggle to make ends meet. The New York Times reported:

Uber and Lyft drivers now earn less in fares and tips than taxi drivers, according to new data from the Taxi and Limousine Commission, which regulates both groups. During the month of September, Uber and Lyft drivers earned an average total of $5,046, including $277 in tips, while those in taxis earned $5,844, including $865 in tips.

Drivers have increasingly battled with Uber, which sued the taxi commission to block a raise for Uber and Lyft drivers in December. Uber argued the raise could cost the company an additional $21 million to $23 million per month, and that it could force it to raise passenger fares by 10 percent.

Bruce Schaller, a transportation consultant, said the app services make money by charging passengers as much as they can — and paying drivers as little as possible. “The point of the business is to squeeze both the driver and passenger as much as possible because the companies make more money,” he said.

The Minnesota city council is joining forces with Uber and Lyft drivers. Star Tribune reported:

Standing alongside dozens of organized Uber and Lyft drivers, a group of council members Thursday pledged to push for what they billed as “some of the strongest protections for ride-share workers in the country.”

The council members offered few details but said they’ll begin drafting an ordinance that would provide baseline requirements for drivers’ wages and benefits, including unemployment insurance and medical or workers compensation protections.

Meanwhile, a separate effort has been more quietly underway behind the scenes in City Hall for months, with some council members and city staff exploring how to regulate ride-share companies, also known as “transportation network companies,” more like taxi operations, said Council Member Andrew Johnson.

Instacart pays up. Engadget explains:

Instacart will pay workers $5.1 million as part of a settlement after it allegedly failed to provide some benefits, as The San Francisco Chronicle reports. The company, which has not admitted to wrongdoing, will pay an additional $150,000 to cover the city’s legal costs and pay for a settlement administrator to distribute the funds.

People who worked as independent contractors for Instacart in the city between February 2017 and December 2020 are eligible for payments based on how many hours they worked. San Francisco estimates that between 6,000 and 7,000 people are affected by the settlement. The city and Instacart previously reached a similar settlement that covered an earlier time period. San Francisco has settled a benefits-related case with DoorDash too.

After December 15th, 2020, Instacart workers were subject to Proposition 22, which afforded them some benefits without the company having to define them as employees. An Alameda County Superior Court judge ruled in 2021 that the measure was unconstitutional, but it remains in force while Instacart, DoorDash, Uber, Lyft and other gig companies who bankrolled Prop 22 appeal the decision.

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