Monday, June 1, 2015

NYC Mayor Launches Attack on Uber, Lyft

New York Mayor Bill de Blasio has in draft form a plan that would require Uber, Lyft  and other ride-hailing services to get city approval for upgrades to the user interface on smartphone apps -- and to pony up $1,000 each time they do so, reports Bloomberg.

The plan has the tech world furious. A letter of protest was sent to the mayor and signed by Google Inc., Yahoo! Inc., Twitter Inc. and Facebook Inc., among others.

“We are troubled by the substance of the draft, which appears to indicate a significant departure from this administration’s policy of encouraging innovation,” says the letter from the Internet Association, a trade group.

Specifically, the proposal would require, smartphone app operators to“apply for approval of a modification” for certain changes to any app used to arrange vehicle rides for hire.

The internet association correctly states that the proposal could effectively grant the commission veto power over software updates.

There are now more Uber cars in New York than yellow taxis. and Uber has already swiped as much as 20 percent of the car-for-hire business, according to Ira Goldstein, executive director of the Black Car Assistance Corp., a trade group.

The administration’s proposed rules would “help level the playing field,” Goldstein said.

Taxi and Limousine Commission  spokesman Allan Fromberg absurdly says political contributions from traditional car-for-hire and cab companies had nothing to do with the proposed rules.

Taxi and limousine owners were important donors to the mayor's 2013 campaign, with total contributions of  more than a half-million dollars.

It is also noteworthy that one prominent medallion owner, Evgeny Freidman, helped arrange a pivotal private meeting between Mayor  de Blasio and the leader of the city’s police sergeants union amid the public rift between City Hall and police unions this year.

Bottom line, the taxi oligopoly and the mayor are close.

The  TLC end of the proposal would also prevent drivers from using Uber's turn-by-turn directions while they're driving a car.

From the proposal:
Any smartphone application through which a Passenger can request FHV [for-hire vehicle] service must be available to a Driver ONLY when the Vehicle is standing or stopped, except that a smartphone application can permit a Driver to accept a dispatch with a single touch using pre-programmed buttons or using voice activation while the vehicle is in motion. All other use of the smartphone application must be velocity gated to prevent its use while the vehicle is in motion.

Maya Kosoff writes at Business Insider:
 If this rule is approved, it seems like Uber drivers wouldn't be allowed to navigate on their phones while they drive.
And that's how you harass innovators and protect the crony insiders.


  1. If I was Uber I'd just put a popup in the app to call de Blasio when running an old version.

  2. Bob,
    Oh these statists. Remember when you were a kid, at the carnival they had a game where you'd Smack a Mole with a mallet as it head pops up from the hole. The market is the mole and the mayor will forever be known as de Blasio the Mole Smacker!!