According to a ruling by the California Labor Commission, Uber drivers are employees, not contract workers. The distinction could have serious consequences for San Francisco's booming share economy.
Calling itself “the first on-demand rideshare community,” Sidecar emerged from four months of beta testing last week, having already facilitated 10,000 rides in and around San Francisco.
It's a free smartphone app (available in both iOS and Android) that connects you with nearby drivers when you need a ride. You can choose to make a donation to the driver for that ride if you wish; it’s voluntary.
“During testing, people told us that they love the convenience and the friendliness of Sidecar,” says CEO Sunil Paul. “The reception has been astounding.”
When it launched with its first iPhone app last December, Soma-based Postmates represented what its founder, Bastian Lehmann, called “a FedEx for local deliveries” here in the city.
Its goal was to get every store in San Francisco to start using couriers to make home deliveries– something few merchants have done traditionally.
“But we met some resistance from the stores; they had lots of questions,” says Lehmann. “I realized we weren’t going to achieve our goal anytime soon.”
Meanwhile, while merchants may have been hesitant, consumers were not.
All over the Bay Area, particularly in San Francisco, thousands of startups are developing innovative products and services that collectively promise to transform the way we live our lives going forward.
Once upon a New Year's Eve, after StumbleUpon founder and CEO Garrett Camp dropped $800 on three cab rides, he decided there had to be a better way to get a ride when you really needed one.
He started Uber, a marketplace that connects you via an iPhone or android app with your own private driver. That may sound simple enough but take a peek under the hood, and it turns out be one gigantic math problem, says Ryan Graves, Uber's VP of Operations.
"A lot goes into matching drivers with riders," he told me, "and we measure everything. After someone opens the app, how often do they refresh the screen? How fast does the driver respond? How accurate is his ETA?"
Using GPS, Uber's system identifies the closest on-duty driver to where the rider's location. The driver has 15 seconds to respond. "Drivers love it," says Graves, "because it means less time with an empty backseat. When they're empty they are treating the Uber app like it's hot."