Sunday, January 17, 2021

How the uproar of 2020 will shape the future of carpooling

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LG: How was it? Was there plexiglass? Did you bring a face shield?

MC: There was plexiglass and other than that, it was normal. It was nice.

LG: Ordinary. What is normal now? Alright, I guess we’ll try to figure that out on today’s show.

[Gadget Lab intro theme music]

LG: Hi all. Welcome to Gadget Lab. I am Lauren Goode. I’m a senior writer at WIRED and am joined remotely by my co-host, WIRED editor-in-chief Michael Calore. Hi, Mike.

MC: Aloha.

LG: How are you today?

MC: I am very well thank you.

LG: Very good. We’re also joined by WIRED transport writer Aarian Marshall, who joins us from DC. Aarian, thank you very much for coming to Gadget Lab.

Aarian Marshall: Thank you for. It’s so good to be with colleagues for a while.

MC: It’s good to see you on the postage stamp.

LG: It’s good to see you on Zoom. Today we are talking about how we have fared this year. I mean, not that we were able to get around until this year because it would have been nice, but how we got from place to place and how ridesharing services like Uber and Lyft and even scooter shares have been affected by the pandemic. and legislation.

Just nine or ten months ago, it was almost impossible to imagine modern transportation without Uber. But when the pandemic struck, it devastated demand for ridesharing. Meanwhile, in California, laws like Assembly Bill 5 and the recently passed Prop 22 are likely to have a big impact on construction workers, the people who actually drive for these companies. The laws will likely set a precedent for how companies that depend on these workers do business. Aarian, you cover these companies closely. How are they streamlined?

A M: They are not doing very well, probably unsurprisingly. Uber and Lyft made their notorious debut on the stock market last spring. It was like one of the first big tech IPOs of the modern unicorn era. Since then their stock prices have struggled and they are struggling to make money. There are still a lot of people investing money in these companies, but they still aren’t really making a profit and they are definitely not making a profit this year.

Rides are still on the decline in most places of the world. In the United States at one point they were down 75, 80 percent. We’ve heard more recently that the rides are sort of coming back in some places and cities, but I think like the coronavirus itself, there have been waves of people coming out and then things stopped again. . So they are not doing very well. It’s been a tough year for everyone, and that includes Uber and Lyft.

MC: Just before the pandemic, they made changes to their business. Both abandoned parts of their businesses that they no longer wanted to deal with and they made acquisitions and moved into new areas. How did this decision-making go?

A M: That’s an excellent question. I think it kind of depends on the things you’re talking about. Uber has notoriously withdrawn from parts of the world. They pulled out of Asia, sold part of their business to other companies there. It’s kinda … was part of their consolidation, getting ready for that IPO on Wall Street.

The other big thing that Uber and Lyft have moved into over the past few years are scooters and bikes and sharing those things rather than just car rides. It also turned out to be a difficult undertaking. He’s actually doing a little better during the pandemic. It turns out that people are starting to ride bikes these days. It seems a lot safer for some people. We will see if these trends continue through the winter. I think it’s going to be really hard for people to get around to places where it’s really cold and snowy and unpleasant to be on a bike or scooter.

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