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All Grown Up: Uber Actually Sits Down With D.C. Regulators, Gets a Deal

Black hole. (Photo: Wikimedia)

After a series of tussles with regulators across the country, yesterday something went right for Uber. Washington, D.C.–a city where regulators have long been skeptical of the service–has passed a bill that essentially allows the service to continue operating legally. And just a couple days after the appearance of New York Times article about the company’s many Read More

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Off Duty Light Goes Off: Taxi Light System to No Longer Confuse Tourists

(Photo: Yellow Cab NYC)

It’s a secret point of pride for experienced New Yorkers that we know how to properly parse the mystifying taxi light system. It gives us a leg up over tourists, who spend so much time trying to differentiate between the Available and Off Duty lights that by the time they realize the cab is free, a local has already settled into the backseat.

But now, the Wall Street Journal reports that the Taxi & Limousine Commission has voted to revamp the baffling system: during scheduled taxi inspections between January and April, all taxis will be outfitted so that their signs only display one light when they’re available. When they’re taken or off-duty, the sign will be dark. Read More

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Uber Offers New Customers a Free Ride to Polling Places on Election Day

(Photo: Uber Blog)

San Francisco-based Uber, which allows users to hail a black car using their smartphone, has teamed up with Rock the Vote for an Election Day partnership that aims to entice new Uber customers to cast their ballots for our next President.

“On November 6th, we all have some big decisions to make as we decide on the next President of the United States,” reads a recent post to Uber’s blog. “One decision you shouldn’t have to make is how you’ll get to the polls.” Now you really have no excuse for not voting. Read More

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Uber Reverts Back to Surge Pricing in New York After One Day

(Photo: Uber Blog)

With most subway lines suspended or running on limited service, getting around New York has been nothing short of nightmarish. Yesterday, amid cries of price gouging, San Francisco-based Uber (which allows users to hail a black car from their phone) decided to postpone “surge pricing” in the wake of Hurricane Sandy. The company decided to turn off surge pricing for customers, but to still pay drivers surge pricing in order to incentivize them to get out there and provide rides to stranded New Yorkers.

Now, in an email sent out to Uber NYC users, the company claims that just one day of this pricing structure has resulted in a $100,000 loss to the company, “something we can’t continue indefinitely without breaking the bank.”

According to Crunchbase, the company has raised $49.5 million in venture funding. Read More

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Uber Temporarily Drops ‘Surge Pricing’ for Riders in NYC After Price-Gouging Complaints

(Photo: File)

Just before noon today, Uber, the San Francisco-based request-a-ride app decided to temporarily turn off what the company calls “surge pricing,” but only for riders. “We turned off surge for consumers, but to get drivers out we’re paying them the surge price,” Uber CEO Travis Kalanick told Betabeat by email, offering the example of paying drivers double, but charging customers the normal price.

“This way,” he said, “We can maximize the number of drivers on the road.” Turning off the surge pricing will result in “huge losses for the business,” he noted. But Uber will “do it as long as we can today while we figure out more sustainable ways to keep supply up while the city is in need.” Read More

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TLC Releases New Rules That Permit E-Hailing & Paying with Apps, May Cancel RFP [UPDATED]

(Photo by Chris Hondros/Getty Images)

UPDATE: The TLC is only contemplating canceling the RFP for smartphone apps. “While we don’t anticipate the need to proceed further with the RFP, if the rules are not passed as proposed, we may in fact choose to proceed with it,” TLC spokesman Allan Fromberg clarifies. 

As expected, the New York City Taxi and Limousine released proposed regulations today that call for allowing riders to e-hail and pay for taxis through a smartphone app. However, along with the new rules, the TLC is cancelling is considering canceling its request-for-proposal from March soliciting smartphone apps: “Because the e-hail rules will enable app developers to offer riders fare payment products, the RFP will no longer be necessary,” the agency said in an press release.

Nineteen startups submitted proposals, including Uber, Hailo, Get Taxi, and Taxi Magic. Read More

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And Another Innovation Bites the Dust: Uber Shuts Down Taxi Service In NYC

Uber taxi ride

Earlier today, The Verge published a pretty damning report alleging that Uber was essentially shutting down its taxi service in New York City. The worst allegations involved the claim that multiple drivers received messages calling them into headquarters to get paid a cash bonus, only when the cabbies got there, “Uber surprised them by asking for the device back, informing them that taxi service was no longer available in New York.” Another driver told the Verge that Uber offered $1,000 to sign up for its black car service instead. (As earlier screenshots obtained by Betabeat show, Uber has offered cash rewards to drivers in the past.)

Not long after, Uber admitted on its blog that UberTAXI has shut down operations in New York “for now,” emphasizing that no changes have been made to its black car service. With yesterday’s news of Square shutting down its pilot program in New York City, this is the second setback of sorts as technological advances to the taxi-riding experience try to make their way into the market. Square also promised it would try again soon–but unlike Uber, its program had official approval.

“We invested a fair amount of money in the UberTAXI in New York after initially getting a verbal greenlight from the TLC,” CEO Travis Kalanick told Betabeat of the amount Uber spent on its month-long test run, which involved a week of free rides to every New Yorker at $25/piece–for those who actually managed to find a cab on the app. Read More

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Scrrrreech! The TLC Explains Why Square Stopped Its Pilot Program in NYC Taxis [UPDATED]

Misty, Instagram-filtered memories, of the way we were. (Photo: nycgov.tumblr.com)

Ouch, we think we just got whiplash. A couple weeks ago, Mayor Bloomberg was photo-opping in the backseat with Jack Dorsey, founder of the mobile payments company Square.

But this afternoon, the New York Post got its hand on a letter from Square to the New York Taxi and Limousine Commission (TLC) announcing that the company has suddenly pulled out of its pilot program in yellow cabs, which the agency recently stated was going swimmingly.

The pilot run in 13 cabs was testing Square’s service–featuring iPads in the vehicle’s partition and iPhones in the front–as a replacement for TPEP, the agency’s internal moniker for the TV screens and credit card swipers currently run by an exclusive contract with Verifone and CMT that expires this coming February.  Read More

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Uber Sued for Consumer Fraud and Unlawful Practices by Chicago Taxi and Limo Companies

NYC_taxis

A number of Chicago taxi and limousine companies filed a lawsuit (below) today against Uber, the request-a-ride company that lets you e-hail and pay for a car with your smartphone.

In April, the San Francisco startup expanded its service in Chicago from black cars to include taxis as well. (Uber’s recent attempt to expand from black cars to yellow taxis in New York City were swatted down last month by the Taxi and Limousine Commission.)

Although Uber’s brash tactics and outspoken CEO, Travis Kalanick, have rankled city governments and competitors–the complaint even features a screengrab of a contentious tweet from Mr. Kalanick and references his open criticism of “of any regulation in general”–this marks the first time a taxi or limousine company has filed a suit against Uber. Read More

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TLC Testimony Foreshadows October Ruling on Smartphone Apps for Yellow Taxis

Smartphone and the City

In a packed boardroom across from City Hall last week, members of the New York City Council’s Committee on Transportation met to discuss the Taxi and Limousine Commission’s plans for a smartphone app that will allow riders to digitally hail and pay for yellow cabs, with just a few taps of their phone. The TLC shared the results of a survey–conducted through backseat screen, naturally–which found that almost 70 percent of passengers owned a smartphone and that 50 to 60 percent of respondents want an app that lets them find and pay for taxis.

The testy standing-room-only crowd didn’t shy away from cheering (when Councilman Vincent Ignizio accused the TLC of secret plans to destroy the livery cab industry via e-hailing apps) and jeering (Councilwoman Darlene Mealy, who represents Bed-Stuy and Brownsville, pointedly rolled her eyes when a TLC rep implied it’s not that hard to find a cab to the outer-boroughs.)

The notion of radically altering as iconic a New York moment as flagging down a yellow cab was met with wariness and derision from council members. It’s hard enough trying to explain the off-duty sign to tourists or parents visiting from out-of-town–imagine if you had to instruct them on how to navigate an app. “What happens if you are a senior citizen or a disabled person and you do not have access to the apps or you don’t know how to work with them?” asked committee chair James Vacca. “Somebody with an app will be able to hail a cab and you’ll be standing in the street longer than you normally would.” Read More