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Uber Movement (uber.com)
307 points by ndirish1842 135 days ago | hide | past | web | 134 comments | favorite

Very interesting. I worry about a selection bias, though. Uber riders are wealthier than average, so the trips won't necessarily reflect all the commutes of those in the city. I hope this doesn't lead to just an improvement in bus routes, road construction, traffic, etc. between nicer sections of the city.

I get the impression that much of America has the opposite problem. "The bus" is seen as something for the poor, which no self-respecting middle-class person would ride. The result is more cars on the road, more pollution, and less funding for public transit, since taxpayers are less willing to subsidize a system that's not for them. In places with good public transit, it is seen a something that directly benefits everyone, and not as a welfare program.

I went to LA and took the bus from the airport to the city (my default transit choice when there isn't a train). I had a pleasant ride but I was surprised to find that I was the only white person on a maybe half-full bus. I haven't encountered this kind of self-segregation on public transport anywhere else in the world before or since.

That is the norm in the Southern cities I've been to -- especially Jacksonville (my home). Hell, even in Atlanta, a relatively well-integrated city, the backronym meaning for MARTA[0] has existed practically since it began.

[0]: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Metropolitan_Atlanta_Rapid_Tra...

In LA, middle class and up mostly have their own car, which leaves the bus for people who can't afford cars. It's been like that for decades. There are some exceptions in pockets.

a bus in my city more than quadruples the time to get anywhere around or near my city. That means a 15minute car ride can take 1.5hours on a bus.

Most people who can afford a car will opt out of spending 3 hours a day on a bus, but for people who don't have any other option, they are burdened with this on top of working long minimum wage hours, and walking their groceries 1/2 mile home in the freezing cold with their children after a 10 hour shift, and judged for not being able to get themselves out of a bad situation.

Whatever the cost of an uber ride is, can be earned back multiple time in the amount of time people could work more, or allow them to come home and spend more time with their children instead of keeping them in after school public welfare programs which is shown to decrease crime over time.

In general, unless you are in Boston or NYC, the option of a bus is really the only option, and it is a disgraceful and absurd option for poor people working long hours at minimal pay. Ive ridden the public bus system in my city. It's a joke. I feel sad for people who have to navigate to work using it everyday, especially considering the majority of jobs that provide any hope of economic mobility are on "the other side of town" taxing their time even more to navigate further.

It is unreasonable to assume the working poor who are more statistically likely to have kids are not at an exponential disadvantage when a 15minute ride to work takes roughly 25% of their waking day, when maximizing hours worked is important with less pay, and kids are left in understaffed public daycare programs or unsupervised in areas with high crime rates at home. What do we expect?

I too am sad that there are people who have to spend a large portion of their day working for minimum wage and on inefficient public transportation.

We're all different, born into different situations, in different geographical areas, with different brains, different athletic abilities (or not), and different opportunities in life. Some people are able to make a better life for themselves than the one they were born into and others squander their initial advantages and end up on skid row.

I expect people to realize their current economic situation, whatever the reason, and have kids only when they can afford to support them. Having sex may be mandatory, but having kids isn't. The easiest way to make a difficult economic situation worse is to have a kid.

Not just wealthier [1], but also younger and more urban. People who have 25 mile commutes from the suburbs--even very wealthy suburbs--are more likely to own cars and less likely to use Uber.

[1] In cities with good public transit (e.g., Boston, NYC), uber can seem more like a luxury but in cities that are very car centric (e.g., Detroit, Miami), Uber is actually cheaper than owning a car for many people. I live in Miami and use UberPool all the time and I meet people from all walks of life. Car insurance here is very expensive, so for a lot of people, using Uber saves them money.

Even in San Francisco I have forgo car in favor of Uber. Using Uber is far cheaper and convenient than having a car.

The question is, when the VC money dries up and they can't subsidize the fares any more, does this still apply?

I prefer having a car - I can put my surfboard on the roof, I can put my bikes on the back. I can always have the boot / trunk full of camping and beach stuff. It's far more convenient than relying on taxis and hire cars.

Really helps when you have kids too.

The convenience of hire cars and Uber covers a limited scope.

As a Boston native, I'm going to have to disagree with your assessment of their public transit as "good"!

I'd say the goodness of Boston's public transit depends on your comparison set. If you compare to the rest of the US, there aren't many cities with better public transit. If you compare to the rest of the world, it's another story.

Well, you are right that uber users is not a representative sample of the city population. Biased data is not inherently bad, it's just that you need to be aware of biases.

Well of course there's selection bias, but it doesn't affect this use case because cities already concentrate all their transportation efforts on the wealthiest areas first. How it may affect things is that traffic may get redirected to new areas the way Waze caused suburban neighborhoods in LA to become flooded with speeding rush hour traffic.

Traffic is traffic.

Yes only wealthy people's routes are being data mined. However, if someone is going from P to U, you will still learn that R to T is a hot spot. Those hot spots are common to everyone.

Except the potential issue is that while R to T is the worst spot according to the data, there is a route in a poorer neighbourhood, C to F, that is far worse and more deserving of improvement than R to T. And it may be hard to know in practice whether this effect is happening or not.

I understand and agree that you have a valid point, but what is your suggestion? Would you rather have no data?

My quess would be that Uber use it as a carrot for cities. Let Uber operate and we will give city official data and city planning tools for free.

It's win–win–win. If cities make improvements to their transportation infrastructure based on this data, ultimately it helps Uber deliver better service to its customers.

Well except for the drivers that get paid less and less now. I mean we'll forget about all that once their self-driving vehicles start being deployed, right? Well until they kill people.

I mean don't get me wrong, the data is valuable. But this is a company that constantly says "fuck you" to the law and fair work practices. Let's keep that in mind.

There's plenty wrong with Uber. But self-driving cars killing people shouldn't be on the list - self-driving cars have the potential to save an incredible amount of lives. People will still die, but way less people.

I mean, don't get me wrong, this civil rights movement is valuable. But this is a movement that constantly says "fuck you" to the law (c.f. Rosa Parks) and fair work practices (the civil rights movement favored a "race to the bottom" between white and negro workers).

Uber is engaged in civil disobedience against unjust laws that exist to protect political insiders. When did this become a bad thing?

You have a very poor understanding of what civil disobedience is.

As MLK wrote, "One who breaks an unjust law must do so openly, lovingly, and with a willingness to accept the penalty. I submit that an individual who breaks a law that conscience tells him is unjust, and who willingly accepts the penalty of imprisonment in order to arouse the conscience of the community over its injustice, is in reality expressing the highest respect for law." [1]

That is manifestly not what Kalanick is doing. He broke laws for his own profit, has energetically avoided the penalties, demonstrates no particular interest in justice, and certainly doesn't care about the conscience of the community.

I also think the "political insiders" thing is just crocodile tears. From his behavior, Kalanick has no problem with industrial interests having outsized power; he just wants to be the one with that power.

[1] https://www.africa.upenn.edu/Articles_Gen/Letter_Birmingham....

On the contrary, Kalanick is directly appealing to the conscience of the community. Whenever regulators attempt to shut him down he appeals directly to the public: "Bill de Blasio/Shiv Sena/Telangana Taxi Association/etc wants to take away your ride!"

Many in the civil rights movement also broke laws for their own profit or other benefit; they wanted the right to work any job they were qualified for, live in any neighborhood, etc. What's wrong with that?

Does one need to be completely altruistic to oppose injustice? Victims cannot protest, only uninterested third parties?

That is a pretty gross rephrasing of wpietri's point.

I understand that my comparison is inspiring negative emotions. But that doesn't make it wrong.

Do you have an intellectual (rather than emotional) argument why my rephrasing is somehow invalid?

If you can't see why individuals fighting against systemic racism at great personal risk is an entirely different thing from a billion-dollar company flouting regulations established to protect consumers and employees, then there is little hope that an intellectual argument will make it clear to you.

You are correct that it's not the inspiring of negative emotions that makes your comparison wrong.

I do have an intellectual argument, but you're pretty clearly trolling, so there's no real point in presenting it. You're not stupid and you know what you're doing, so why prolong the pretense?

Is there any possible way I could ask the same intellectual question without you characterizing it as trolling? Or do you simply declare some topics to be, by definition, trolling?

I stand by what I said. I think that the distinction between our celebrated historical civil disobedience and the modern kind is not so clear. One happened 50 years ago and is part of our modern mythology, the other is a contemporary conflict and as such it obviously doesn't come with "applause-lights" [1].

[1] "Applause-lights" explained: http://lesswrong.com/lw/jb/applause_lights/

Self-interest is not conscience.

Wow you are actually attempting to connect Rosa Parks and the Civil Rights movement, "conscience" and "injustice" with Travis Kalanick and Uber?

That is so messed up.

The case of Rosa Parks wasn't even close to saying “fuck you” to the law, because she did immediately submit herself to the law (as did MLK and other civil rights activists that spent a lot of time in jail).

Civil disobedience not only requires submission to the law, but is most effective when the threat of punishment is existential (e.g. lengthy incarceration or death). Since Uber’s existence depends on defiance of the current laws, it is manifestly impossible that the company’s actions are in any way a form of civil disobedience.

I think part of the problem is that the parallels between Rosa Parks and Travis Kalanick are not as obvious to everyone as they are to you.

What I'm pointing out is not some moral parallel between Rosa Parks and Travis Kalanick. I'm pointing out that if djsumdog's argument is valid, it applies equally well to the civil rights movement.

This is a strong indication that his argument is invalid, nothing more.

It's perfectly consistent to believe that the civil rights movement meets one's threshold for justifiable civil disobedience, while Uber's plight does not.

Perhaps, but that's an argument that needs to be made. It wasn't.

> I'm pointing out that if djsumdog's argument is valid, it applies equally well to the civil rights movement.

The value of an argument is not a pure function of its syntactic structure but also the specific details of the argument. Context matters. Intent even matters.

The details, context and intent so far suggest that you care more about being right on the Internet than about human beings' welfare.

The first step in helping human welfare is determining what things are actually good for human welfare. If you can't construct a valid argument for X, that's a hint that X might not be good for human welfare.

It is a bit sad that you're getting heavily downvoted but no one is willing to have an rational conversation about this. For what it's worth, I disagree with your equation of the two but I think I understand what you're saying.

My 2 cents: On the surface, disregard for law in order to pursue something considered as better for the greater good of the population/humans seems the same in your comparisons.

I think you're meeting so much resistance because we're not 100% rational beings. As mentioned elsewhere, intent and context absolutely affect how we view actions/statements ( debating that is beyond the scope of this argument imo).

At the human/emotional level, it _feels_ (and I'd argue that it is wrong) wrong to say someone disobeying the laws of the land to fight for the right to be treated as a human being is the same as someone disobeying the laws because they want to make more money (Travis). As a species, we hold actions with the intent to preserve/improve our collective good - the definition of which is perhaps shaped by our moral compass - as a higher, more worthwhile and noble aim than actions made solely in the interest of profit.

Even in the court of law, intent shapes an action (eg: murder vs manslaugher)

I understand that it feels wrong. But I'd suggest the parallels are closer than you think.

First, the folks who "fight for the right to be treated as a human being" also stand to gain monetarily (and otherwise) from that treatment.

Secondly, suppose Kalanick's desire to build Uber is ideological in nature rather than merely profit driven - i.e. suppose he views building Uber as a way to shape the world for the better. (I do believe he views the world this way.) Would that redeem his actions in your view?

Incidentally, I really appreciate the intellectual response. It's far more interesting than the general anger consuming this thread.

If everyone tells you that you are wrong but doesn't care to explain in detail why, it's a hint that you might be wrong. You are not owed a valid argument just because you demand one.

I usually make a good faith assumption that folks who choose to comment on HN are seeking an intellectual discussion. But while that's a "good faith" assumption, it's not a very good prior these days.

I miss the old days, when we discussed ideas even if they sounded stratnge.

Many are seeking an intellectual discussion, but there are limits to what people are willing to explain. Sometimes it's just not worth it, and that's what the downvote button is for.

I prefer an open environment where more strange ideas can be discussed, but you also have to make a good faith effort to see where most people are coming from. The remarks you made on the civil rights movement suggest you either don't take it seriously at all, or you don't care about it at all, or you have no understanding of what things like civil disobedience actually mean. The trouble with making a good faith effort to explain all of that to you is that in the end you probably won't change your mind, because it's not like any of this information is hard to find.

Maybe you were instrumental to make the old times pass by sooner rather than later.

So true. Random people don't owe an education to aggressive jerks, especially when they give little indication of being willing to listen.

What have I done that makes you believe I'm unwilling to listen, or that I'm an aggressive jerk?

I understand that I've expressed disagreement on a topic you consider to be a sacred value. But have I done anything beyond that?

C'mon. I've seen you posting here for years. Of course I've seen you do more than express mere disagreement on a single topic. Disagreement is the norm here. What you do -- what you consistently do -- goes miles beyond that.

And note that you sought out a comment not addressed to you to perform the exact behavior in question: aggressively demanding that somebody educate you. Not because it looks like you're sincerely interested in learning anything, but because it's an argumentative technique.

If you actually want to understand this issue, find somebody whose job it is to teach you. Get a therapist versed in online culture, bring in a set of your discussions here, and pay her by the hour to help you see the pattern that is obvious to many other people.

I doubt you'll do that, though, because I don't think you're seriously trying to learn anything here.


Just FYI, you can click their name and view their profile to see how old the account is.

I can't speak to the "not addressed to you" portion of the GP's post, because I do believe than HN benefits from its open discussion format, that allows for both threaded discussion and open commenting. But, I would venture to say that it's quite deceitful, i.e. an "aggressive demand", to drop in what you apparently know (c.f. https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=13354198) will be an analogy (this one here: https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=13353366) that inspires "negative emotions" without providing any supporting arguments or information in the same post.

Rather than starting from a point that (you do seem to know) will be inflammatory, why not start from claims directly related to the topic at hand, and work your way up to the point where the logic of making the analogy is immaculately clear? In this thread, you start with a 'jump' (straight to the civil rights movement), and then trickle out the details in children comments [1,2,3,5] as to why your point is relevant, and why people should ignore their emotional responses [4,5] like you do. Inducing emotional responses in others with one's writing is inevitable -- do you actually want to convince people of why your point holds water (using something like the strategy I propose), or do you only want to evoke anger and get people turning away in a huff (what you've done in this thread)?

[1] https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=13354048

[2] https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=13353661

[3] https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=13354108

[4] https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=13354198

[5] https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=13357684

> In this thread, you start with a 'jump' (straight to the civil rights movement), and then trickle out the details in children comments [1,2,3,5] as to why your point is relevant,

It should be very clear from the original post why the point is relevant. Some people might need some extra explaining, but they try their best to need it.

The depths to which this thread has reached suggests that the point's relevance (or perhaps more appropriately, "appropriateness") is not as clear as you seem to think.

Your slight towards other posters aside, what is easier to change? The HN-commentariat at large ("they try their best to need it")? Or, each of us as individuals, trying to compose our arguments and points in a widely receivable, understandable, and relatable way? (That is, what I am trying to encourage above.)

...without providing any supporting arguments or information in the same post.

Nothing in the comments you linked to is, textually speaking, a demand. Would you describe my comment as an "aggressive demand" if I were simply expressing ideas that are completely conventional?

work your way up to the point where the logic of making the analogy is immaculately clear?

Assuming I were expressing conventional ideas, would it be necessary for me to address every possible counterpoint in the original comment to avoid making an "aggressive demand"?

I think you are wrong in suggesting that people didn't understand the logic. Here are a bunch of comments that understood just fine: https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=13353968 https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=13353848 https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=13353773 https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=13353794 https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=13354341

Inducing emotional responses in others with one's writing is inevitable -- do you actually want to convince people of why your point holds water (using something like the strategy I propose), or do you only want to evoke anger and get people turning away in a huff (what you've done in this thread)?

Paul Graham wrote a great essay a while back called "how to disagree". Levels 0-2 (name calling, ad hominem and responding to tone, respectively) are quite common in the broader world. As Trump vs Crooked Hillary demonstrates, level 0 is quite effective at persuading the masses. http://paulgraham.com/disagree.html

On HN, I generally make the good faith assumption that we can discuss things at a higher level (e.g. 4 or higher). This thread definitely demonstrates that as a belief about the world, this is probably not super accurate.

Is it your genuine belief that if I phrased my comment differently, I would have avoided the level 0-2 reactions to it? How would you have phrased it?

Yes, this the kind of argumentative jackassery I don't have time for.

You of course can tell how long I've been here, especially since I said so in the post you responded to. You of course can figure out that I'm familiar with the format of HN. You of course know I have already declined to educate you. You of course are not confused, but are conflating social help (which is what you are asking me and others for) with mental help (which is not a bad thing either). And you of course declined to address my actual point, instead picking out things to snipe at.

These are all bad-faith argumentative techniques. They are exactly why I'm not interested in in answering your questions. They are not sincere questions.


He is not owed an explanation, just as you getting on your soapbox about racism in a thread about Uber doesn't obligate me to engage you.

Uber isn't fighting for people's rights. Not liking taxi services or the laws that protect their business isn't equivalent by any stretch.

Yes, they are. They are fighting for my right to use whichever service I like to drive me from point A to point B.

Endure the amount of abuse, beating and killing that the civil rights movement was about, and you can have your Uber. Is that a deal?


The essence of your sophistry is to bring on highly symbolic and emotional subjects into the discussion so as to get some halo effect on your side of the argument, ala Godwin, while pretending all along to stay at the purely logical level and demanding that everyone does so, ignoring the blatant disrespect for those subjects that are orders of magnitude more important.

In that regard, the question above is just a straw man -- but since you asked, many gays already had to suffer harm, beating and death in the recent history, so even that straw man is moot.

Uber drivers have also been beaten in recent history - last week in Hyderabad, a couple of months ago in Mumbai. Anti-Uber terrorism is actually pretty common. I don't know if any drivers have died yet, but at this rate it's inevitable that one will.

http://indianexpress.com/article/cities/mumbai/mumbai-taxi-d... http://www.hindustantimes.com/india/uber-cars-smashed-by-pro... https://www.theguardian.com/technology/2015/jun/26/uber-back... http://www.geekwire.com/2014/uber-protests-seattle/

Do we need to wait for the terrorists to kill an Uber driver before the parallel holds?

Rosa Parks, gay people, now terrorists: are you going to enumerate all the dubious parallels you can make about this to try and hit an hypothetical moral blind spot? I'm not against moral debates, but if you're just throwing random cases trying to dumbfound someone and switching to another parallel when you can't seriously defend it any longer, well, you know how this is called on the Internet.

A win win for everyone but the drivers. Sure they can quit but doesn't excuse Uber from using its negotiating power against exploiting them wherever possible.

Don't worry. Having drivers is not the long term plan anyways.

The more I hear this, the more i see it as a ploy to drown the working conditions complaint.

I do not believe Uber invests nearly as much in autonomous cars as it invests in challenging the law and making PR about their lobbying being a civic fight.

This. People who drive automobiles for a living should start investing in new skills now.

They aren't paid enough to invest, though.

I think there's enough readily available information on how Uber operates for want-to-be drivers to make an informed decision on whether or not they should 'work' for Uber.

Try talking to some ex-Uber drivers. I don't think I've spoke with one that felt adequately informed by Uber.

There may be adequate information now, but only because enough people bought in to Uber's marketing had poor experiences, and have talked about them.

I also don't think "enough readily available information" is a good standard to judge commerce by. There's enough readily available information out there for sufficiently prepared people to not get sucked into, say, a Ponzi scheme. But that does not absolve somebody running a scam, because they are doing their best to find people not yet prepared and then energetically deceive them. My standard is more like, "Does the entity with more power use that power in a way that the entity with less power later comes to find harmful?" By that metric, I don't think Uber scores particularly well.

A ponzi scheme is completely different to Uber so comparing the two isn't helpful. Uber is comparable to working as an freelance/indy contractor, in fact it's almost exactly the same.

Uber has always been clear about how it works for the drivers, and not reading/understanding terms and conditions isn't an excuse for not taking responsibility for yourself.

Their early marketing quite literally spelled out that this is something you can do with your own pre-existing car to make a bit of extra cash on the side. In fact this is STILL the prevailing message you get from their website, let me quote a few lines at you;

"Got a car? Turn it into a money machine. The city is buzzing and Uber makes it easy for you to cash in on the action. Plus, you've already got everything you need to get started."

"Need something outside the 9 to 5? As an independent contractor with Uber, you’ve got freedom and flexibility to drive whenever you have time."

Somehow, and I really cannot fathom how, some people have interpreted this as "Go out and buy/lease a car, we'll give you a full time job".

First, I didn't compare them. I picked a clear example to make it clear where your proposed ethical standard breaks down.

Second, having freelanced for years, Uber is nothing like that. Freelancing operates in a marketplace where you can shop your skills to many purchasers. Uber aspires to be a monopsony.

Third, you indulge in pretty typical "blame the victim" logic. Uber is the more powerful party here. A driver has some information; Uber has vastly more information. If a bunch of drivers just happen to all make the same mistake, one that benefits Uber, then sure, you could blame the drivers. But I think it's more reasonable to blame the entity who sets up the conditions from which they profit.

And your last paragraph would be much more plausible if Uber didn't actively promote car leasing: https://www.uber.com/drive/vehicle-solutions/

First, you're evaluating both against the same criteria - that's comparing.

Second, Uber is exactly like freelancing in a lot of ways - you get paid per job, you aren't entitled to paid leave, and running costs are your problem. Regardless of what you assume Uber aspires to be, the fact is there a whole range of ride sharing options out there so people can absolutely shop around.

Third - Blaming the victim requires a victim, for a victim to exist there also needs to be an offender. In your mind Uber is the offender because they are somehow the "more powerful party", which only really makes sense in a small number of cases. Uber is reliant on people signing on to drive for them, and unless said drivers are somehow indebted to Uber or contractually obligated to drive for them I fail to see how Uber has much power over them. Happy to change my mind on this if you can show me a situation in which Uber has some sort of excessive control over one or more of their drivers.

Uber "actively promote" car leasing in a small number of locations as an alternative to supplying your own car, and even then it's not the main message of their driver-focused advertising. At no point in signing up to be a driver will you be instructed to lease a car. Once again, people have all the numbers available and it's up to them to work out if it's financially viable for them to lease a car from Uber or from anyone else.

1) No, I did not compare them. Seriously, go back and read it; I am criticizing your moral standard, and gave a clear example to show where it fails. But in case you're still worried: no, Uber is not much like a Ponzi scheme.

2) That is not "exactly like freelancing". It is more akin to the company town approach to things, where the nominal structure of freedom is used to wash away moral responsibility. And if you talk to ex-Uber drivers, they do not feel there is a "whole range of options". Uber claims 87% market share, making them by far the dominant company. And the notion that Uber aspires to be a monopsony is not my assumption; investment analysts looking at Uber are pretty clear that Uber's market valuation only makes sense if they end up totally dominating things. Really, I freelanced for years, and two of my parents did as well. Trying to tell me that Uber is particularly like freelancing is pissing on my leg and telling me it's raining.

3) Uber is clearly the more powerful party in both the contract law sense [1] and in the market sense. There's no "somehow" here. They are the ones who write the contract. They are the ones who set the terms. They are the one who can unilaterally change the terms. They are the more powerful party. So get out of here with your "somehow".

4) And as to the leasing thing, I begin to be concerned that you're not arguing in good faith here. Uber literally helps people lease cars full time, so I think it's reasonable for people to read that as Uber suggesting that full time is reasonable. You after all brought up leasing.

More broadly, you're making the sort of tendentious, over-narrow arguments that were used to justify all sorts of exploitative behavior before labor laws required people to be either employees (therefore deserving of protection) or true independent contractors (who are professionals and can deal with things on their own because they operate in a functional marketplace with multiple clients). The last couple decades have seen businesses creeping around those barriers because it lets them take advantage of power asymmetries. I think Uber used a weak economy and a technological change to further undermine those barriers.

If you want to make a serious argument here, you can't just sweep Uber's enormous advantages under the rug. There are giant asymmetries in information, legal resources, negotiation skill, market power, financial resources, manipulative skill, and political clout. If you'd like to make a might-makes-right, fuck-the-workers case, just go for it. But if you're going to continue to make an argument about fairness, you have to account for power. Otherwise you're just ignoring a century of labor and employment law history.

[1] See, e.g., https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Unconscionability for how power is relevant to contract law.

The last bit sounds a bit disingenuous, Uber having a car leasing arm.

Also one would think that subsidizing drivers in their early days was not really the best way to make a honest impression on how rewarding the job would actually become.

95% of the Uber drivers I talk to love driving for Uber.

Which is why I said "try talking to some ex-Uber drivers."

Like their predatory lease program. The terms are clear as mud for the desperate person this attracts.



Are pay day loan patrons really making an informed decision because the interest percentage is written on the wall?

Do you actually know anything about their lease program? The lease program is designed for Uber drivers who want to work full-time. There's no mileage limit, and it's meant to just return the vehicle, so things like residual value, etc are meaningless. Uber drivers can easily put on 70k miles in a year, something you never could do on a traditional lease. And you can walk away from the lease with a 2 weeks notice.

How exactly is this predatory? If you're only driving minimally, then it's definitely not a good deal, but it's not meant for those drivers. It's for drivers who drive full-time, ie. 40+ hrs a week.

Walk away with 2 weeks notice but will be on the hook for full lease if done after 30 days + first payment

Just to clarify, you're completely wrong about the program. As I said, it's designed for full-time drivers, not casual drivers. But you can return it after 30 days with 2 weeks notice, and that's it. You are not on the hook for payments. It has unlimited miles and it includes oil change, air filter and tire rotations.


Nope. Wrong.

All car leasing schemes are expensive in the long run, this one seems to fall in the middle ground - less upfront costs than most, more expensive ongoing. But the cost and repayment method is all quite clear, anyone with a few minutes and a calculator can work out if this is a financially sound option for them.

If you can't understand what you're signing then you shouldn't be signing it, very simple really. For some people this leasing scheme would be fine, for other's it could lead to financial trouble - Uber doesn't have to work that out for people.

Not sure where pay day loans come into this? Uber has some kind of once off upfront pay advance incentive thing, but there's no interest and the terms are something quite generous like 15 weeks so it's not even remotely like a pay day loan.

This one takes your car payment out of your pay check. Stop driving and the negative balance accrues. You can work it down by driving. In a traditional lease you can default and get sued. In this case you can default by stopping work, and accumulate a negative balance. If you start working again the balance due is taken out of your next paycheck-essentially becoming a slave.

Which is a problem why? Uber is not a charity.

Possibly also better overall driving experiences are good for long term business. In the same neighborhood as Facebook working to increase access to internet world-wide, or Google Fiber forcing telcos to increase speeds and drop costs. Basically encourage others to improve the infrastructure on which you rely.

This NYT article (titled, "Uber Extends an Olive Branch to Local Governments") is mostly about this sentiment - http://www.nytimes.com/2017/01/08/technology/uber-movement-t...

Hope this is as fantastic as this sounds. Many cities are starting to make this data publicly available, and the potential impact to urban planning, traffic reduction, parking and more is enormous. That said, what's Uber's commercial angle? Licensing fees?

"Movement makes all insights available under the Creative Commons, Attribution Non-Commercial license."

> Hope this is as fantastic as this sounds

The experience in Boston was that Uber anonymized the data too much for it to be useful[1]. I would be very skeptical of this as it seems to be a program publicly touted as useful, but the e-mails obtained via FOIA requests show it to not be. I'm not sure what the solution is since privacy should be a concern.

[1] https://www.boston.com/news/business/2016/06/16/bostons-uber...

An unsurprising quote from the article:

> [Boston chief information officer Jascha Franklin-Hodge] said the data has been useful to show the volume of Uber rides in Boston and users’ typical wait times, but it has not done much to aid in city planning.

In other words, that was just a PR offensive. Maybe this new iteration will be something else, but I would be skeptical.

Making friends. Uber is quite aware that their reputation within cities hasn't been the best. Internally, there is a loose federation of people who genuinely want to improve cities, and people who recognize the business value in not continuing to piss cities off.

Yep. Conversely, it's interesting to see some urban planning folks warm up to ride sharing as a way to extend the reach of existing transit networks. But still a lot of hostility, to be sure.

I think urban planning folks have been, in principle, favorable to new mobility options that don't involve private vehicle ownership. I think some folks in the cities have been conflicted about some of Uber's lawlessness / relationship to labor.

From the FAQ:

> What are the licensing terms?

> Movement makes all insights available under the Creative Commons, Attribution Non-Commercial license.

Now, that's pretty interesting.

I wonder if we'll have API level access in a way that we can build tools on this data.

This is cool.

NYC already releases this information for taxis. It might even include Uber rides since they all have TLC plates, though I'm not sure.


Chicago also released their taxi trips dataset recently: http://digital.cityofchicago.org/index.php/chicago-taxi-data...

Uber however caters to a specific class of people and they don't seem to be the people who can only afford public transport. This may not be an issue in America, but i think if cities change their public transit planning to accomodate the class of people who can afford uber, they will be disadvantaging those who really need it.

I don't know about that. Computers and Tvs and cellphones used to be only for rich elite businessmen, now, not everyone can afford to have one, but even lower middle class people can pick up a $200 chromebook, or finance a phone and the technology they have access to for the same or very similiar prices gets better every year.

There are actually very few things in life in which the quality and amount of it that can be afforded for the same price each year increase so much annually for someone with stagnant wages and little economic mobility, as hardware and software technology, and services that optimize their efficiency and prices based on it.

In general, the expanded use of something, especially with realistic competitors such as Lyft, results in the cost goes down and becomes more affordable over time.

Most new technology and services related to it are expensive in the beginning and become more affordable and common over time. Right now, a VR headset from Oculus Rift is expensive for most people and usually only tech geeks who work in the industry can afford the toys they make, but over time, everyone who has a tv will have it at an affordable price, and everyone will laugh at how expensive it use to be for such bad graphics compared to what they have access to in 40years.

If more Ubers, Lyft and other ride sharing organizations and companies are on the road but less cars overall because they solve traffic problems: a. competition for price goes up, cost goes down b. Traffic and therefore commute times and cost of fuel goes down, which also aids in driving price down.

This is the same thing for technology hardware manufactoring, if anything, Samsung is struggling not to go out of business in certain areas because the cost of a TV is so cheap now, and they actually make ridiculously expensive and luxurious tvs now to cater to the wealthy to help keep that sector afloat.

Cellphones now are in remote places in Africa, allowing farmers to develop their own trading systems via communication they never had before and an entire internal market for crop trading and development and business is now viable for people in third world countries because they have access to affordable phones now.

That would have never happened though if the first phone had to be affordable for everyone.

The first time someone does something, theres a lot of R&D time, waste inefficiency, testing cycles and messy feedback from customers through first iterations. The first time someone learns how to sew, they may waste lots of cloth trying to make a dress that is nice enough someone will pay for, and probably sell an ok dress for a price that does not exceed the amount of time and effort they put in, but it will still only be for rich women. It was very rare back in the late 1890's that someone could afford to buy premade clothing, and everyone had to learn how to sew their own clothes because it was too expensive. But its a good thing that very expensive market was sustained and not ousted just because only rich people could afford to buy a premade dress. Looking back, its clearly inefficient and a loss of time and money for everyone to have to be educated at that skill, the same way we will look back and find it particularly wasteful for anyone who spends the majority of their life in urban areas to have their own car and have to waste time navigating their own transportation, and if they need to venture out of the city for a day or the weekend, rental hubs will abound at the outskirts as they already do in NYC and other areas, for rental for an hour, 4hours or a day or more. This is kind of the cycle of development.

It's a good thing computers arent the size of small rooms or even small houses anymore or even that a small one cost an arm and a leg, we would all feel that to be ridiculous. in my mind, I think its ridiculous that families both rich and lower middle class are obligated to maintain 1-2 cars, usually two if both parents work, and then kids who get jobs before they move out and need to navigate themselves after school, have to invest thousands and thousands of dollars. If you are poor its even worse because you will have to buy a used car, and spend more time and money fixing your car when it breaks down, but in unpredictable spurts that costs anywhere from hundreds or thousands of dollars, making it even more chaotic for poor families to navigate through life.

As far as America's bus transportation in most cities. Give me a break. Barely anyone who is not on welfare uses my cities transportation, and its a 45minute ride minimum to get to the poorest area to the closest sector that offers them jobs. That's a lot of time each way minimum for a single working mother on welfare trying to get herself out of a bad situation, struggling between spending hours on a bus for a ten minute ride in a car for a better salary and affording rent.

I find usually liberal elite trying to make arguments for the lower working class and people struggling to get out of welfare usually end up shooting not themselves but the people they claim to be speaking for in the foot. Not surprisingly, in my area people on welfare are some of the largest and loudest demographics wanting Uber, because they lost all hope in their own public transportation system years ago. It's not just bad, its disgraceful, and when I find myself trying to schedule a cab (yes in my city you have to schedule and theres usually a 45minute wait minimum but thats rarely accurate) in person, which hopefully saves you bit more than calling, its crowded with people on welfare trying to get cabs with children in tow, and being robbed blind based on arbitrary taxi prices.

This may not be the case in the city, but actually rural poor and isolated economically struggling cities like Detroit and upstate NY who don't have subways can benefit greatly from Uber, much more so than the middle class.

Is there any product or service that has ever existed involving technology that was affordable for everyone the very first release of it?

That is irrelevant. Uber is not going to become so cheap that even the poorest person can afford it, neither are taxis some new and exciting discovery. Uber is not going to replace mass transit either, because the traffic problem will become impossible to solve. Therefore optimizing a city for uber does not mean it is optimized in general.

How does Uber anonymize the data? Does it only use subset of a trip? If you can see where and when a trip started or finished, it's definitely not anonymous enough.

From the FAQ: "All data is anonymized and aggregated to ensure no personally identifiable information or user behavior can be surfaced through the Movement tool"

Aggregation is a common method for anonymization. One approach is to only display trips that were made by at least 15 different people in a day.

Watch the video again--geographic aggregation. Summary stats from geo-to-geo.

EDIT: I think in the video they showed census tracts, which is one of many geographic units they could choose from.

In their trial with Boston, it was limited to zip codes[1]. Cross my finger for census tracts as that would be far more useful.

[1] https://www.boston.com/news/business/2016/06/16/bostons-uber...

Yeah one scenario I was thinking of was the case of a rural home that's isolated from other buildings. It's plainly obvious that any data coming to and from that building is the occupants. There probably has to be some threshold of users (say, > 100 users taking a route) before it's exposed through this service.

Maybe they could randomize the pickup / dropoff points within a small radius, say 1/4 mile.

Certainly, this data can be identifiable.

And I do wonder why google maps with much more data hasn't done this...

1. Privacy 2. Google doesn't have the same incentive to release data to local governments as Uber does (to improve regulatory relationships).

How so privacy? This data is anonymised, they could do the same.

Provable privacy based on 'anonymized' published data sets that resists third-party information and linkage is really hard -- arguably impossible in general. When people claim 'anonymized' data, I tend to not be fully convinced.

I completely agree with you on the difficulty of truly anonymizing data.

I do wonder if there any holes in this idea though: What if they released the data the number of cars per hour per segment of road (a segment meaning a continuous piece of road between two intersections) rounded to the nearest multiple of 10?

Google's trip data is an ingredient in their secret sauce.

As someone else said, Google shares something similar with cities via the Waze Connected Citizen Program[0][1]. Waze publishes a list of cities that participate here[2].

I think Google can't share the traffic data it shows users as it's probably an aggregation of multiple sources, and they probably don't have the rights give away that information. The Waze CCP is an opt-in service on Waze where people can share their information and input with cities.

[0] https://www.waze.com/ccp

[1] https://support.google.com/waze/partners/answer/6372611?hl=e...

[2] https://wiki.waze.com/wiki/Connected_Citizens_Program

they do, via waze (https://www.waze.com/). Founded in israel, acquired by google in 2013.

Because that data is viewed as proprietary and useful for ads. In fact it's the reason Apple ended up making their own maps! They didn't want to share that info with Google but it was the only way Google was gonna allow for turn by turn directions in the app.

Google makes driving time estimates in advance available to consumers through Google Maps. I use it all the time when planning events around rush hour.

I'm curious what techniques they will use to anonymize the data. I would guess some sort of differential privacy technique.

I hope so, but I would be a little surprised if they used DP. I am more inclined to think they will take a 'traditional' (weaker in terms of provable privacy protection) approach.

It's totally reasonable to consider doing something like this with differential privacy. The techniques exist, but it would still be pretty brave of them. They are certainly aware of DP.

Example technique: if you treat each record as a (src,dst) pair of (lat,lon) pairs or somesuch, you can then build a 4d grid whose cells you populate with (Laplace) noisy counts. This provides eps-differential privacy when the noise is roughly 1/eps.

Whenever counts are sufficiently large, you can refine the contents of the cell and ask again. If you do the refinement at most k times, you get k*eps-differential privacy. There are smarter ways that work even better.

These provide "trip privacy", meaning they mask the presence/absence of individual trips. Uber presumably has user identifiers, and could group all trips by one user together, and do the same counting where the weight of each trip is scaled down so that they sum to at most one for each user. This would then give "user privacy", meaning it masks the presence/absence of individual users.

This is awesome, really happy to see them release such valuable data!

NYC has been asking for this, and Uber has been pushing back. It'll be interesting to see how this differs from what the city was asking for.

Doesn't this run contra to another recent story about Uber being against giving cities this data?


In that case, NYC is asking for addresses and timestamps. The data provided by Movement is aggregate. In other words, cities like NYC want Movement but without the anonymization.

This is probably their reaction to the government requests for data. They want to define the terms under which they share data, and "volunteering" is the way to do that.

This makes sense. I bet if anything the the NYC issue may have just hastened the release of this.

This won't help in Belgium, where Trucks need to pay "road taxes" and have a device installed for that. They can also get the data for tracking vehicles and they won't need Uber.

Good idea though, but not applicable everywhere

Knowing "N people wanted to go from roughly here to roughly there enough to pay Uber for the ride" is information that wouldn't show up in "my truck moved from X to Y" data, and which is potentially hugely valuable to those adjusting public transit.

This is focused on urban traffic. That may be totally different from truck traffic, which avoids (or even isn't allowed in) urban areas.

You would think that with the amount of cash they burn through on a daily basis, they'd use data to make some money with it. I guess you could get a decent amount of money by cities by licensing it.

I'm personally very excited to get access and love that it's free, but cannot understand it from a business perspective.

>>> cannot understand it from a business perspective

This seems like a good move from the PR perspective.

Amazing stuff. Looks like Uber is really making the most of their data. I hope this is a easily accessible and useful.

> We believe that breakthrough insights and ideas can come from anywhere. In the coming months, we’ll be making this data open to all.

I genuinely do not believe this. If they intended on making anonymized data open, they wouldn't have a marketing site up already.

I don't understand why those have to be mutually exclusive. It's possible that they haven't finished cleaning the data for public use, but the data is ready for 'trusted' city planners.

I don't think it's mutually exclusive - I simply don't trust Uber to act in good faith for anything they do. They've yet to demonstrate that they're deserving of trust that they're going to make that data open.

Maybe they plan - for the right price - to make identifiable trip data available?

Having read no further than the headline, I really wanted this article to be about on-demand piggyback rides.

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