Some policymakers are increasingly concerned about the concentration of power in a small number of companies, leading to calls for more expansive antitrust policy or stricter regulations across a range of industries. However, government policies create barriers to entry that lead to the market concentration that fuels their consternation.
The most recent example is in Washington D.C., where Mayor Bowser’s office recently said that ride-hailing company Via had 90 days to broaden its coverage areas to comply with a District law. If not, Via would face penalties in the form of fines or even the loss of its license. While the law, and D.C.’s new commitment to enforce it, is designed to ensure more access to ride-haling for all District residents, it is more likely to contribute to higher barriers to entry for ride-hailing companies. These barriers would only further entrench established incumbents.
The new warning stems from officials recently learning that Via’s sphere of operation does not extend to the entire city, with Wards 7 and 8 east of the Anacostia River and neighborhoods in the upper Northwest and Northeast falling outside of the sphere. The limited sphere of operation runs afoul of provisions in the Vehicle for Hire Innovation Amendment Act of 2014, which requires ride-hailing companies using digital dispatch to “provide service throughout the entire District.”
After years of resisting major changes pushed by riders and government regulators, Uber announced upgrades this week it said are aimed at keeping its U.S. ride-hail customers safe.
The mobility company will add an emergency 911 feature akin to a “panic button” — a type of enhanced 911 that connects passengers directly with emergency personnel, and allows them to share their location with the operator. The company said it also will bolster driver screening by mandating annual reviews of background checks to ensure drivers remain in compliance with its standards. And it plans to allow riders to share their trip information with up to five “trusted contacts” on every trip so there are multiple sets of eyes to ensure rides go smoothly, the company said.
The changes, expected to be in place this summer, were unveiled as part of a broad package of changes that CEO Dara Khosrowshahi said represent a push to “double down on safety in our app” and “strengthen our screening process.”
Uber is officially a multi-modal transportation platform. On the heels of its acquisition of bike-share startup JUMP, Uber CEO Dara Khosrowshahi today announced Uber Bike‘s expansion into Washington, D.C., along with two key partnerships in car rentals and public transit.
Dubbed Uber Rent, the platform taps into Getaround’s existing marketplace of cars that are available for instant rentals. Uber Rent, which will launch in San Francisco later this month, lets people book Getaround cars directly from the Uber app. Once Uber feels solid about the product market fit, it will expand the program nationally.
Automakers will increasingly find themselves in a complicated relationship with ride-hailing companies such as Lyft and Uber. The latter will be competitors but also customers. In the next few years, sales to drivers for Lyft, Uber and others will almost certainly offset declines in car purchases by users of the services. As shared mobility services expand, auto manufacturers will likely start producing customized vehicles for ride-hailing companies — even as their own mobility services compete head-to-head.
Today, Lyft and Uber have almost no hard assets and are essentially internet-platform companies. Managing and owning vehicles clashes with their current business model. But once level-5 driverless cars come on the scene, they will have little choice. It appears inevitable that they will embrace a new business model that involves ownership of vehicles. A huge part of the success of demand-responsive, app-based ride-hailing companies will be their ability to profit as proprietors of capital, which will mean owning and operating a fleet of automated electric cars. So just as self-driving cars have pulled Detroit into the Silicon Valley game, the power of fleet ownership will likely force ride-hailing companies into partnership with manufacturers.
JUMP Bikes, an on-demand biking service that has a partnership with Uber, is trying to decide between a possible acquisition and investment offers.
Sources have told TechCrunch that the company is looking into a possible sale to Uber for more than $100 million, or a venture investment round, with one of the possible investors being Mike Moritz of Sequoia Capital.
In addition, there are reports that other parties have been increasing their offers over the past week in a bid to secure ownership of JUMP.
JUMP and Sequoia were unavailable for comment, while Uber declined to comment on the reports.