All posts in “Ride Sharing”

Usain Bolt promotes e-scooters in New York, where it’s illegal to ride them

The world’s fastest man, Usain Bolt, stood on the steps of New York City Hall on Tuesday to promote the national launch of e-scooter sharing company, Bolt Mobility.

The two Bolts share a name, so it only made sense that Bolt the company would bring Bolt the human onboard as its official brand ambassador. At the conference, standing next to Bolt the man was the company’s newly unveiled “Chariot,” a scooter model large enough to store a rider’s bags and comes complete with two cup holders. 

Bolt Mobility brand ambassador Usain Bolt poses atop the "Chariot" model e-scooter, which he could not actually legally ride at the New York press conference.

Bolt Mobility brand ambassador Usain Bolt poses atop the “Chariot” model e-scooter, which he could not actually legally ride at the New York press conference.

Image: matt binder / mashable

The Olympic gold medalist stood on the Chariot for photos, but he didn’t ride it. That’s because he can’t. E-scooters are illegal in New York.

While the conference promoted Bolt Mobility, its new line of e-scooters, and Usain Bolt’s role in a scooter sharing company, the focal point — even when it wasn’t specifically being talked about — was the scooter’s legal status. And it was clear that Bolt Mobility wanted to highlight it. Why else would a startup put together a big product launch with a world-renowned athlete on the steps of New York City Hall?

The company, along with its celebrity brand ambassador, even released a new online commercial today. The video features Usain Bolt practicing how to safely ride an e-scooter in a big city where its presumably legal. At the very beginning of the clip, a billboard clearly labels the location as New York City.

“There’s a major traffic crisis in New York City,” said Bolt co-founder and co-CEO Dr. Sarah Haynes to reporters, referencing the city’s MTA woes. “We’re excited to be able to help solve that problem in an environmentally friendly way.”

“I have run in cities all over the world, and I can tell you first hand that traffic is getting worse and worse in every city on every continent on earth,” said Bolt ambassador Usain Bolt. “The air quality is also getting worse, and I feel that now is the time that we must do something about it.”

Bolt's new "Chariot" e-scooter at the national launch in New York.

Bolt’s new “Chariot” e-scooter at the national launch in New York.

Image: matt binder / mashable

E-scooter sharing is having a moment. On the west coast, scooter companies like Bird and Lime are becoming almost as ubiquitous as Uber and Lyft. In fact, both taxi ride sharing companies are now in the scooter business as well. Uber is even interested in acquiring one of the two biggest e-scooter companies.

However, e-scooters have had their share of controversies, even where they’re legal. Injuries to riders and the fact that the scooters are dockless, leaving customers to just litter the sidewalks with e-scooters when they’re done using them, have already given this relatively young industry a bad name.

Usain Bolt and Bolt Mobility co-founder and co-CEO Dr. Sarah Haynes promote the company's national launch in front of New York City Hall.

Usain Bolt and Bolt Mobility co-founder and co-CEO Dr. Sarah Haynes promote the company’s national launch in front of New York City Hall.

Image: Matt Binder / mashable

The Miami Beach-based Bolt Mobility already has a fleet of scooters available to rent via smartphone app for 15 cents per minute in cities like Fort Lauderdale, Florida as well as in Arlington and Alexandria, Virginia. Bolt also launched a new website today touting how its worked with these cities to form a mutually beneficial relationship for residents and local government alike.

However, riding an e-scooter in New York, the U.S. city with the biggest and most heavily used public transit system, can result in a $500 civil penalty. The rider’s scooter will also be impounded.

But, that may soon change. Governor Andrew Cuomo now supports e-scooter legalization and the scooter companies have hired lobbyists to make sure it happens.

Speaking to press at Tuesday’s event, Bolt Mobility’s executive vice president of operations Will Nicholas made it seem like the company was hoping to curry favor with the people of New York in the legalization fight. Perhaps learning from one of Amazon’s missteps in pro-labor New York, the Bolt VP mentioned how the company would be “open-minded to New York’s labor community” in regards to the unionization of its employees.

There are currently bills at both the city and state level looking to legalize e-scooters in New York, which could very well be just months away.

“We’re on the precipice of major mobility change in this city,” said Nicholas.

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Lime brings electric bike and scooter sharing to Australia

Electric scooter and bike sharing company Lime has rolled into Australia, launching in Sydney on Friday.

The Californian company’s bright green, dockless electric vehicles have been released into the streets, with 300 e-bikes distributed through Sydney to start and e-scooters to come soon.

Melbourne will be next, with preview electric scooter rides offered for locals heading to and from the Melbourne Cup horse race on Tuesday, and a three-month scooter pilot launched at Monash University in Melbourne earlier this week.

Although folks across the U.S. have endured Lime for over a year, Australians might not be familiar with how they work. The vehicles run on a replaceable lithium battery, which can be swapped out by one of 50 operations employees across the city every two days. The bikes can reach up to 23.8km/h, even on hilly terrain.

The service works through the Lime app, which allows you to scan the area for vehicles. As far as pricing goes, it’ll cost you $1 to unlock a vehicle and 30 cents per minute.

Pick your Lime vehicle.

Pick your Lime vehicle.

Image: mashable screenshot

Lime says it’s been working with local authorities in Sydney to make sure they can weave into the existing transport network.

“Lime’s electric bikes have become hugely popular in cities, similar to Sydney, such as Seattle, whose community is looking for cleaner, cheaper and more accessible transportation,” said Mitchell Price, director of government affairs and strategy in Australia and New Zealand, in a press statement.

“The advantage of our electric bikes is they work together with existing public transit by increasing the accessibility of public transport so people can rely less on personal cars.

“Sydney’s need for innovative transport solutions, which cater to the first and last mile, gives us confidence we will see high uptake of Lime electric bikes within the community,” he added.

Lime in New Zealand.

Lime in New Zealand.

Image: lime

Although it currently operates in more than 100 cities around the world, in Canada, Mexico, Spain, France, Germany, Switzerland, and more, Lime’s Australian endeavor marks a further foray for the company into the Southern Hemisphere. Lime launched its e-scooters into the New Zealand cities of Auckland and Christchurch in October, as New Zealand’s first ever scooter program. Lime saw the cities cap scooter numbers in Auckland and Christchurch are 1,000 and 700 respectively.

Like other cities across the globe, including Sydney, Lime worked closely with the New Zealand Transport Agency, Christchurch City Council, and Auckland Transport to integrate the scooters into the existing transport system.

“It’s [the scooter program] exactly the kind of thing we want. Zero emissions, and a lot of fun.” Christchurch Councilwoman Vicki Buck said in a press statement.

The introduction of a new ride-share program may trigger some negative feelings for Australians

The introduction of a new ride-share program may trigger some negative feelings for Australians, who have watched cities around the country struggling to deal with mass dumpings of bike-share vehicles over the past 12 months — a terrible trend observed globally, but most notoriously in cities in China. Implementing scooter caps like New Zealand’s may alleviate some of these fears, and the fact that Lime is working with local authorities from the get-go is positive — local councils around the world, including those in Australia, had to clean up the bike-sharing mess after the fact. 

Lime itself has seen decent legislation implemented in some U.S. cities attempting to control scooter dumping. Some cities have identified geo-fenced areas as no-parking zones, and Lime is rolling out new screens on its Generation 3 e-scooters that will make it clearer to riders where these zones are. 

Australia seems to have implemented these no-parking zones, as the app shows areas in red where you can’t park the bikes and scooters.

Red means a no parking zone.

Red means a no parking zone.

Image: mashable screenshot

Aside from the well-worn bike-share path, there’s also the question of whether Australians will pick up the electric scooter trend, which has had a year to settle into the U.S with Lime, alongside competitors like San Francisco-based scooter-share startups Spin and Scoot, the Uber-owned Jump, Lyft-owned Motivate, and Santa Monica-based main player Bird.

Singaporean bike service oBike withdrew from the Australian market in June, with Chinese company Ofo following suit in July.

Whether they’re ready or not, however, Lime has landed.

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Uber launches program to reward high-performing drivers

Driving for Uber isn’t always the most rewarding experience. Strangers puke in your car. Riders tip poorly. You might not break even if you’re leasing a car. A recent driver survey from ride-sharing guide Ridester showed the average hourly wage is not even $15.

So Uber has devised a reward program called Uber Pro to motivate and recognize hard-working and committed drivers — and it’s not just about cramming the most rides into a day. Uber wants to reward drivers who offer a high-quality experience and are dedicated to their driving duties.

On Thursday, Uber Pro debuted its pilot program in Seattle, Chicago, New Orleans, Orlando, Tampa, Phoenix, Denver, and New Jersey. Based on how it goes, Uber hopes to expand across the country and eventually internationally.

Drivers unlock rewards if they have at least a 4.85-star rating and a low cancellation rate under 4 percent. Every three months, drivers earn points per trip. The points earned during that period unlock status levels and rewards for the next three months. 

There are four status levels: partner, gold, platinum, and diamond. The higher the status, the better the rewards. But all are focused on improving driver earnings, maximizing drivers’ time, and helping with driver goals on and off the road. 

This isn’t supposed to play into the so-called “gamification” of ride-share driving, but with levels given labels like “diamond” and “platinum” it veers into that territory. Some of the rewards are extra earnings for time and distance driven, cash back at gas stations, 25 percent off car maintenance, and for diamond status, free dent repair. Other rewards include recognition that you’re a Pro driver in the app, priority support, faster airport pickups, and 24/7 roadside assistance.

Uber Pro offers rewards to qualified drivers.

Uber Pro offers rewards to qualified drivers.

Image: Uber

The other part of Uber’s driver recognition program is free tuition at Arizona State University Online for platinum and diamond drivers. The company sees this as a big perk for its most committed drivers, many who tell Uber they want to eventually open their own business, finish their higher education, or work on their English language skills. The free tuition credit can be transferred to a spouse, domestic partner, child, sibling, parent, legal guardian or dependent. 

“These are the drivers who have invested so much in Uber,” Ali Wiezbowski, Uber driver product lead, said in a phone call this week. 

In an op-ed for the Arizona Republic Thursday, Uber CEO Dara Khosrowshahi and ASU president Michael Crow wrote about the free tuition. 

“We hope to provide a model of how business and academia can leverage knowledge, technology, and scale to help more people gain the skills they need to advance in their lives, serve their families and communities, and contribute to the betterment of society,” they wrote.

To kick off the pilot, drivers who have already completed 3,000 trips over the past three months will be brought into the rewards program.

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Waze offers carpool rides like Lyft and Uber, but for way less

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Instead of ordering a car, Waze wants you to share a ride.
Instead of ordering a car, Waze wants you to share a ride.

Image: waze carpool

The carpool lane looks so alluring, but as a lone driver it’s very much off limits. Unless you pick someone up to ride along with you.

That’s what the aptly named Waze Carpool service hopes to do: pair riders and drivers looking to share a ride and whiz through traffic — or at least slog through it a bit faster.

On Wednesday, Google-owned navigation app Waze finally expanded its Carpool service throughout the U.S. The low-cost ride-sharing option first rolled out in 2016 in a few U.S. cities and later opened up in California, Massachusetts, Texas, Washington, Illinois, and Nevada. Now it’s in all 50 states. Carpool is also available in Brazil and Israel (Waze started as an Israeli company).

As part of the expansion, Waze Carpool is partnering with Amazon to offer its services to 50 Amazon Fulfillment Center sites around the country so employees can ride together instead of driving themselves to and from work.

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This is very much a grab into the ride-sharing services that have become popular on ride-hailing apps Uber and Lyft. Earlier this year Lyft revamped its app knowing that shared rides were vital for users — 35 percent of rides on the app are shared. It’s no secret that Uber Pool (and Uber Express Pool) offer cheaper rides as long as you’re willing to squeeze in with other riders and take a less efficient route.

On Waze, instead of designated drivers, these are everyday commuters who have some empty seats. Riders pay for gas, which comes out to much less than the taxi-like costs of traditional ride-hailing apps, even for shared rides. A Waze ride home from my San Francisco office brings up rides from nearby drivers asking for about $1.60. On Lyft, a shared ride on a similar route is $13.20. Uber Pool is $12.60 and Express Pool is $6.30. A bus ride home on the local public transit system would be $2.50.  

This isn’t much of a money-making opportunity, so labor and worker rights issues don’t come into play for this service. The expanded carpool service comes after drivers in New York City secured guaranteed hourly pay rates and the city capped the number of vehicles that could operate for services like Lyft and Uber. 

For drivers who want to turn on the ride-sharing service, it’s only a button away within the existing Waze app. For anyone looking for a ride, a separate Waze Carpool app connects you to drivers who can pick you up. You can also request or offer rides up in advance, so you can plan for that ride home at lunchtime. 

It’s basically like the old-school carpool pickup zones known as “casual carpool” here in the Bay Area to get that HOV status to cross the Bay Bridge. Only now it’s done through an app. Carpooling is timeless.

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Ola raises $50M at a $4.3B valuation from two Chinese funds

Ola, the arch-rival of Uber in India, has raised $50 million at a valuation of about $4.3 billion from Sailing Capital, a Hong Kong-based private equity firm, and the China-Eurasian Economic Cooperation Fund (CEECF), a state-backed Chinese fund. The funding was disclosed in regulatory documents sourced by Paper.vc and reviewed by Indian financial publication Mint.

According to Mint, Sailing Capital and CEECF will hold a combined stake of more than 1% in Ola . An Ola spokesperson said the company has no comment.

Ola’s last funding announcement was in October, when it raised $1.1 billion (its largest funding round to date) from Tencent and returning investor SoftBank Group. Ola also said it planned to raise an additional $1 billion from other investors that would take the round’s final amount to about $2.1 billion.

At the time, a source with knowledge of the deal told TechCrunch that Ola was headed toward a post-money valuation of $7 billion once the $2.1 bllion raise was finalized. So while the funding from Sailing Capital and CEECF brings it closer to its funding goal, the latest valuation of $4.3 billion is still lower than the projected amount.

Ola needs plenty of cash to fuel its ambitious expansion both within and outside of India. In addition to ride hailing, Ola got back into the food delivery game at the end of last year by acquiring Foodpanda’s Indian operations to compete with UberEats, Swiggy, Zomato and Google’s Areo. It was a bold move to make as India’s food delivery industry consolidated, especially since Ola had previously launched a food delivery service that shut down after less than one year. To ensure the survival of Foodpanda, Ola poured $200 million into its new acquisition.

A few months later after buying Foodpanda, Ola announced the acquisition of public transportation ticketing startup Ridlr in an all-stock deal. Outside of India, Ola has been focused on a series of international launches. It announced today that it will begin operating in New Zealand, fast on the heels of launches in the United Kingdom and Australia (its first country outside of India) this year.