One driver’s legal fight, Uber plays chicken and robotaxis are here. LegalRideshare breaks it down.
One driver’s legal fight could upend the gig economy. Fortune reported:
The court recently allowed a special lawsuit to be brought against Uber from drivers demanding coverage for work-related expenses. This decision highlights the back-and-forth struggle for the soul of the gig economy in California — and possibly throughout the United States.
Erik Adolph, the UberEats driver at the heart of this case, is not merely a plaintiff. He symbolizes the struggle of gig workers seeking fair compensation against a system that often feels stacked against them. For years, companies like Uber have used the label of “independent contractor,” sidestepping potentially cumbersome employment laws that mandate benefits such as minimum wage, health insurance, and expense reimbursements. The essence of Adolph’s lawsuit is to permit a specific cause of action to challenge this model.
The lawsuit against Uber leverages the Private Attorney General Act (PAGA), a unique California law that allows workers to sue for employment law violations on behalf of the state. This law doesn’t just empower workers to fight for their rights, it actively encourages a more equitable employment landscape.
Uber and Lyft keep playing chicken with cities…and winning. Fast Company reported:
But as the bill gained momentum, Uber and Lyft issued a threat, the same one they’ve used for years against localities weighing new rules for the gig companies: they would pull out if it succeeded.
What happened in Minneapolis follows an increasingly familiar pattern, where lawmakers quash rideshare regulations after Uber and Lyft’s warnings. This past May, Minnesota’s Democratic governor Tim Walz issued a veto against a bill similar to Fair Drives Safe Rides when the gig companies threatened they would pull out. And the gig companies have made similar ultimatums in cities and states across the country, before watering down or stopping new regulations in their tracks.
But why don’t localities stand their ground, and what would actually happen if Uber and Lyft pulled out?
Almost immediately, Austinites created alternatives. The city’s taxi drivers union formed a worker coop and launched their own service, ATX Coop Taxi. Local entrepreneurs also launched RideAustin, a non-profit rideshare app. Andy Tryba, RideAustin’s co-founder, says they started coding the app as soon as Uber and Lyft shut down — “basically staying up every night for four weeks. And then we grew like crazy.”
Uber starts dispatching taxis. AM NY reported:
The rideshare giant Uber is now dispatching yellow taxis to some of its New York City customers who use its app, cementing an unlikely partnership between once-fierce rivals.
Uber has allowed New York customers to request a medallion taxi through its app since 2022. But last week, the company started automatically dispatching taxis to any Big Apple customer requesting an UberX (the company’s standard offering), provided a cab is closer than a car being driven for Uber, reps for the company exclusively revealed to amNewYork Metro.
The company also suspects it might potentially be a money-saver for riders in the long term. The Traffic Mobility Review Board is presently deliberating the rules, rates, and exemptions for New York’s congestion pricing program, which will charge tolls on motorists entering Manhattan below 60th Street starting next year — and both taxi and rideshare drivers are among the many groups seeking exemptions.
Like it or not, robotaxis are here. The economist reported:
How quickly they proliferate will depend a lot on technology. Waymo and Cruise use a combination of detailed maps, extensive sensors and ai to achieve full autonomy, but only in the geofenced areas where they are trained. That means they can only advance step by step. Tesla hopes to muscle into their territory with full-self-driving (fsd) technology that learns more the more its cars travel, using not maps but cameras and computer power to mimic a driver’s eyes and brain.
Robots may make driving safer. But that may come at a cost to human interaction. Then there are jobs. Driverless technology could eventually extinguish the taxi-driver profession, destroying a valuable source of income and a font of local knowledge, not to mention a priceless resource for journalists.