This Week in Rideshare: AVs, Mass and Robots.

MONDAY 6/13/22

As the case wound its way through the legal system, there have been many twists and turns. First, local authorities in Maricopa County, Arizona, said they couldn’t prosecute the case because they had worked with Uber in the past, due to potential conflicts of interest. Neighboring Yavapai County investigated, and using information from Uber, determined that Uber was not at fault. This determination resolved conflicts of interest, which allowed the case to go back to Maricopa County.

As often happens in criminal cases, prosecutors attempted to do a plea deal. Not only is this cheaper than going to court, but in this case it could really be prosecutors trying to get out of what’s surely going to be a really nasty trial. The over-reliance on what now appears to be incorrect information from Uber alone could make for a rather embarrassing situation in court where Vasquez is not only acquitted, but authorities are left looking terrible for not going after Uber.

TUESDAY 6/14/22

Massachusetts’ high court has blocked a ballot measure from moving forward that would have asked voters if app-based drivers for companies like Uber, Lyft and Instacart should be treated as independent contractors rather than employees with regular shifts, benefits and hourly wages.

The Supreme Judicial court ruled on Tuesday that ballot questions supported by a coalition of drivers for the big-tech service providers overreached in their attempt to include a proposal that would limit the companies’ liability in case of accidents on the road.

Labor attorney Shannon Liss-Riordan, who represents Martin El Koussa, one of the lead plaintiffs in the lawsuit aiming to strike the question from the ballot — called the ruling “a tremendous victory for working people across Massachusetts.” Liss-Riordan is also is a cofounder of Massachusetts is Not For Sale, the organization leading the opposition to Uber and Lyft’s push to change gig worker laws.

WEDNESDAY 6/15/22

The man who allegedly assaulted an Uber driver early Sunday morning has been charged. The Maricopa County Sheriff’s Office confirmed Jason Ackley, 38, turned himself in late Monday night after seeing video of himself attacking the driver. He was booked on one count of misdemeanor assault.

The driver, Jonathan Carroll, said he’s glad the passenger will be held accountable for their actions. “You can’t do stuff like that, you gotta control your emotions, and he didn’t, and unfortunately, he’s going to have to pay the price for it,” he said. The assault was captured on Carroll’s dash camera.

THURSDAY 6/16/22

Uber is rolling out its airport reservation service to more locations not only in the US, but also in other countries just as people are becoming more comfortable with traveling again. The service’s Reserve at Airports service rolled out to over 20 airports across the US in 2021, giving arriving passengers the power to reserve Uber Black and Uber Black SUV rides for up to 30 days in advance.

FRIDAY 6/17/22

The robots, which resemble shopping carts, are given human names like Zoe and Quinn, and human traits like light-up eyes to make them seem more relatable and less intimidating to passers-by as they trundle along the sidewalk. They even utter greetings like ‘Excuse me’ as they pass each other in the street.

“If you look at the robots, they blink. That little blinking behaviour is actually really important for conveying that this has an internal life. It’s a thing that kind of makes decisions and lives”, says Kashani, adding: “We wanted something that belongs on the sidewalk, but something that’s familiar and not frightening, but also kind of fresh and fun. So if people see these robots, they see the eyes, they see the personality, it actually, you know, it adds something to your day.”

Serve Robotics has been trialling the robots for two years but only recently integrated with Uber Eats. Originally a division of rival delivery service Postmates, which was acquired by Uber in 2020, it’s now spun off into a separate organization, allowing it to also explore other delivery opportunities outside of food.

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