We have liftoff!

By Don McCurdy

Waymo One is on the road. Uber has somewhat damaged the life of the taxicab driver with some drivers moving to Uber. Waymo One will finish the job since it requires no driver.

Waymo has started taking fares for payment in Phoenix. While we still have the "back driver," the person sleeping in the left front quadrant, they are slated to be phased out on a yet to be determined schedule. Regardless of how long it takes, this is the beginning of the end of driving your own vehicle.

Honestly, there are possibilities that loom as a vast improvement in our current anyone can drive world. A sharp decrease in the number of drunk driving arrests, collisions, and unsafe vehicles jump immediately to mind. Imagine a drunk in a vehicle with no steering wheel, brake pedal or accelerator pedal. "Honest officer, the car did it!" Kids out too late? Have the car bring them home.

The transition will surely be a slow process, but the first commercial, self-driving vehicle for hire is on the street.

Of course, this will mean a loss of jobs for body shops, insurance adjusters, prison guards, lawyers, judges, tow truck drivers, and of course taxicab drivers. Imagine a world where your car refuses to drive you to work and drives itself to the shop instead. Is this another of those giant leaps for mankind?

What's our problem?

Recently, an article reported that Spokane had changed their vehicle for hire rules. The new rules require all drivers to get a city license, have a background check and have their vehicles periodically inspected. Those all sound like reasonable rules to me, however, several Uber and Lyft drivers said the new regulations would affect their ability to make a living. They didn't mention how those basic rules would be so onerous that it would cause them problems. Drivers always complain about change, always have. Doesn't everybody?

The interesting part of the article, for me anyway, was a comment by a rideshare driver that he gets thanked for being out all the time when people lament that taxicabs take 30 minutes and more to arrive. I wonder how that is? Is it that the poor cousin of Uber and Lyft, the taxi, can't afford a GPS dispatched system or is it simply that there are not enough vehicles on the street at various times?

None of the taxi company websites I visited mentioned GPS or computerized dispatch. Perhaps, those are passť but taking 30 minutes and up won't win you any service awards.

Just like that, problem solved!

A recent report stated that the New York Taxi and Limousine Commission (TLC) "approved measures to enact minimum pay requirements for app-based for-hire vehicles." The articles all quoted the TLC as saying that drivers would make $9600 more per year but failed to mention where that increase would come from.

As near as I can tell, there are three potential places the increase can come from:

  • an increase in fees to riders,

  • a reduction of the number of drivers, or

  • the company pays it.

There is little doubt in my mind that the company will pay it, so that leaves two realistic places, riders or decreased drivers. A company like Uber could simply calculate the number of vehicles necessary to keep driver income at the prescribed levels and disallow anyone to sign onto the app if that number has been reached.

There are certainly other methods of culling the driver pool, like only allowing drivers who show an ability to achieve the new wage earnings and deauthorizing drivers who cannot make the mandated amounts. It certainly wouldn't behoove Uber to have an extra dozen driver sitting around that they will have to pay, so it puts Uber's income and the driver's income on a codependent basis. If the driver's income goes down, then Uber's income would go down since they'd have to cover the shortfall.

The other place the increased driver's income could originate is the fare to the rider. Like any other commodity or service, when price increases demand decreases, so this could hurt the business affecting the incomes of all concerned. It will be interesting to see exactly how this new mandate will be enacted. You can bet the law of unintended consequences will be strictly enforced.

The king has left the building.

Reports are that Gene "Taxi King" Freidman was carted off to the pokey after stiffing his ex for $400,000 in child support. Freidman was reported to have arrived at court in a Mercedes accompanied by a young lady alleged to be his girlfriend. It appears that the judge did not believe Freidman's plea of poverty. I must admit, if I had to pay $30,000 monthly in child support I'd be pleading poverty too.

Remember that problem?

Way back potential riders had a problem getting taxicabs in New York City's outer boroughs. Now, they're getting a 50% discount in the outer boroughs if they use the Waave smart phone app to order. What a difference an Uber makes. Before you couldn't get a cab in the other boroughs and now you can find them everywhere.

If you have any comments regarding this or any of my articles please feel free to contact me at: - dmc