This Week in Rideshare: Drugs, robotaxis, and lobbying.
Drivers as mules, Austin gets robotaxis and the investigation into an ex-commissioner. LegalRideshare breaks it down.
Uber’s new courier service is putting drivers on edge. NBC News reported:
Drivers for Uber’s courier service don’t always know what’s inside the suspicious-looking packages that people ask them to deliver — but some know they don’t want to be a part of it.
Kyle Brock said he was driving for Uber in Mesa, Arizona, last year when an Uber Connect customer ordered a package delivery from one motel to another motel at 1 a.m.
“The package was just a grocery bag with the most random and worthless stuff in it,” he said in an interview.
There was a pen, some candy and a box about the size of two decks of cards covered in an excessive amount of tape. He guessed there was narcotics inside the box, but Uber prohibits drivers from tampering with a package, so he didn’t open it.
“I dropped off the package with quite a bit of dread,” he said. A nervous-looking person accepted the bag, he said, and Brock stopped driving for Uber shortly after.
An Uber driver survived a violent carjacking in Philly. ABC 6 reported:
Zarkli said he picked up the passengers behind Temple Hospital, but one of them punched him in the back of the head as he was dropping them off at N. 50th and Westminster Ave. in West Philadelphia.
“All of a sudden just boom, they hit me on the head back there,” said Zarkli. “They dragged me out of the door and started hitting me all of them with theirs shoes with their hands because they could not find the car keys.”
The suspects took off in Zarkli’s Black Toyota RAV 4, which police were able to track down at 32nd and Mantua.
Officers said they arrested a 15-year-old and 16-year-old, and then found the SUV a short time later at 41st and Parrish. By then the other two suspects were already gone.
A Lyft driver and passenger stepped in to stop an attempted kidnapping. Belleville-News-Democrat reported:
The 45-year-old woman was walking on the sidewalk when someone approached her about 8:45 a.m. on Sunday, Sept. 25 in the West Loop neighborhood of Chicago, the Chicago Police Department said in a community alert. The person grabbed her arms and tried to pull her inside a minivan, police said. She screamed, managing to fight the person off.
A Lyft driver stopped and the rider tried to confront the kidnapper, the alert said. Video of the incident shared with the Book Club Chicago by a neighbor showed the Lyft car with its doors open, attempting to block the minivan.
A similar incident took place at the same location — the 200 block of South Sangamon Street — on Aug. 24, McClatchy News reported previously. During this incident, a vehicle with four people tried to abduct a 30-year-old woman, but a dog walker with bear spray intervened to help the woman.
Riders in Austin will have the option of choosing a driverless commute directly in the Lyft app for the same price as a normal Lyft ride, the company said.
The companies aren’t sharing the hours of operation in Austin yet, but an Argo spokesperson said its fleet of an unspecified number of Ford Escape hybrids would be operating during “daytime hours.” Argo and Lyft also wouldn’t detail when they expect to remove the safety driver for commercial operations in either Miami or Austin, but Argo has been testing fully driverless operations in both cities with employees since May.
The EU’s anti-fraud office is looking into a Dutch ex-commissioner. The Guardian reported:
The EU’s anti-fraud office has opened an investigation into former European commissioner Neelie Kroes, who was accused of breaking ethics rules after leaked documents suggested she secretly helped Uber lobby the Dutch government.
The documents appeared to show that Kroes, the EU’s top official on internet policy from 2010 to 2014, had offered to arrange a series of meetings for Uber with EU staff and Dutch politicians after she left office, despite restrictions during an 18-month cooling-off period.
The Guardian has contacted Kroes for comment about the Olaf investigation. She has previously denied any inappropriate behaviour. In July she said: “I did not have any formal nor informal role at Uber before that particular date of May 2016,” referring to the month when a requirement to seek EU approval to take jobs expired.
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