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Austin, your rideshare options are about to get shaken up, again

(BUSINESS NEWS) House Bill 100 is one its way to Gov. Abbot’s desk. If signed through, big name rideshare companies will likely come back to the capitol.

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Goodnews and bad news

Good news for Austinites who miss Uber and Lyft. Or put another way, a very bad news for those who do not, and have rather grown fond of local ridesharing startups.

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Thanks to House Bill 100, a Texas Senate approved legislation creating statewide ridesharing rules—thereby overriding local ordinances—the ridesharing giants are braced to come back to Austin in the near future.

One signature away

The bill is now awaiting at the desk of Gov. Greg Abbot, whose signature would immediately make it into law.

Uber and Lyft for their part, is keen to come back.

A spokesperson for Uber tells news channel KXAN that they will resume operations in Austin immediately after Gov. Greg Abbott signs the bill into law.

Where’d they go?

A year ago, Uber and Lyft pulled out just two days after refusing to comply with voters’ wishes of abiding by strict regulations. They both decided not to comply with the rejection of Prop 1—which would have replaced the City Council’s strict rules with loose oversight, like making fingerprinting a non-requirement.

At that time, the ridesharing companies warned residents during the lead up to the voting, that banning the company would mean increases in instances of drunk driving related deaths, crimes, and a massive loss of local part time and full time jobs.

They spent $8 million on a campaign, and provided free rides on the day of the voting.

Austin residents still rejected their Prop 1. Thankfully, the grim picture painted by Uber and Lyft in case of their departure did not come to pass.

On the contrary

Instead, DWI arrests hit a five-year low in the six months following the vote. And those who lost their jobs signed up at least half a dozen other startups that filled the space, including Fasten, Fare and RideAustin, a local nonprofit operation.

But the new bill, approved on Wednesday, will override regulations imposed by 20 municipalities across the state, including Austin, and put the operational legal framework of ride hailing companies under the Texas Department of Licensing and Regulation.

What about the lil’ guys?

Now that the comeback of the ride hailing titans are all but a matter of time, the future of young startups suddenly become uncertain.

CEO of RideAustin, Andy Tryba said in comments on Wednesday that if the company gives fewer than 20,000 rides a week, on average, it will very likely have to shut down.

Currently the company provides between 50,000 and 70,000 rides a week, but their share would fall significantly, if Uber and Lyft came back.

Mr. Tryba added that since RideAustin adheres to current city ordinances for ride-hailing apps, it is going to continue to do so, despite of what competitors do, including the requirement that drivers submit to fingerprint background checks, “because we feel it’s important to continue to honor the wishes of Austin’s voters.”

Austin’s ordinance

That Austin requires more stringent rules than Uber and Lyft cared for remains a contentious issue. Mayor Steve Adler said on Wednesday, “Our city should be proud of how we filled the gap created when Uber and Lyft left, and we now must hope that they return ready to compete in a way that reflects Austin’s values.”

However, it is almost certain that Uber and Lyft shall not abide by the city ordinance, as they were always opposed to it. Moreover, the House Bill 100 shall render the Austin law inoperative, thereby making strict background checks unnecessary.

Kirill Evdakov, CEO and co-founder of Fasten, which opposed the Bill, said lawmakers voted against public safety and the rights of cities.

Evdakov urged the city residents to ignore Uber and Lyft when they come back. “Austinites may not be able to overturn HB 100 legislatively, but they can make it irrelevant economically,” he said in a prepared statement.

Gov. Greg Abbott is expected to the sign the bill, as evident from his Wednesday tweet that read “Buckle Up. Coming Soon.”

In response to HB100 passing onto the governor, Chelsea Harrison, a spokesperson for Lyft said, “Ridesharing in Texas took a tremendous step forward today. Thank you to Senator Schwertner and Representative Paddie for defending consumer choice and all the stakeholders who have helped create safer roads and expand reliable, affordable rides for Texans. On behalf of the entire ridesharing community, thank you to all of the legislative champions who have helped guide this bill through the capitol.”

Here we are

It seems that big tech giants got their way this time around.

They lobbied the Senate and the House when they failed to lobby enough votes from the citizens.

The Mayor made a point to raise this glaring fact: “I’m disappointed that the legislature chose to nullify the bedrock principles of self-governance and limited government by imposing regulations on our city over the objection of Austin voters.”

#Austin

Barnil is a Staff Writer at The American Genius. With a Master's Degree in International Relations, Barnil is a Research Assistant at UT, Austin. When he hikes, he falls. When he swims, he sinks. When he drives, others honk. But when he writes, people read.

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2 Comments

2 Comments

  1. ATX resident

    May 19, 2017 at 9:57 am

    “shaken up”? I think you mean get better immediately. The mayor kicked out Uber to line his own pockets with cab company kickbacks and squash consumer choice. He deserves to go to jail, but I’ll settle for him crying himself to sleep over this.

  2. Pingback: Uber shifts ride fares in an incredibly odd way - The American Genius

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Business News

A real life robot battle: America vs Japan

(BUSINESS NEWS) Robots are real and America is fresh out of a battle with Japan in a real life robot battle royale.

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What’s the future of sports look like?

Giant. Fighting. Robots.

That’s right, your childhood dreams have arrived, at least I know mine have.

Two years ago, American robotics firm, MegaBots Inc., challenged Japanese rival, Suidobashi Heavy Industries, to a showdown of the battle of the mechs. The challenge was accepted, but with one simple caveat: the inclusion of melee combat.

And so the Super Heavyweight Title Fight two-years in the making premiered on leading social video platform, Twitch, yesterday evening to tech and sci-fi fans alike who waited with baited breath for such an event.

In order to prepare for the match, the American team needed to build a new bot capable of fulfilling the duel requirement, as well as one that would be a force to be reckoned with against the Japanese fighting machine.

MegaBots, or “Team America,” was able to crowdfund the robot battle through a Kickstarter campaign earning over $500,000 by just under 8,000 backers. With this campaign, they were also able to upgrade their Mk.II behemoth that would be entering the rumble.

Meet Eagle Prime.

More metal. More power. More American.

According to MegaBots, Eagle Prime “weighs in at 12 tons, stands 16 feet tall, seats two, is powered by a 430 horsepower V8 LS3 engine, and costs a cool $2.5M.” This robot is massive; a good foot higher than its predecessor.

Founders Matt Oehrlein and Gui Cavalcanti commented on the design of Eagle Prime, quipping, “We made it huge and strapped guns to it;” as American as apple pie.

Suidobashi’s robot, KURATAS, stands a few feet shorter (about 13 feet tall), but carries a more sleek and elegant design to it. With a tripod-wheeled base and twin Gatling BB canons with the ability to fire 6,000 bullets per second, it seemed a toss-up as to who would reign supreme in the first mech battle.

While this sounds like an epic episode of awesomeness, don’t expect Pacific Rim level combat just yet. Rather than give a play-by-play of the event, I’ll just tell you straight away that Eagle Prime came out on top in the brawl. To be fair though, it really wasn’t much of a brawl.

Eagle Prime had two years of extra time to be built in preparation for such a match against Kuratas. It was made bigger (and for “funzies”, added patriotic colors to the bot as well as a head of a bald eagle for a “head” as well as a chainsaw-sword-type of device that likely, and ultimately, ended up costing Kuratas a pretty penny in damages.

Really, Kuratas had no chance: there was a bit of overkill on the part of Eagle Prime.

The chain-sword alone raises some safety concerns, especially when we’re talking the future of sports. That said, the pilots of both mechs, Eagle Prime piloted by both Oehrlein and Cavalcanti and Kuratas by Kogoro Kurata, could use a bit more protective gear than helmets, even if the robots in action look like a couple of toddlers fighting.

But hey, it’s a start. And that’s the point.

Maybe one day we will be in giant stadium arenas watching huge robots piloted by humans hashing it out, but we’ve got a long ways to go. And maybe, just maybe, these things could be of use in natural disaster efforts.

Who wouldn’t want to be saved by an Optimus Prime-like, human-piloted “robot” that could withstand whatever was thrown its way?

It’s going to be an expensive endeavor that will require a nice chunk of change in investments and endorsements, though I will say, what a time to be alive.

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Business News

These stores refuse to start Black Friday early

(BUSINESS NEWS) There is a rising trend of stores being pressured to open their doors earlier and earlier each holiday weekend but these companies refuse.

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This year, Target, Walmart, and Best Buy are among a group of retail super villains who have decided it’s appropriate to begin the Black Friday shopping nightmare on Thanksgiving Day, with some opening as early as 5pm on Thursday.

As someone who has only had the misfortune of working the retail tornado of Black Friday once, I would never wish it upon anyone. Yet many stores feel pressured to begin the doorbusters earlier every year.

To compete with online shopping, brick-and-mortar retailers implement drastic measures to get customers in stores during the discount season.

Last year, eMarketer reported internet users in their survey were likelier to shop online during Black Friday and Cyber Monday. This comes as no surprise to anyone who’s been watching retail stores crumble as online shopping continues to dominate the market.

To lure in shoppers, physical stores must come up with deals so alluring that people would kill for them.

Literally. I just googled “did anyone die on Black Friday last year” and found out that there’s a handy site called Black Friday Death Count. The answer is yes, some people died last year in Black Friday-related incidents, and in fact two of the three deaths took place at separate Walmarts.

So that makes this year’s disturbingly early foray into deal hunting even less enticing.

While I don’t hold Thanksgiving sacred by any means, moving the even unholier Black Friday back to impede on a holiday is ludicrous. But a handful of heroes are saying no seriously guys, we’re not doing this.

Over fifty retailers are collectively putting their foot down, and will remain closed on Thanksgiving Day. While some may still be party to next-day discounts, they’re at least taking a stand.

Here’s a list of all the places you can’t go on Thanksgiving, because mercifully they’re closed:

  • A.C. Moore
  • Abt Electronics
  • Academy Sports + Outdoors
  • At Home
  • BJ’s Wholesale Club
  • Blain’s Farm and Fleet
  • Burlington
  • Cabela’s
  • Cost Plus World Market
  • Costco
  • Craft Warehouse
  • Crate and Barrel
  • DSW – Designer Shoe Warehouse
  • Ethan Allen
  • Gardner-White Furniture
  • Guitar Center
  • H&M
  • Half Price Books
  • Harbor Freight
  • Hobby Lobby
  • Home Depot
  • HomeGoods
  • Homesense
  • IKEA
  • JOANN Fabric and Craft Stores
  • Jos. A. Bank
  • La-Z-Boy (all corporately owned stores)
  • Lowe’s
  • Marshalls
  • Mattress Firm
  • Micro Center
  • Music & Arts
  • Neiman Marcus
  • Office Depot and OfficeMax
  • Outdoor Research (closed Black Friday too)
  • P.C. Richard & Son
  • Party City
  • Patagonia
  • Petco
  • PetSmart
  • Pier 1 Imports
  • Publix
  • Raymour & Flanigan Furniture
  • Sam’s Club
  • Sierra Trading Post
  • Sportsman’s Warehouse
  • Sprint (Corporate & Dealer Owned Stores; Mall Kiosks May Open)
  • Staples
  • Sur La Table
  • The Container Store
  • The Original Mattress Factory
  • TJ Maxx
  • Tractor Supply
  • Trollbeads
  • Von Maur
  • West Marine

And while that’s a pretty hefty list, the fact remains that many unfortunate employees will have to show up to work on Thanksgiving when they should be taking naps, or avoiding helping their family clean up after lunch.

Thinking about some retailers’ decision to open a day early for Black Friday almost makes Cards Against Humanity’s crowdfunded hole stunt last year seem reasonable. Maybe if we’re lucky, the tradition of Black Friday will get sucked up in a black hole, never to plague us again.

I guess staying home is also an option. If you opt into the shopping this year, stay safe. And if you choose to do so on Thanksgiving, maybe just don’t tell anyone.

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Amazon is extending its takeover to sportswear

(BUSINESS NEWS) As Amazon continues its quest for total retail dominance, they are beginning to try their hand with sportswear.

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Because Amazon won’t settle until it controls every single market ever, the online retailing giant is, reportedly, gearing up to start offering its own sportswear line.

Rumors that the company might get into the workout gear game started circulating earlier this year when the company posted job listings for brand managers to help create “authentic activewear private label brands.”

They hired a brand manager for athletic wear in January.

Amazon has already been dabbling in the world of fashion, having created eight clothing brands since early last year, including a men’s shirt brand called Buttoned Down that is offered to Prime customers.

Insiders say that, while no long-term contracts have been signed so far, Amazon is negotiating with Makalot Industrials Co., a producer that makes sportswear for Gap, Uniqlo, and Kohl’s, as well as Eclat Textile Co., who provides textiles for Nike, Lululemon, and Under Armour.

Both Makalot and Eclat are based in Taiwan.

Apparently, these manufacturers are making small test batches for Amazon so they can run a trial on the concept. The fact that Amazon is working with experts in this market means they are serious about making a competitive, quality product.

Amazon currently sells about $10 billion worth of apparel, making it a serious competitor with brick-and-mortar retailers.

The workout wear market is a pretty big deal, so it would obviously be profitable if Amazon can come out with a good product. Customers are already crazy about Amazon’s online convenience and quick delivery, so they may be happy to find more options for sneakers and yoga pants.

On the other hand, private label brands that Amazon is already selling, such as Goodthreads and Lark & Ro may feel betrayed. Other sportswear brands can’t be too pleased either, with Nike reporting declines this quarter and Under Armour reducing its annual sales forecast.

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