Archive for the ‘Automotive’ Category

Uber takes 33%, plus $60/mnth and doesn’t pay tolls

03 Nov 2015

I recently took Uber across a San Francisco bridge, which cost the driver $4 in cash. Cash that I don’t carry. Cash that I can’t add to a tip in the Uber app. I apologized to the driver (he wasn’t upset in the slightest and fully expected to pay the bridge toll.)

It surprised me that the Uber app doesn’t recognize that I went through a toll and automatically add it to my fare – especially considering that Uber charges my a ‘safe rider fee’ separately from the fare.

Uber takes 33%, plus $60/mnth and doesn’t pay tolls - DaveTavres.comAs we drove, I asked the driver more details about fees and found out that Uber is now charging drivers $60/mnth for an old iPhone (with service) that is used for connecting to the Uber servers for getting and tracking rides. I DO think Uber can/should charge for the device, as drivers apparently have the option of using their own phones instead (although I do not know all the details of that.) However, Uber is handing out ancient iPhone models, while at the same time adding thousands of Uber drivers each month, which would reduce their costs. So, this is yet another money-grab by Uber, but the cash-grab is from the drivers, rather than the riders.

To top it off, I learned that the rate is now 33% of each fare goes to Uber. That is HUGE considering how many drivers there are around the world. In 2014, Uber’s revenue was $1.6 Billion.Lyft -

In talking to other drivers, I’ve heard that Lyft only charges drivers 20% of each fare and (probably for a limited time), if a driver does 25 or more rides in a single day, they get 100% of the fares.

I’ll be re-thinking my commitment to using Uber and give Lyft a try.

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Posted in Automotive, Business, Customer Service, Technology


Uber’s “Safe Rides” fee is ridiculous

22 Oct 2015

I’m a huge fan of Uber. But, I also know they take a huge percentage of each fare (I’ve heard from Uber drivers as much as 30%.) However, I also understand websites and technology and the costs to run such businesses, so when I see $1.65 fee on top of an $11 fare – of which Uber gets 20-30%, it makes me click on the link next to the ‘Safe Rides Fee’ line item.

Here’s their reason for charging that fee:



The Safe Rides Fee supports safety efforts for the uberX platform, including among other things a background check process, motor vehicle checks, driver safety education and development of safety features in the app.

Here’s the issue… As of October 2015, Uber confirmed a $40 BILLION valuation. That’s a lot of money – and I love entrepreneurship and capitalism, but in this case, Uber is just being greedy. That $1.65 for “background checks’ and ‘vehicle checks’ should be coming from the 30% they take from EACH fare that a driver collects. That IS the business that Uber is running. When I see the line item on my phone bill for $1.28 to help extend phone service to rural areas, I get that – it’s basically a tax to help those people Uber’s “Safe Rides” fee is ridiculouswho choose not to live near city centers, and it’s an infrastructure cost that will give a return in years to come. And yes, you pay that $1.28 each month on your phone bill. But that’s each month, not each fare.

Uber – you’re doin’ a great job (be sure to thank your drivers), but seriously, you need to re-think this fee. Those checks are part of doing this business. If you want to raise fees, do that – don’t try to hide your massive profits in lame excuses in the name of “safety”.

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Posted in Automotive, Business, Customer Service, Marketing, Reviews, Technology


Call Uber to get a battery jump

28 Aug 2015

I recently left my headlights on and killed my car battery. It’s not the first time I’ve done that. That’s why I carry jumper cables in my trunk. Cables are great – when someone will give you a jump. This most recent time was the last straw though… it was 98° in Anaheim and I was on the top-deck of a parking garage at the Anaheim Convention Center. Apparently the Anaheim Convention Center isn’t as concerned with helping guests as Disneyland is… when I asked if they could give me a jump, both the security department and the parking department said they couldn’t because of liability. (Wouldn’t you think they would already have a HUGE amount of liability insurance being a Convention Center and all?)

It got worse… I asked five people if they would give me a jump and they all basically said no. Okay, last option is AAA / roadside service. And how long does that usually take? I’ve never seen it take less than an hour for one of their pickup trucks to show up. I REALLY did not want to wait around in almost 100 degree temps, then explain to the parking gate that AAA was coming and to direct them to find me among a sea of cars.

Jump-N-Carry battery jumper - DaveTavres.comSo while waiting for roadside service, I popped open the Amazon app and ordered a “Jump-N-Carry” portable battery jumper. I haven’t had to use it yet, but at about $70 it will be worth every penny when I need it.

imageIt showed up at my office and I was showing one of the office boy-geniuses, Randy Walker, who pretty quickly asked “Does Uber give jumps?” WOW. That’s why he’s a boy-genius. I would HAPPILY pay $20 to an Uber driver who would show up in 3-12 minutes, pull one of these portable battery jumpers out and get my car started again. Seriously. If Uber isn’t doing this yet, they should make it an option for any driver who wants to make a couple extra bucks. Uber – PLEASE – add this to your app and give drivers the option to do it as an add on.

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Posted in Automotive, Business, Customer Service, Technology


Where’s the gas tank?

16 Sep 2014

Where’s the gas tank? - DaveTavres.comI don’t know when I learned this trick, but it was many years ago.

Have you ever rented or borrowed a car and had to stop for gas, but as you’re driving up to the pump you suddenly realize that you don’t know if the gas tank filler is on the left or right side? I’d say there’s a… 98% chance that has happened to everyone. And with the popularity of the Toyota Prius and Chevy Volt, which gives people much longer time between fill-ups, even those car owners probably forget which side the gas tank is on!

So, here’s a the tip that seems to be true for most cars from the past… 20(?) years:

Gas pump - DaveTavres.comNext to the gas pump icon is an arrow that tells you which side the filler spout is located.

VW Jetta instruments - DaveTavres.com2014 Chevrolet Spark LS - DaveTavres.comFord Focus ECOnetic - DaveTavres.comNissan Micra Tekna - DaveTavres.comFuel guage - DaveTavres.com2011 VW Jetta SE 2.5 dashboard - DaveTavres.com2014 Nissan 370Z Roadster - DaveTavres.comToyota Prius C -

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Posted in Automotive, Technology


When podcasts go mainstream

19 Apr 2014

Car radio - DaveTavres.comIf you have a car, you have a radio. If you have a radio, you probably listen to music, talk radio, news and/or sports. By the mid-1960s, radios were standard equipment in new cars. Today, it’s almost standard to have a USB or other MP3 player connection – or at least a auxiliary input jack to plug other devices into your car’s sound system. What’s missing though is the digital end-to-end solution that terrestrial radio provides. By that I mean that you turn on your car radio and you get sound, pretty much everywhere there are roads. The end user (the driver) doesn’t need to do anything but turn a knob (or push it to turn it on.)

In 1930, the first commercially available car radio was installed. Since then, in-car record players were installed, tube-less (transistor) radios made the scene, 8-track tape players were the rage, then regular cassette tapes, Highway Hi-Fi -“premium” auto-sound, then in 1985 the first factory-installed in-dash CD player came spinning into history. Each brought their own new technology – but the radio was still the backbone of them all. Regardless of how many tapes or CDs you had (which all required storage space, and the ability to store/hide them from the sun and would-be thieves), you still had a fairly limited selection of ‘personalized’ audio. Even changing the radio station only got you so far – you had to listen to what some program director of a station or DJ thought you’d like to listen to between 6-10am and 5-8pm. With the introduction of TiVo in 1999, much like the telephone, the world changed.

TiVo Series 1 - DaveTavres.comTiVo made it possible for TV viewers to easily record dozens of shows digitally on a VCR-like box and play them back anytime they wanted, effectively creating a personalized TV station. That’s it – life was changed. Personally, I credit Troy Shaw for showing me his TiVo in ‘99 and I was hooked. Not too many years after that came the iPod, the Zune and the Diamond Rio MP3 players – mobile audio devices that let people listen to thousands of different songs anytime, anywhere. The iPod is what saved Apple its obscure reality. So where’s the digital innovation foMicrosoft's "Auto PC" - DaveTavres.comr the other HUGE part of people’s lives? That is, the car. In 1999 came along, with the idea of a hard-drive that lived in your car, storing your entire music collection and was playable through your existing car stereo. In 1998 Microsoft even sold the “Auto PC” – but it was too far AUX jack - DaveTavres.comahead of its time.

By the mid-2000s, that AUX jack was introduced, which is good and all, but the vast majority of people don’t use it. Ever. First of all, it’s not “convenient” to plug in your device every time you get in your car. Second, it still requires that you pull out a device every time you get in your car. So why not update the car radio? Well, that’s what Google is doing. FINALLY!

Android Auto - DaveTavres.comGoogle’s “Open Automotive Alliance” is moving forward with “Android Auto” – presumed to be the next wave of car audio.

There are many makers who have converted Nexus and iPad tablets to be in-car entertainment systems, but they hacked together for many parts, using custom ROMs and stereotypical geek ingenuity. It lets the geek-driver wirelessly connect to their phone to get real-time traffic and directions from Google maps, access to your entire music collection via Google Music, as well as Pandora, YouTube, Rdio and anything else you normally use on your phone – but right on the dashboard of your car!

So, how does this relate to podcasts?! (FINALLY!) Yeah – it all does tie together.

Once you have “smart radio” in your car, when you pull the car into the garage or anywhere the car can hit a wi-fi signal – including your phone – the “smart radio” will start downloading the latest episodes of your favorite podcasts… and the most recent playlist you created on your laptop… and the songs you just uploaded to the cloud. Which means that you’re the ‘program director’ now. Just a few taps of the touch screen and you can play Michael Bublé, then jump over to your “Road Trip Playlist” or listen to the latest story on Freakonomics Radio, NPR’s Planet Money or Peculiar Podcast on your drive to work.

Once this kind of “smart radio” functionality is ubiquitous – just as smart phones are now – Podcasts WILL replace terrestrial radio. And considering that most radio stations today stream over the internet, even live news broadcasts and up-to-the-minute traffic reports can be streamed right to your dashboard via your phone (or some kind of Wi-Max technology.)

As of this writing, Google says you’ll see the first ‘Android Car Stereo’ by the end of 2014. But that’s likely just on higher-end car models and not as stand-alone decks you can buy and install in your 2011 Jetta. Be on the lookout – it’s one of the next big things to come…

Google Nexus 7 In-dash -

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Posted in Automotive, Business, Microsoft, Software, Technology