Uber and Lyft drivers compete for apps that make contract work a better job

Drivers for Uber technologies INC.,

Raise INC.

and DoorDash INC.

they’re flocking to a wave of apps designed to make concert work better.

One app tracks weather patterns, aggregates drivers’ earnings from multiple platforms, and directs them to more lucrative locations by monitoring events and foot traffic at airports. Another transforms drivers’ phones into dash cameras, images of which can be used to dispute passenger complaints.

Gridwise Inc., the app that collects drivers’ earnings across platforms, said its downloads more than doubled in May compared to the same month in 2019. The Pittsburgh-based app, founded in 2017, said that it has more than 140,000 monthly active users. New York-based Driver Technologies Inc., which started its dashcam app in 2018, said it saw 10 times more downloads in the same period. It has around 50,000 monthly active users, at least a third of whom it estimates are concert workers.

App downloads are surpassing pre-pandemic levels as the United States reopens amid a patchwork of regulatory efforts that catapulted workers’ rights to the fore last year.

Zermeno said the images from the Driver app could help you if there is a traffic incident or a complaint from a driver.


Photo:

Malike Sidibe for Akacceleratorfund

Many workers came together to seek better protections and raise awareness of the tools drivers could use to increase profits, track expenses, and hold companies accountable when something goes wrong.

The surge in downloads comes despite the nationwide driver shortage that Uber and Lyft say they are grappling with as the health crisis subsides and demand increases. These apps are free, and most earn income by selling location data and information to city planners and insurers, among others.

Uber and Lyft pioneered contract work, but the companies don’t directly employ those workers. While many drivers want to remain independent, they say they also want more information on compensation, better tools to maximize profits, and guidance on how to handle problems like wrongful terminations or complaints.

Food delivery and ride sharing companies recognize that third-party apps can help. A Lyft spokeswoman said that while the company provides drivers with earnings and other data, “third-party applications can aggregate information from numerous platforms and provide a more holistic view of someone’s activity,” adding that insights ” they’re a good thing, regardless of whether they’re from Lyft or another group. “

Los Angeles-based concert worker Ben Valdez said the Gridwise app keeps you informed about big events and tracks your activity across all platforms.


Photo:

Ben valdez

Some applications are providing drivers with the necessary evidence to defend themselves and are indicating legal assistance.

Antonio Zermeno started using Driver, the dashcam application, a few months ago. The application uses the rear camera of the phone to record the road and the front camera to film the interior of the car.

Zermeno said the images give him the feeling that he can defend himself in the event of traffic incidents or passenger complaints.

While hauling an Uber passenger last month, a car ran a red light and damaged Zermeno’s bumper. The app connected him to LegalRideshare LLC, a Chicago law firm that guided him on using accident images to file a claim with Uber at no cost. Zermeno hopes to receive compensation from Uber because the accident involved a passenger.

A screenshot of the Gridwise app on Mr. Valdez’s phone.


Photo:

Ben valdez

In addition to recording, the Driver app can transform the phone’s rear camera into a driving assistant, said founder Rashid Galadanci. The front camera is powered by facial recognition technology that can warn drivers if their “eyes are closing or their head is tilted” for added safety, he said. Galadanci said that regular car owners use those features, too.

Lawmakers in the US and elsewhere have sought to reclassify rideshare drivers and food delivery drivers as employees to force companies to build more supporting infrastructure. Businesses fought those attempts, winning some big battles, including in their home state of California late last year, and losing others, like in the UK this year.

A DoorDash spokesperson said it is working to improve the experience for its couriers and has established partnerships with companies that offer discounts on auto repairs and help with tax preparation, among other things.

Uber said its associations also help drivers with taxes. The company has a new driver’s guide and virtual tutorials that can help you navigate issues like accident complaints and claims.

The drivers themselves have dedicated themselves to creating an ecosystem that helps their peers overcome the challenges and quirks of being an app-based worker.

“Concert workers are really taking matters into their own hands and using each and every tool to take control,” said Hays Witt, co-founder of Driver’s Seat Cooperative, a group owned by concert workers that at the end of 2019 launched an app to help drivers track expenses like gas and mileage.

The app gives drivers a more accurate picture of their mileage by also recording the time they spend driving to pick up passengers. Mileage tracking is important because it helps drivers save money on taxes. Uber and Lyft record only the miles during a trip. Driver’s Seat said its app downloads doubled in May compared to February last year, when widespread crashes swept the US It said the app is used by 2,000 drivers.

UberCheats was launched last year by a software engineer who became a food delivery driver. The web tool extracts the GPS coordinates of the trips from the drivers’ monthly statements and uses Google Maps to calculate the distance between the pick-up and drop-off locations. Drivers can use it to match the distance Uber paid them for.

Contract workers are playing a bigger role in the American economy during the global pandemic. Gerald F. Seib of WSJ explores whether your eligibility for unemployment insurance will continue after the virus passes. Photo: Justin Heiman / Getty Images (Video from 4/29/20)

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Former naval officer Ryan Green, co-founder of the earnings aggregation app Gridwise, came up with the idea after driving for Uber off-duty while stationed at a military base in Pensacola, Florida. weak points that drivers were dealing with, ”he said.

It launched Gridwise after subscribing to about 30 services that offer information such as weather conditions and airport traffic and sending that data to drivers. The app tracks events in more than 80 cities, including New York, San Francisco, and Los Angeles. Drivers can see their combined earnings on all platforms by linking each of their accounts to the app. The company has raised $ 5.6 million from venture capital firms, including Switch Ventures.

Los Angeles-based concert worker Ben Valdez likes that Gridwise keeps him informed of big events and tracks his activity across all platforms. “So you don’t have to write it down in a book. They do everything for you, ”he said.

He experimented with a dashcam app similar to Driver, but found that it was more suitable for drivers with an additional phone because it overheated their phone. “It’s about adjusting your strategy through trial and error,” Valdez said.

The challenges of live work

More coverage, selected by WSJ editors

Write to Preetika Rana at [email protected]

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