Hello and welcome to Oversharing, a newsletter about the proverbial sharing economy. If you're returning from last week, thanks! If you're new, nice to have you! (Over)share the love and tell your friends to sign up here.
Happy Election Day! Did you vote? Go vote! Take Uber! Take Lyft! Take a scooter! Ride a Citi Bike! Hop on public transit! Walk! Drive! What are you waiting for! Oversharing will be here later! Get thee to the polls and VOTE!
Once upon a time if you needed a ride you called a taxi, and it picked you up and delivered you to your destination. The price was a metered rate based on time and distance. Traffic was always a gamble, but because you knew what you were paying per minute and per mile, you had a rough sense what the trip would cost.
Then Uber disrupted taxis with rides that were much more convenient. The price of this convenience was surge pricing, which Uber used to charge more during busy periods. In the beginning Uber alerted riders to surges (“demand is off the charts!”) but after several years it decided surge was better off concealed. And so, in 2016, Uber introduced “upfront” pricing, a new system in which the rider was shown a price in dollars and asked to agree to it before booking the trip. Fares still varied with traffic and demand and who knows what other factors, but customers only saw the number Uber showed them. It was, in other words, not so upfront.
This upfront pricing system is now used by most ride-hail companies, including Uber competitor Lyft. I like to compare it to shopping in a grocery store where there are no price tags, and you only learn at checkout how much each item will cost. Which brings us to Ride Pass:
Taxi-hailing firm Uber has launched a membership scheme dubbed Ride Pass, for passengers in five US cities.
The deal allows passengers to avoid price surging, when costs rise at rush hour and other in-demand times.
Uber launched Ride Pass on Oct. 30. It costs $24.99 a month in Los Angeles and $14.99 in Austin, Denver, Miami, and Orlando. The basic idea is to reduce price uncertainty.
“One thing we hear a lot from riders is that changes in price - however small - can make it tough to plan their day with Uber,” said product manager Dan Bilen.
“The daily commute is a classic example, and it goes something like this: you pay one low price for the ride to work, only to find the ride back home is a different story.”
According to Uber, the $15 you pay for Ride Pass (or $25 in LA) locks in “fixed”—as in, consistent—prices along specific routes. With Ride Pass, your trip from home to work is always the same price, regardless of time of day or demand. The fare from your office to the gym is another set price, impervious to external factors. Uber says these prices are, on average, 15% to 20% lower than what all customers have historically paid on that route, and you will just have to trust it on that, because it probably won’t be releasing the data anytime soon. Ride Pass grew out of small product tests over the last two years that found—surprise!—people value consistency. (Lyft is also testing out a subscription product, which at $299 a month feels a lot less affordable.)
Disruption, in short, has come full circle. Uber disrupted taxis by selling convenience and reliability (a ride at the touch of a button) for a premium (surge and unpredictable prices). The model became hugely successful and dynamic pricing the norm, but Uber also learned that lots of people don’t like this sort of pricing instability. So now here we are and Uber is disrupting itself by selling stable prices in exchange for a monthly premium, a hedge against the instability that it introduced in the first place. Love it or hate it, you’ve got to respect it.
Some of Lime’s caught on fire:
In August of this year, we learned of a potential issue with some Ninebot scooter batteries. The issue arose in one of the two batteries housed on early versions of the scooter; in several isolated instances, a manufacturing defect could result in the battery smoldering or, in some cases, catching fire.
Lime says the defect affected “less than 0.01% of our scooter fleet,” and that it “worked with Segway Ninebot to create a software program to detect the potentially affected batteries.” It pulled some scooters from Los Angeles, San Diego, and Lake Tahoe. The company also announced a number of safety initiatives, including plans to hire a “head of trust and safety,” to give away 25,000 helmets to Lime riders, and to develop “virtual parking zones” to help people park their scooters in the correct areas.
Meanwhile, Lime is also planning a car-rental service in Seattle, The Information reported:
The car-share service would run similarly to Daimler’s Car2go and BMW Group’s ReachNow hourly car rental service, which already operate in Seattle and several other North American cities including Portland, Ore. The list of challenges for these types of services is long, including high costs of vehicles, cleaning, insurance and local debates over parking rules, according to four current or former executives at urban car-rental companies.
The rental service would let users book one of about 500 small cars made by Fiat Chrysler, which cost $10,000 to $20,000 each. It’s not clear whether Lime would purchase them outright. It’s also unclear how Lime would price the service, though previous reports said it was investigating electric car (“transit pod”) rentals for $1 plus $0.40 per minute.
Lime reportedly picked Seattle for the rental test because the city allows “free-floating” car share, in which cars can be left in most street parking spaces vs. having to be deposited at their original pickup spot. A rental car service would put Lime in competition not just with Car2Go, but also Uber and Getaround, which partnered earlier this year on a rental-car service inside the Uber app.
Lime is looking into other modes of transportation after easing up on pedal and electric bikes, which have reportedly been less lucrative than scooters (though knowing what we do about scooter unit economics, it’s hard to imagine those being too profitable either). In Washington DC, for example, Lime phased out shared bikes over the summer and doubled down on scooters. Elsewhere in scooter diversification, Lime also plans to open a physical store in Santa Monica.
Four, no more.
I mean this is just too easy:
On Tuesday, WeWork announced in an email to users in New York City that it’s experimenting with a pilot program to “help manage the provision of alcohol in our spaces.” Through the program, all taps will be controlled with the same key card used to get into the building. Employees will now be limited to four 12-ounce pours of beer per person, per day. The tap will be locked outside the hours of 12 p.m. to 8 p.m. to prevent early morning and late-night drinking.
“WeWork has been working on piloting an innovative, software-driven mechanism to help manage the provision of alcohol in our spaces for some time,” a spokeswoman told MarketWatch. “In addition to the supervision already provided by our community management team, mechanized tap controls will enhance this amenity we provide to our members.”
This seems like an obvious cost-control measure, similar to WeWork’s summer banning of meat at corporate functions. In this case it is also being positioned as an office culture measure, an effort to check the bro-iest impulses of Silicon Valley and its WeWork-using members. That said I have so many questions! How many WeWorkers were having more than four beers a day before this announcement? How many were drinking before noon? How did they possibly get any work done while drinking four-plus beers a day beginning in the early hours of the morning?
Soon There May Be More Economists at Tech Companies Than in Policy Schools. Former WeWork employee sues for sexual harassment. Lyft driver charged in “vomit fraud” cases in North Dakota. NYPD seizes e-bikes from immigrant delivery workers. Mumbai’s ride-hail standoff hurts riders and drivers. Uber partners with Suzuki to expand cheap rides in African cities. Sundar Pichai says Google needs “much harder line on inappropriate behavior.” CBRE gets into the co-working business. Uber’s Secret Restaurant Empire. Expedia acquires two hospitality startups. “Invisible is like Uber for digital labor.” Half of Amazon HQ2 is coming to New York, god help us. We aren’t ready for robotaxis. San Francisco fines two landlords $2.25 million for illegal Airbnb rentals. Uber wants driverless cars back on the road in Pennsylvania. Silicon Valley Goes to China. Millennials more likely to share salary info. Long live the bus.
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Send tips, comments, and WeWork beer stories to @alisongriswold on Twitter, or firstname.lastname@example.org.