Uber’s Top Secret “Hell” Program Exploited Lyft’s Vulnerability (paywall):
As the ride-sharing market was exploding in the U.S. between 2014 and the early part 2016, Uber had an advantage over Lyft that helped Uber maintain its lead, The Information has learned. Thanks to a secret software-based effort within Uber called “Hell,” Uber could track how many Lyft drivers were available for new rides and where they were, according to a person who was involved in the program and a person who was briefed about it.
As the philosopher Chris Rock said in his great standup act, Never Scared (channelling Honoré de Balzac), “Behind every great fortune, is a crime.”
Uber is chock full of ’em.
The New York Times has a fascinating look into all the psychological tricks Uber (and Lyft) uses to get drivers to to keep driving:
Uber even published a study last year, using its vast pile of data on drivers’ rides and hours, finding that a “substantial, although not most, fraction of partners” practice an extreme form of income targeting when they start on the platform, though they abandon it as they gain more experience. Strict income targeting is highly inefficient because it leads drivers to work long hours on days when business is slow and their hourly take is low, and to knock off early on days when business is brisk.
The beauty of the messages that Uber sent Mr. Streeter and his fellow drivers is that the drivers need not have even had a specific income goal in mind in order for the messages to work. Some of the most addictive games ever made, like the 1980s and ’90s hit Tetris, rely on a feeling of progress toward a goal that is always just beyond the player’s grasp. As the psychologist Adam Alter writes in his book “Irresistible,” video game designers even have a name for this mental state: the “ludic loop.”
Uber, for its part, appears to be aware of the ludic loop. In its messages to drivers, it included a graphic of an engine gauge with a needle that came tantalizingly close to, but was still short of, a dollar sign.
And the ludic loop is far from the only video game feature that Uber has adapted as a way of keeping drivers on the road.
If taken in isolation, this article isn’t all that crazy, but it’s part of a bigger picture revealing a company whose executives visit karaoke-escort bars in Korea, evades law enforcement with their technology, has a hostile, sexist work environment filed with sexual harassment cases, and give the actual drivers rather shitty compensation considering they’re valued at over 60 billion dollars.
The ultimate goal of a corporation is 100% efficiency and after reading this piece, it’s clear humans are but a stopgap solution until robots start driving (and doing everything else).
Boycotting Uber is boosting the fortunes of billionaire Trump advisor Carl Icahn:
But the #DeleteUber crew seems to have missed Lyft’s own ties to the Trump administration.
In 2015, financier Carl Icahn made a $100 million investment into Lyft. His interests are represented on its board of directors through John Christodoro of Icahn Capital.
Icahn did a lot more than Kalanick to help get Trump elected. He was an early and vocal supporter of Trump during the campaign, claiming that the businessman would be much better for the economy than Hillary Clinton, and Trump appointed Icahn as a special advisor on regulation in December.
I was just as disappointed in Uber’s actions last week but it seems we’re damned either way.
Pick your poison.
Uber enables global e-hailing through Alipay to fend against Lyft/Didi alliance:
Now, riders will be able to pay for and hail a ride in the Alipay app in the more than 400 cities in which Uber operates. It’s an extension of Uber’s existing partnership with the company, which initially only allowed passengers in China to pay for their rides using Alipay.
The move comes just a few weeks after Lyft and China’s Didi launched a similar integration that allows Didi riders to hail a Lyft in the U.S. using the Didi Chuxing (formerly Didi Kuaidi) app, and vice versa. That partnership is part of a larger global ride-hail alliance that also includes South East Asia’s Grab and India’s Ola.
The goal of big business is constant growth. This is why there are laws against monopolies, because it’s the natural end state of any capitalist business.
Despite this, I grew up being told competition is healthy and keeps a business on it’s toes. But with Uber, it seems theres no room for competiton and any competition is an extreme threat that must be destroyed.
I continue use, and many times rely on, Uber, but I also continue disapprove of their record of shady business practices.
Yellow cabs in NYC might be getting an overhaul:
The technology inside many New York City yellow taxis is in for an overhaul after regulators on Thursday approved a trial run for systems that calculate fares using global positioning.
The changes mean the back seat “Taxi TVs” could be on the way out, along with dashboard-mounted meters that display fares in red blocky alarm clock-style numbers.
Instead of suing to keep Uber and Lyft out of NYC, yellow cabs are overhauling their system to better compete—and provide a better customer experience (we hope).