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Ex-Lyft driver sues Uber over “Hell,” its alleged “spyware”

After finding software flaw, Uber reportedly spoofed Lyft accounts to find drivers.

8,000 aspiring Uber and Lyft drivers fail state background check

Uber: "Thousands of people have lost access to economic opportunities."

Lyft agrees to pay $27 million to settle driver classification lawsuit

However, even with the deal, they remain independent contractors.

GM, Lyft could deploy “thousands” of autonomous Bolts in 2018

GM won’t sell self-driving cars to individuals, wants to deploy them in fleets.

Chevrolet’s Bolt makes its ride-sharing debut in Los Angeles with Maven

The electric vehicle will be used for car-sharing and be accessible to Lyft drivers, too.

Apple, Google, and 95 other tech firms join forces to fight...

Companies say executive order is "overbroad…lacks any basis in precedent."

In new lawsuit, Instacart shoppers say they were regularly underpaid

Kristin Sloanreader comments 7 Share this story On Thursday, 12 Instacart “shoppers” across 11 states filed a proposed federal class-action lawsuit against the San Francisco startup, alleging a breach of state and federal labor laws. The Instacart lawsuit is one of several currently targeting so-called “sharing economy” startups, and they all get at the same question: can workers be accurately classified as independent contractors, or should they properly be designated as employees? In Instacart’s case, customers order groceries online, but those groceries are then picked up and delivered by the company’s shoppers.
So, should those shoppers be treated as employees? Classifying such workers as employees rather than contractors would entitle them to a number of benefits under federal law.

This includes unemployment benefits, workers’ compensation, the right to unionize, and, most importantly, the right to seek reimbursement for mileage and tips.

This reclassification would also incur new and significant costs for Instacart and other affected companies, including Uber and Lyft.

An on-demand cleaning service, Homejoy, shut down last year just months after it was hit with a similar labor lawsuit. The three labor law experts with whom Ars spoke agreed that this underlying sharing economy issue would not be resolved anytime soon.
It may, they said, have to be taken up by the Supreme Court at some point. “Instacart—like Uber—seems to be clearly misclassifying their workers,” Veena Dubal, a law professor at the University of California, Hastings, told Ars by e-mail.
She continued: In the Uber case, thus far, no class action has effectively forced enforcement, despite any number of cases being filed in different state and federal courts and a strong case that Uber is an employer. Perhaps taking a lesson from the Uber litigation, this Instacart case takes a new approach: alleging misclassification across jurisdictions and across wage protection laws.

A drawback of this strategy is that each state law has to be addressed on its own terms.

This may—or may not—elongate and complicate the litigation. In the new lawsuit, called Husting v. Maplebear dba Instacart, all of the plaintiffs allege that they did not receive reimbursement for work-related expenses, did not receive proper overtime pay, and “regularly” were not paid at or above minimum wage. As the civil complaint states: Plaintiffs were required to make themselves available to perform work within a predetermined range of time each day but were not compensated in a manner that guaranteed they were compensated at or above the applicable minimum wage during those hours.

During nonproductive time, or time during which Plaintiffs were required to make themselves available for work but were not given an assignment, Plaintiffs were not compensated in any manner whatsoever. On various occasions during the relevant period, Plaintiffs spent sometimes up to four hours of a designated shift sitting in their cars in a grocery store parking lot awaiting direction from Instacart. Plaintiffs were not compensated for this time in any manner. The San Francisco-based lawyers that brought this case also filed a similar lawsuit (Cobarruviaz v. Maplebear dba Instacart) in 2015.

That suit remains technically pending, but was ordered to arbitration. This new case, with new plaintiffs, takes into account an August 2016 decision by the 9th US Circuit Court of Appeals, which found that employees cannot be forced into binding arbitration, a private legal process that generally favors corporations and makes collective cases (class actions) all but impossible.

The main difference, of course, between the 9th Circuit’s ruling and this new case, Husting, is that Instacart will likely argue that the plaintiffs are not, in fact, employees. Rebecca Silliman, an Instacart spokeswoman, e-mailed that the company would not “comment on anything pending.” Holding feet to the fire? In June 2015 Instacart took the unusual step of allowing its delivery staff, which until then was comprised entirely of contractors, the option to become part-time workers capped at 30 hours per week. As Ars reported at the time, Instacart spokeswoman Andrea Saul specifically denied that the 30-hour cutoff was designed to avoid providing health care to shoppers and drivers under the Affordable Care Act (ACA), in which full-time employment is defined as “an employee who is employed on average at least 30 hours of service per week.” The ACA, among other things, requires that employers with more than 50 employees provide health care to their workers and their families. Instacart’s own office-based full-time jobs boast “comprehensive health, dental, and vision coverage” and a “smorgasbord of food while you work, including lunch and dinner catered daily,” according to company listings.
In-store jobs (the overwhelming majority of the company’s workforce) only offer “$15/hr flat rate pay” and boast “flexible hours—no need to work the same schedule every week!” Miriam Cherry, a labor law professor at Saint Louis University, said the following to Ars in an email: The issue I have the most trouble with here is that Instacart did do a major PR blitz during the first lawsuit, saying that they were going to start moving the workers into employee positions. Now it looks like they didn’t do that, despite all the positive PR that they received from that announcement. Maybe the plaintiffs in this go-round are trying to hold them to some of their promises that they made in the press.

Automakers balk at California’s proposed self-driving car rules

Google had a self-driving car sitting at the show, but it wasn't driving itself anywhere.reader comments 14 Share this story On Wednesday, California’s Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV) held a meeting to discuss a set of proposed rules (PDF) that would govern how state regulator would deal with autonomous vehicles in the near future. The California DMV’s rules lifted from guidelines that the National Highway Transportation Safety Authority (NHTSA) published last month then made voluntary.

That troubled automakers and autonomous software engineers from Google, Ford, Volkswagen, and Honda, all of which currently have licenses to test autonomous vehicles on California’s roads as long as those cars have a qualified driver. Eighteen companies working on self-driving vehicles have licenses to test autonomous vehicles in the state.

California’s strong technology industry made it a hotbed for autonomous driving research, and the state’s large population often means that companies will adapt their product to meet California’s regulatory demands if they’re more stringent than rules governing other states in the nation. According to Reuters, Google and other automakers objected in particular to a proposed rule that would require the self-driving car builder to submit a year’s worth of testing data on when the car had to be disengaged from autonomous mode in order for that car maker to be allowed to fully deploy the self-driving vehicle. A coalition of self-driving car makers including Google, Ford, Lyft, Uber, and Volvo said that such a rule would significantly delay getting autonomy into cars, which automakers and regulators largely agree could decrease accidents significantly. The private companies also questioned the privacy implications of some of the DMV’s proposed rules. “The manufacturer shall certify that it will release autonomous technology sensor data... that is in its possession or control to law enforcement or peace officers within 24 hours of their request for such data,” the proposal reads.
Such a request could be delivered without a warrant or a subpoena. The proposed rules weren’t all restrictive, however.

California’s DMV did suggest a way forward for automakers who want to deploy driverless vehicles—in which a steering wheel would be absent—on public roads in the near future. However, the DMV’s rules noted that an autonomous vehicle engineer would have to seek approval from all local governments that the car would pass through during testing. Ron Medford, director of safety for Google's self-driving car project, called this rule “unworkable,” according to Reuters. The proposed rules also mandate that manufacturers must update the autonomous technology “at least annually,” a directive that the manufacturers did not appear to object to. Of course, these are only proposed rules.

The California DMV stated that it will be considering changes to the rules in the coming months.

Court says yes to regulating cabbies, no to governing Uber drivers

EnlargeJordan Tempro via Getty Images reader comments 54 Share this story A federal appeals court says Uber and taxis are not the same type of service, and, hence, it's OK to regulate them differently.
In a blow to taxi drivers, the decision means cities like Chicago can have separate regulations for Uber and taxis—with the more onerous ones targeting cabbies. The US 7th Circuit Court of Appeals said drivers like Lyft and Uber don't have to have their fares regulated or their drivers licensed.
In a federal lawsuit, cabbies said the different treatment is an illegal double standard, discriminatory, anti-competitive, and is forcing them out of business. "The plaintiffs continue to receive some insulation from competition, because they alone are permitted to operate taxicabs in Chicago.

Taxicabs are preferred to Uber and other TNPs (transportation network providers) by many riders, because you don’t have to use an app to summon them—you just wave at one that drives toward you on the street—and also because the fares are fixed by the City," the court ruled. In dismissing the suit, the court ruled (PDF) the two services cannot be compared.
It's like comparing apples and oranges, or, more appropriately, it's comparing dogs to cats—and the cabbies are the dog in this analogy.

The outcome upholds a 2014 decision by Chicago city leaders that Uber and Lyft drivers may operate almost freely in the city, without having to pay for taxi medallions or succumb to a host of other regulations heaped onto taxi drivers. Here’s an analogy: Most cities and towns require dogs but not cats to be licensed.

There are differences between the animals.

Dogs on average are bigger, stronger, and more aggressive than cats, are feared by more people, can give people serious bites, and make a lot of noise outdoors, barking and howling.

Feral cats generally are innocuous, and many pet cats are confined indoors.

Dog owners, other than those who own cats as well, would like cats to have to be licensed, but do not argue that the failure of government to require that the "competing" animal be licensed deprives the dog owners of a constitutionally protected property right, or alternatively that it subjects them to unconstitutional discrimination.

The plaintiffs in the present case have no stronger argument for requiring that Uber and the other TNPs be subjected to the same licensure scheme as the taxi owners. Just as some people prefer cats to dogs, some people prefer Uber to Yellow Cab, Flash Cab, Checker Cab, et al.

They prefer one business model to another. Writing for the three-judge majority, Judge Richard Posner said that ride-hailing services are part of the disruption culture now. A license to operate a coffee shop doesn’t authorize the licensee to enjoin a tea shop from opening. When property consists of a license to operate in a market in a particular way, it does not carry with it a right to be free from competition in that market.

A patent confers an exclusive right to make and sell the patented product, but no right to prevent a competitor from inventing a noninfringing substitute product that erodes the patentee’s profits.
Indeed when new technologies, or new business methods, appear, a common result is the decline or even disappearance of the old. Were the old deemed to have a constitutional right to preclude the entry of the new into the markets of the old, economic progress might grind to a halt.
Instead of taxis we might have horse and buggies; instead of the telephone, the telegraph; instead of computers, slide rules. Obsolescence would equal entitlement. The case was brought by the Illinois Transportation Trade Association, which represents cab drivers.
Its attorney, Edward Feldman, said the group was considering an appeal. "We don’t find those analogies persuasive," he told the Chicago Sun-Times. When the case was argued three weeks ago, the cabbies complained that taxi revenue is down by as much as 50 percent, given that there are some 90,000 drivers working for Lyft and Uber in the Chicago area. The playing field was changed somewhat in June.

Chicago city leaders approved a plan requiring ride-hailing service drivers to take an online course.

Cab drivers, however, must be fingerprinted, obtain a chauffeur's license, and take an in-person class that costs $300. Ride-hailing companies don't have to get medallions, either.

The city-issued medallions—the permits that owners of taxis must get to operate legally—peaked in price in 2013, at $357,000.

A recent transfer of a medallion between companies cost $60,000, lawyers for the cabbies told the appeals court.