Sam says that even with driverless cars, he's not sure it can still make any money. There's no networking effect. There's no loyalty or switching costs. So the only way to make it work is to have a lot of drivers and lower fares. Also, companies like Lyft and Uber have no real hard costs or assets. They don't own the cars, or have to maintain them or even pay for the gas. When you go driverless, suddenly you have to pay for cars and maintain them. Those are hard investments and will be in the billions at first.
The City of Los Angeles will now allow rented scooters on the streets, but there's a catch. The scooter rental companies must transmit location data to the city within 24 hours to ensure code compliance. As one can imagine, there is a privacy issue and the Electronic Frontier Foundation and other privacy groups are getting involved. Leo says that the data would be anonymized, so it won't point to any specific person. Companies also have the option of saying no to the data, but they would have only 3,000 scooters.
Lately, Johnny Jet has been frustrated with Uber and Lyft drivers that are late, and have no room to stow his luggage. So he's starting to use Blacklane. It's about two to three times more expensive, but it's more of a limo service with professional drivers. It's all around the world and they use roomy cars. They show up early and wait for you, not the other way around. And you can use your phone to order it.
April has been a bad month for self driving cars, as both a driver and pedestrian have died from accidents. Leo says that California is giving Google a permit for a self driving car called WayMo, which will have no safety driver. The irony isn't lost on Leo, and while he believes that self driving cars are better than human control, they're never going to be 100%. There's more testing that needs to be done and they should have a safety driver until the bugs are ironed out.
The driver of the Tesla Model X that crashed on March 23rd did have the autopilot mode engaged. This comes after Uber's deadly crash with a pedestrian, where it has been determined that the self-driving car had not been operating safely. Tesla responded that the driver should have put his hands on the wheel to intervene. Strange curves and barriers can cause problems for the autopilot mode. It's important that any safety driver stay alert when the car is in self-driving mode.
George uses his iPad to call Uber, but they don't know where to pick him up. Leo says that's because the iPad doesn't have GPS. The app just has to ask for the address of where he is in order to find him. With a mobile phone, they would have his coordinates in the app. Without GPS, the app has to use other means to find his general location, usually it uses "WiFi triangulation," and that's not always very accurate. The app puts a pin where he is, and if it's using WiFi triangulation, the pin just goes close to where he is. The good news is he can move the pin in the app.
Johnny Jet joins us from a Ritz Carlton ski resort in Colorado this week.
Travel Tip - Flying into Seattle offers a very organized and helpful management of Uber and Lyft pickup. There's also wingz.me. What makes them different is that there's no surge pricing. If you prebook, you'll get the same price and you can request the same driver over and over. It's available in 14 cities. Another tip for using Uber: when you see the price surging, just wait a few minutes. It will eventually fall back down.
Uber is poised for a fight against new regulations in the city of San Francisco that requires all self driving cars to have a special license. They can afford any fines since estimates are that the company is worth $66 Billion. Leo says that Uber really loves to fight.