Uber’s Autonomous Vehicles and the Future of Ridesharing

Anyone working for Uber and Lyft should be keeping a close eye on autonomous vehicles. The industry is going to change, and there may not be a future for you any longer. Chances are, there will be a time when you look over, and all you see is a vehicle driving itself.

But how close is the technology to becoming a major problem in ridesharing?

Close.

Uber just announced in November that the company plans to purchase 24,000 autonomous SUVs from Volvo.

What Does the Purchase Mean for Uber Drivers?

Not much – yet. The company is trying to move in the direction of Waymo and Lyft, which are both trying to remove their “freelance drivers” from the road. It makes sense for Uber because they can own their own fleet of autonomous vehicles and reap all of the profits.

The deal spans between 2019 and 2021, where Volvo will provide up to 24,000 XC90 SUVs to Uber.

Uber plans to provide its own self-driving system for the vehicles, but the problem is that the self-driving system has yet to be built. The system remains under development. Waymo, on the other hand, announced that they’ll introduce a fully autonomous car service in the next few months. The service will operate out of Arizona.

Autonomous vehicles are bad for freelance drivers, but it’s also slated to reduce accidents and may even prevent them completely in the future.

In Las Vegas, Nevada, people are questioning the safety of self-driving vehicles after a self-driving shuttle got into an accident. “There are roughly 55,000 car accidents every year in Nevada,” claims injury attorney George Bochanis on his site. But news headlines were filled with stories of the self-driving shuttle, which crashed the same day it was deployed.

The crash occurred due to human error, but that failed to make many headlines.

Society’s Adoption of Autonomous Vehicles

Society will dictate whether autonomous vehicles make it on the road or not. Initially, a lot of ridesharing customers may be reluctant to get into a vehicle that doesn’t have a driver behind the seat.

The lack of human interaction may spell trouble for Uber, which has a lot of colorful freelancers that make driving with the company fun.

Uber’s main issue, aside from losing $600 million per quarter, is that the state of the industry still requires a driver to remain behind the seat of the vehicle. Safety drivers are still in the front seat of Uber’s self-driving vehicles that are being tested in Arizona and Pittsburgh.

Uber’s self-driving technology has also been ranked the worst out of all six major self-driving companies.

A study found that the company’s technology is 5,000 times worse than Waymo’s technology. The study states that the safety driver had to intervene once per mile compared to Waymo’s technology, which can drive over 5,000 without intervention.

So, freelance drivers can rest assured that Uber has a long way to go before their own fleet will reduce the number of freelance opportunities with the company.

Uber’s financial state, which is currently a mess, is also not sufficient enough to cover the amount of self-driving vehicles the company would need to replace freelance drivers.

New Apps for Your Next Drive

Everyone knows you’re not supposed to text and drive, but is there a way to use your smartphone for something useful while you’re on the road? The answer is yes! You can turn your smartphone into a useful friend while driving by using apps like these. Be sure to use a dash mount!

Navigation apps

Waze, Google Maps, and HERE We Go are three GPS apps you should try out. Each has their advantages and disadvantages:

Waze – Up-to-the-minute traffic reports, checkpoints, and officer locations as reported by Waze users.

Google Maps – Best local business information thanks to Google interface, and best world-wide support.

HERE We Go – Best offline support when you want to save your data plan.

All three are available on iOS and Android. These can really save your bacon if you get in an accident and need to find the nearest personal injury attorney like Berger and Green, or just the closest bathroom. But if you want to go on a long road trip and want an app specifically for roadtripping, give Roadtrippers a try. This will guide you to local hotels and gas stations and estimate how long you can go before your next fill-up, among many other cool GPS features.

Car Features

Many modern vehicles have their own apps that reveal a lot of information about your car. They can give you information about check engine lights, your fuel economy, help you contact emergency services, schedule your next tune up, and more. Each one is different depending on the manufacturer and your make and model of car. Your owner’s manual may have information on where to get it, or go to your manufacturer’s website and look for a download link.

Music Apps

Music is a common need in the car and we are spoiled for choice. No more are we beholden to whatever stations we can find in the middle of nowhere! Between our private music collections and music services like Pandora and Spotify, you can listen to just about anything and never hear the same thing twice. Unless you want to of course.

All-in-one Dash Apps

We’ve gotten used to so many buttons on our dashes these days. There are some apps that give you a few more to turn your smartphone into an extension of your dashboard. Apps like Drivemode allow you access to many on-the-road apps in one easy-to-use interface. This reduces the amount of distraction switching between apps can cause. Voice commands are common with these apps as well, so you just might be able to do everything you need on the road hands-free! They’ll even read your texts to you.

RepairPal

Finally, let’s talk about RepairPal. Everyone’s car will break down at some point – if you’re lucky, it will happen in your driveway. If you’re not, it will happen in the middle of nowhere. RepairPal lets you get estimates for your make and model of car for just about anything that can go wrong with it. It will also tell you which local mechanics are in the area and show you reviews. Pretty handy to avoid getting ripped off when you’re in the middle of nowhere!

Do you have a favorite driving app that you can’t leave the home without? Share it with us below in the comments.

4 Things You Need to Know if You Drive for a Rideshare Company

Driving for a rideshare company is a quick and easy way to make some extra cash (or a living), but there are some caveats that every new driver should know.

Before you sign up and start driving, you should know about these four things.

1. Personal Auto Insurance Won’t Cover Accidents

It’s easy to assume that your personal auto insurance policy would cover you if you get into an accident while driving for Uber or Lyft. But unless you have a specific rideshare policy or a policy that has a rideshare endorsement, your policy won’t cover you.

Uber and Lyft do provide liability coverage to drivers after they’ve accepted a ride and have a rider in the vehicle. However, that collision coverage is completely contingent.

What happens if you get into an accident before you accept a ride request? Uber or Lyft will probably tell you to check with your insurance provider. Unless you have rideshare coverage, your insurer will likely tell you that you’re not covered.

Personal auto insurance policies do not cover commercial use of your vehicle, and driving for a rideshare company is considered commercial use.

If you don’t have the right coverage, you may be on the hook for damages to your vehicle.

Not worried about an accident? You should be.

“The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reports that approximately 90 people die each day in the United States due to motor vehicle crashes,” says the Law Office of Henry Queener “That number is almost double the number of roadway deaths of any other high-income country.”

2. Regulations Vary from City-to-City

Every state and city will have its own regulations when it comes to rideshare companies and drivers. You may not be able to pick up fares in certain areas, and there may be driving restrictions that you need to know about.

You may not be able to pick up passengers from an airport, but you may be able to drop them off there. This was a regulation at Boston’s Logan Airport, but both Uber and Lyft now have permission to pick up passengers at the airport.

Cities also have their own requirements as far as background checks are concerned.

Do your research, and make sure that you understand local rideshare regulations.

3. You Can Drive for Multiple Companies

Rideshare drivers aren’t obligated to drive for one company exclusively. You operate as an independent contractor, which means you can drive for whichever company you please.

Many drivers make a living by driving for multiple companies. If rides are slow on one app, you can use another to reach your daily goals.

If you plan to work for more than one company, make sure that you understand the vehicle and driver requirements for each one. Failure to meet the company’s requirements may get your account deactivated.

4. Keep Friend and Family Rides to a Minimum

Giving friends and family a ride from time to time probably won’t get you deactivated from Uber or Lyft. Just don’t make it a habit.

Some drivers take advantage of the system by using family and friends to meet minimum ride requirements during guarantee hours.

Uber uses an algorithm to detect fraud, and humans review each case. Giving too many rides to friends and family could land you in hot water and get your account deactivated.

Workers Compensation and Uber Drivers

Uber drivers are on the roads in most major cities, earning a living and helping passengers get from point A to point B safely. The number of Uber drives has surpassed 1.5 million, according to recent reports.

These drivers make their own hours, and they’re more contractors than they are “employees.”

When driving for Uber, you’re at risk of injuries. According to sigurdsonlaw.com, “there are 200 injury causing incidents per 10,000 workers engaged in the production or transportation of goods” annually. This statistic makes transportation, or in this case being an Uber driver, a dangerous job.

So, the question is: does Uber offer workers’ compensation?

Uber’s Definition of “Employees”

If you work in an Uber office, you’ll likely receive workers’ compensation. But when you’re a driver, who can become injured loading luggage into the trunk of a car or in an auto accident, you’re not likely to be covered.

Uber declares all of their drivers as “contractors.”

Independent contractors, under most state laws, do not have the same rules and requirements for workers’ compensation. This is why most independent contractors have fewer benefits than their “employee” counterparts.

Uber’s Pilot Program

Rumors of a pilot program offering Uber drivers workers’ compensation started to be published in May. Uber, hearing the complaints of drivers, teamed up with OneBeacon and Aon. The partnership helped launch a program, offering workers’ comp, in eight states.

Offered as optional protection, drivers would pay $0.0375 per mile and riders would pay $0.05 more per mile for the coverage.

The coverage offered $1 million in benefits that would cover weekly earnings lost as well as medical expenses. The program was viewed as a major win for the “gig” economy, offering coverage in West Virginia, Oklahoma, Arizona, South Carolina, Illinois, Pennsylvania and Rhode Island.

State Laws Matter Most

State laws are the laws that you want to concern yourself with the most. Uber’s lack of workers’ compensation is the fault of the state because most states don’t require businesses to offer their independent contracts workers’ comp.

States can change their laws, so it’s important to research your state’s workers’ compensation laws as pertaining to independent contractors.

Discussing your options with a local attorney is the best action you can take. Attorneys will be able to better help you determine if your state will uphold the law for an independent contractor. Most states will rule in favor of Uber, and Uber will deny your claim as a result.

Alaska is a prime example of a state that has changed their laws in Uber’s favor. The company was facing an investigation in the state in 2015. The investigation was looking into the very classification of drivers under the company’s definition.

Uber left the state, and the company didn’t return.

Two years later, state officials have introduced a bill that exempts drivers from the employee definition. In essence, Uber can now operate in the state without fear that workers’ compensation issues will arise.

Uber continues to press the matter in courts, asserting that drivers are contractors and holding them back from benefits.

New York is a state that introduced the Black Car Fund, which provides black car and limo drivers with workers’ compensation. Uber is required to participate in the fund, which adds a 2.44% fee to all fares.

How to Choose the Right Tires for Your Car

When they are actually buying their car, very few people actually give too much thought to the tires, although they are some of the most important components on any car. That often means when those tires begin to show signs of wear and need to be replaced many vehicle owners are simply not too sure how to go about buying the right tires.

The Problem with Buying the Wrong Tires

If a tire fits, or just about, fits, does it really matter if they are not ‘an exact’ match for those specified in the owner’s manual? The simple answer is, yes it does. Riding on tires not quite suited to a vehicle can lead to increased tire wear. Reduced gas mileage and in some cases, as any personal injury lawyer could tell you, destabilization of the vehicle to the point where the wrong tires actually lead to a car accident. Your tires are one of the most important parts of your vehicle – right up there with the airbags. And ensuring you keep an eye on them is just as important as ensuring your airbags aren’t part of the Takata airbags recall lawsuit. Both could end up doing serious harm to you, and your car.

Tire Buying 101

Usually, if you are happy with the way your car has been “riding” and you feel that it handles pretty well then simply heading to a dealer and buying the same make and model of tire over again is usually the very best idea. For some car owners though the price of the tires that were originally installed on their car can come as quite a shock. If that is the case for you then there may indeed be a cheaper option available but you do have to shop very carefully.

If you look up the original “specs” for your vehicle you will usually find that two or three different types of tire are recommended by the manufacturer and one is bound to be cheaper than the other. As long as a certain tire is recommended for your vehicle it is OK to go ahead and buy it, but if you do opt for the least expensive option understand that for the sake of a few dollars you may decrease the performance of the car significantly.

For drivers who live in four season climates, the winter is often a time to change tires whether the old ones are worn or not. Specialist snow tires can make a huge difference to the way a car handles in ice and snow and the right set of tires can often be the difference between getting to work safely in a snowstorm or getting stranded at the side of a road someplace!

Used tires are another option available to those who want to save money on tires but again you have to shop very carefully and understand that if you buy used you are buying tires that will have a fairly short lifespan so in the end you may not really be saving yourself that much money after all.

Before you purchase used tires, inspect them yourself carefully, ensuring that there is enough tread left for them to be safe. How do you do that? It’s simple. Insert a penny into the tire tread groove with Lincoln’s head facing down. If you can see the top of the former president’s head then the tires are not safe for road use.

Taking the time, and being willing perhaps to invest a little more money, into finding and purchasing the right tires for your vehicle is time and cash well spent. Michelin first cam up with the advertising strapline ‘because so much is riding on your tires’ in the seventies, but apart from being a memorable marketing quote it is also as true now as it was back then and sage advice to keep in mind as you shop.

How the Top-Earning Uber Drivers Run Their Business

Uber drivers are their own bosses. When a driver decides it’s time to make money, they can use Uber to start picking up fares. And if a driver wants to take the night off, no one is going to hover over them and complain.

Ridesharing is redefining transportation and business.

The top-earning Uber drivers have a lot that they can teach the newbie – the person just starting out in the field.

1. Research the Competition

Drivers often throw in extra perks for their clients. You might walk into an Uber and find that the driver has:

  • Bottled water
  • Extra phone chargers

You’ll have some drivers open the door for you, too. These extra perks go a long way in ensuring your clients have an amazing experience. But there is a lot more that you can do to satisfy your clients.

A suggestion that experienced drivers have is to ride along with other Uber drivers. Be the passenger and take notes of what high-rated drivers do differently. You’ll notice that the high rated drivers space out their questions, mount their cellphones to the dashboard and work with the passenger’s personality to make the experience better.

The Uber training video is a great place to start.

2. Run Like a Business

If you’re driving for Uber on a daily basis, treat it like a business. This means doing a few things right, like:

  • Opening a bank account for Uber income and expenses
  • Keeping a log book of all of your car use, maintenance, etc.
  • Tracking all of your expenses.
  • Keeping good records.

Treat your business like a traditional small business. QuickBooks is a great start. You’ll be able to keep track of all your expenses on-the-go, too. There are QuickBooks services that help new and seasoned business owners implement the application into their operation. Many of these services will also offer advanced training, customization and set-up so that you can make the most of your record keeping and accounting.

Keep in mind that you’ll also need to pay taxes on your earnings.

Put money aside for your taxes and work with an accountant that has experience with Uber drivers. You’ll have a lot of deductions you can claim to lower your tax responsibilities.

3. Strategically Choose Your Market

Different cities and markets earn more or less. My local rates are low, but if I go 30 minutes away, I can enjoy higher rates in a city. Check to see what drivers are earning after expenses. One thing that really sticks out to me is that some drivers earn significantly more than others.

How?

  1. Choose the most lucrative market in your area
  2. Drive during late-night rushes when fares are the highest

You’ll also want to take advantage of local events. A Taylor Swift concert came to town, and a friend of mine made 300% more driving that night than most nights. He took short rides to-and-from the arena.

It was fast cash.

Target high-paying fares and ignore the low-paying fares. It’s a harsh way to run your business, but when every expense counts, it makes sense to target the highest-paying market.