Stop! Go! After Back and Forth, Lyft and Uber Win Stay in California
Tami Abdollah is dot.LA's senior technology reporter. She was previously a national security and cybersecurity reporter for The Associated Press in Washington, D.C. She's been a reporter for the AP in Los Angeles, the Los Angeles Times and for L.A.'s NPR affiliate KPCC. Abdollah spent nearly a year in Iraq as a U.S. government contractor. A native Angeleno, she's traveled the world on $5 a day, taught trad climbing safety classes and is an avid mountaineer. Follow her on Twitter.
Francesca Billington is a dot.LA editorial intern. She's previously reported for KCRW, the Santa Monica Daily Press and local publications in New Jersey. Before joining dot.LA, she was a communications fellow at an environmental science research center in Sri Lanka. She graduated from Princeton in 2019 with a degree in anthropology.
An appeals court granted Uber and Lyft a reprieve on Thursday, hours before the California rideshare giants were poised to make good on their threats to suspend operations in their home state.
The move would have left hundreds of thousands of drivers in one of their largest markets without employment during a global pandemic and passengers stranded. Alternative ridesharing operations are ready to roll, but before we get to that here's a run down of what happened.
The appeals court's 11th hour decision enables the two Silicon Valley-based companies to continue operating — without classifying their drivers as employees - as the court weighs their appeal.
The planned suspension was the next step in a months-long saga that has played out in Sacramento and in the courts, as the two multi-billion-dollar companies have pushed back against a new law that requires them to classify their drivers as employees rather than independent contractors.
"The vast majority of drivers want to work independently, and we've already made significant changes to our app to ensure that remains the case under California law," an Uber spokesman told dot.LA on Thursday. "When over 3 million Californians are without a job, our elected leaders should be focused on creating work, not trying to shut down an entire industry during an economic depression."
Lyft's plan to suspend its operations by midnight came one week after a court granted a preliminary injunction, requiring Uber and Lyft to stop classifying their drivers as contractors.
In a blog post, Lyft said that four out of five drivers do not support the court's revised employment model. The company also argued in its post, as it has in court, that "this change would also necessitate an overhaul of the entire business model — it's not a switch that can be flipped overnight."
Leaving California would be a political bet for the two companies hinging on jilted riders and drivers being upset enough to push for a change in the law in the future.
Such a bet has worked in some markets, notably in Austin, Texas. In 2016, Uber and Lyft left town in protest of a package of new rules and regulations that would require deeper background checks for drivers, including fingerprinting. After expensive lobbying and marketing campaigns at the Texas statehouse, Republican Gov. Greg Abbott signed a new law in 2017 that included background checks without fingerprinting. Uber and Lyft returned shortly thereafter.
Lyft is actively encouraging customers to vote yes on Prop. 22 in November, which would offer new benefits to drivers and exempt app-based ridesharing companies from having to classify drivers as employees.
Lyft and Uber said last week that they would likely pause business to comply with the order. Uber originally mentioned plans to continue running its food delivery service despite a potential suspension of its ridesharing service.
The reprieve for riders and drivers in the Golden State may be temporary.
For those worried about what may come, here are some alternative ridesharing options:
- Hail a ride or schedule one in advance with RideYellow, the app letting riders pay with cash or card for transportation across L.A.
- Wingz, once known for it's airport rides, has expanded its operations to offer around-town transportation.
- For charter and party bus services, Swoop offers a range of vehicles depending on your destination and group size.
- While carpooling to work is put on a temporary pause for many, Scoop's model links co-workers and neighbors traveling in the same direction.
- With Waze Carpool users can choose carpool companies based on their profiles, star ratings and filters like co-workers only or same-gender.
- Rides for children with vetted drivers are offered by both HopSkipDrive and Kango Each trip can be closely monitored through the app.
- Blacklane offers a higher-end car service.
- And while Lyft is taking a ridesharing hiatus, you can still access its scooters in Santa Monica and UCLA and rent a car through the Lyft app.
- 8 Alternatives to Uber and Lyft in California - dot.LA ›
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Eliminating battery waste, developing new hair growth therapy, fixing carbon dioxide. These are among some of the ambitious problems that companies are trying to solve at the First Look SoCal Innovation Showcase beginning Tuesday.
Hosted by nonprofit Alliance for SoCal Innovation, the online event connects early-stage tech and life science companies with investors and serial entrepreneurs.
BioZen Batteries Aims to Solve Our Energy Storage Issues<img lazy-loadable="true" src="https://dot.la/media-library/eyJhbGciOiJIUzI1NiIsInR5cCI6IkpXVCJ9.eyJpbWFnZSI6Imh0dHBzOi8vYXNzZXRzLnJibC5tcy8yNDI0Nzg5MS9vcmlnaW4uanBnIiwiZXhwaXJlc19hdCI6MTYyNTg3OTYyNn0.y9dSMjovB1GtsQ1SZhKiPTIJY3VW0XOE2YXd-JN1xYU/image.jpg?width=980" id="95064" class="rm-shortcode" data-rm-shortcode-id="c3ad9197ad70005802e6d34d6da3c29d" data-rm-shortcode-name="rebelmouse-image" />
Left to right: BioZen Batteries' co-founders Zach Rengert, Nate Kirchhofer and Eric Brigham.<p>Nate Kirchhofer, co-founder and CEO of <a href="https://biozenbatteries.com/" target="_blank">BioZen Batteries</a>, wants to make batteries that will outlive him.</p><p>Santa Barbara-based BioZen creates organic electrolytes, the active material inside a specific type of battery called a "redox flow battery." It's a different type of technology that differs from the lithium batteries often used in mobile applications like cars and phones. Only 5% of those get recycled.</p><p>BioZen's batteries are well suited for green, large-scale energy storage, Kirchhofer said. For example, batteries that help solar panels connect to the grid or provide backup during disasters when the power goes out.</p><p>Kirchhofer, an electrochemist, founded the company in June of 2019 with Zach Rengert, a materials chemist, and Eric Brigham, the company's CFO. Kirchhofer and Rengert met while getting their doctorate at UC Santa Barbara.</p><p>There hasn't yet been a push for sustainable batteries because it isn't economically incentivized, Kirchhofer told dot.LA. He said that his batteries are cheaper than competitors.</p><p>Kirchhofer's product fits into a growing renewable energy market and a social movement in which individuals want to do their part. He's worked for four startups but says this one is poised to make the biggest impact.</p><p>"If it's not our generation that solves climate change, there's not another chance. There's not another Earth." he said. "If we can make these batteries happen, we can truly integrate renewable energy and stop the petroleum-dominated energy paradigm we're part of."</p>
Amplifica's founder Dr. Maksim Plikus
Amplifica Treats Baldness with Mole Molecules<p>Back in 2013, Amplifica's founder Dr. Maksim Plikus began studying hairy moles. Though some find the growths unsightly, his work showed promise for baldness treatment.</p><p>He, along with colleagues at UC Irvine, discovered that molecules from moles that grow excessive hair can induce follicle growth when administered anywhere on the skin.</p><p>"As long as you can tease it out and replicate it in the form of purified molecules, you can achieve essentially what we think would be a novel, revolutionary solution to baldness," Plikus told dot.LA.</p><p>Plikus said his company is the first to solve hair loss by replicating cells from hairy moles to stimulate hair growth. At the moment, hair follicle research has emerged as a leading experimental model for studying stem cells.</p><p>By 2025, hair-loss products are projected to surpass $12 billion, Plikus said. But only two drugs are FDA approved and require daily treatment in the form of pills, which he said come with long-term side effects.</p><p>Amplifica says it's poised to put a more effective and convenient solution on the market. Pinkus' proposed product is a topical solution requiring less frequent application, like getting Botox injections a few times per year.</p>
FixingCO2 Aims to Recycle Fuel from the Air<img lazy-loadable="true" src="https://dot.la/media-library/eyJhbGciOiJIUzI1NiIsInR5cCI6IkpXVCJ9.eyJpbWFnZSI6Imh0dHBzOi8vYXNzZXRzLnJibC5tcy8yNDI0ODM4My9vcmlnaW4uanBnIiwiZXhwaXJlc19hdCI6MTYzMzA1ODA4MH0.9RqwD9zUN1et1kor8zNPj8WH2kOX6SrysdpRDFT5QMc/image.jpg?width=980" id="daa89" class="rm-shortcode" data-rm-shortcode-id="9851b177139c4b5e06bd9c96fb395083" data-rm-shortcode-name="rebelmouse-image" />
FixingCO2's team. CEO Eldar Akhmetgaliyev is at right.<p><a href="https://fixingco2.com/" target="_blank">FixingCO2</a> got its start on Mars. Like the name says, the company aims to fix the global carbon problem that's fueling climate change.</p><p>In 2018, co-founder Alma Zhanaidarova's professor and research group at UC San Diego received a grant from NASA to build out a reactor that makes renewable fuels and chemicals from carbon dioxide, often a byproduct of industrial waste. The technology was being developed in anticipation of a one-day human mission to Mars, where 95% of the atmosphere is carbon dioxide.</p><p>Now, the San Diego-based startup is commercializing their product for earthlings.</p><p>"It's a different application but the same core technology," co-founder Eldar Akhmetgaliyev told dot.LA. "Instead of making fuels from oil or any other fossil sources, we can make them essentially from air."</p><p>The team is developing the hardware to capture industrial emissions blamed for much of the Earth's warming. The product has significant application for the aviation industry, where planes are built to burn jet fuel that produces carbon emissions.</p><p>"These kinds of technologies provide them a pathway to decarbonization," he said. "They can use fuels made from CO2 so they're not contributing to climate change."</p><p>As fires burn through California and the Pacific Northwest, Akhmetgaliyev said there's urgency for innovators in the carbon tech market. "We're pretty much turning our planet into Mars," he said.</p><p>He said that by 2050, about 14% of overall carbon reduction will come from carbon capture and utilization (CCUS) technology like his.</p><p>"The market hasn't met its opportunity and with the effects of climate change being seen everyday, there's going to be more drive towards these low carbon technologies."</p>
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More than a year ago, Darius Kemp, then a community manager at cannabis delivery app Eaze, realized the platform didn't have any Black-owned products on their menu.
Today he is Eaze's head of equity and change, spearheading a program for change and to prevent that from ever happening again.
Carolina Vazquez Mitchell's company dreamt is part of Eaze's new social equity partner menu.