Uber

With Uber starting its taxi service now in Perth the following article by Dara Kerr writing for CNET is timely.

Obviously the article refers to the Uber in the United States, and it is the view of the author.

How risky is your Uber ride? Maybe more than you think.
When you agree to Uber’s terms and conditions, you basically sign your life away, consumer advocates say. So then, what happens when a driver hits you on the head with a hammer, as one passenger claims?

The night began like many others for Roberto Chicas. But it ended far differently.

Two weeks ago, the 35-year-old San Francisco bartender finished a round of drinks with friends at the end of his shift and e-hailed an Uber car to take them all to their respective homes. UberX driver Patrick Karajah, 26, showed up.

As they began the trek home, the passengers started questioning Karajah’s route, according to Chicas’ attorney, Harry Stern. Karajah took the freeway, when the passengers wanted to take surface streets so they could be dropped off in sequential order. As they continued on the drive, Stern said, the dispute between the passengers and Karajah reportedly got heated.

“The driver got more and more agitated,” according to Stern. Karajah allegedly “started saying things like, ‘I’m tired of people who don’t know where they’re going. Maybe you guys should just get out.'”

Driving down the freeway, Karajah reportedly blew past the exit for Chicas’ neighborhood and pulled off at an exit far from the passengers’ homes, Stern said. At one point, they claim, he tried to force the passengers out of his car. He then reportedly drove 50 yards, then tried again to oust them.

At Karajah’s second attempt, Stern said, Chicas and another passenger got out. The third passenger momentarily stayed in the backseat to make sure they didn’t leave anything behind.

“All of the sudden [Karajah] appeared at the door with the hammer and said, ‘I told you to get the f*** out of my car,'” Stern said.

Karajah then marched over to Chicas, clobbered him in the head with a hammer, went back to his car and drove off, according to Stern. Chicas was left lying on the ground, bleeding and drifting in and out of consciousness. It’s still unclear if Chicas will regain vision in his left eye, Stern said.

The Uber driver was charged with assault with a deadly weapon and battery with serious bodily injury. He has pleaded not guilty to both counts, according to the San Francisco District Attorney’s Office. He was freed on $125,000 bail. Karajah’s attorney declined to comment.

When Uber was asked to comment on this incident and to detail the protections it offers passengers, a spokesman didn’t comment on this specific case. The San Francisco-based company says it puts an emphasis on safety.

“Safety is our top priority and foundational to the Uber experience — for both riders and drivers — and we take any potential breach of safety seriously,” the spokesman said. “We will always work to improve and increase safety measures, and with unprecedented accountability built into the app, Uber continues to connect riders and drivers with the safest rides on the road.”

What do you agree to when you use Uber?

What makes this more than just an altercation between driver and passengers? An Uber ride is different from hopping into a taxi. When you download Uber’s app and get into a car summoned with the mobile reservation system, you agree to a host of terms and conditions by default. And Uber is young enough that situations like this one are still largely uncharted territory.

Since Uber launched five years ago, it’s grown rapidly. It now has cars driving around 204 cities in 45 countries, and the company claims to cover 55 percent of the US population with its offering. It’s also the highest-valued venture-backed company in the world right now, with a valuation of $18.2 billion.

Like its rivals Lyft and Sidecar, Uber is a so-called ride-sharing service that puts potential drivers through a background check so that they can become an impromptu taxi driver using their own car and Uber’s tech platform. For each ride a driver carries out, Uber gets a cut of the fare — typically between 20 percent and 25 percent.

The alleged incident between Karajah and Chicas wasn’t the first conflict between an Uber driver and a passenger, and it’s unlikely to be the last. But the outcome of this altercation may help clarify Uber’s responsibility to passengers.

What exactly do passengers agree to when they use Uber? That depends on whom you ask.

“People don’t know what they’re getting into when they get into one of these cars, they don’t know what they’re getting into when they download the app,” said lawyer Chris Dolan of Dolan Law Firm, who is representing a 6-year-old girl struck and killed by an Uber driver earlier this year. “They’re giving Uber a free pass — up to death.”

Dolan claims Uber’s terms and conditions are a way for the company to absolve itself of any liability in cases of injury or accident and to avoid responsibility for a driver’s actions. “It completely covers their ass and says ‘We’re not responsible for anything that happens to you, period,'” Dolan said. “It says, ‘You can be raped, you can be killed, you can be murdered, and it’s not our responsibility.'”

When asked about the protections Uber offers passengers, an Uber spokesperson pointed CNET to its webpage on safety. The page details the background checks drivers go through — which require county, state and federal checks that go back seven years — and the $1 million liability insurance they must carry.

Uber CEO Travis Kalanick has heralded the service as being ultrasafe. “Safety is No. 1 at Uber…so we make sure the system is in place so riders get the safest ride possible,” Kalanick told CNNMoney in June. “With that said, Uber is in the limelight. When things happen, if there’s claims of any kind in any city in any car, we take those claims very seriously.”

Dolan believes Uber’s statements on safety contradict its terms and conditions. “It’s an outright deception on people,” Dolan said. “They do not in any way seek to warrant that their product is safe. They put it right there in the writing.”

The fine print of Uber’s terms and conditions clearly says that passengers accept a risk by using the service.

“You understand, therefore, that by using the application and the service, you may be exposed to transportation that is potentially dangerous, offensive, harmful to minors, unsafe or otherwise objectionable,” Uber’s terms and conditions read, “and that you use the application and the service at your own risk.”

A look at Lyft’s terms of service shows it operates nearly the same way. “Lyft has no responsibility whatsoever for the actions or conduct of drivers or riders,” the terms of service reads. “Responsibility for the decisions you make regarding providing or accepting transportation rest solely with You… Drivers and riders use the services at their own risk.”

Legal analyst and ex-prosecutor Steve Clark said that Uber and Lyft are basically trying to show through these terms of use that they are ride-matching services, rather than transportation companies. (He is not representing any passengers in lawsuits with Uber or Lyft, and he hasn’t advised either company). If they can prove they are merely tech platforms, he said, they may be able to protect themselves from some lawsuits. Yet, Clark said, “it remains to be seen if their terms of use would be enough to shield them from liability.”

A parallel could be drawn with online dating services, which faced their own liability challenges early on. In one high-profile incident in 2011, Match.com was sued by a woman who claimed she was sexually assaulted by a date she met through the service. That lawsuit concluded after Match.com began screening its members for sexual predators.

Are ride-sharing passengers out of luck?

Though the vast majority of Uber and Lyft drivers are safe, courteous and competent, several incidents have occurred during the last year that have called into question the safety of the services. The most severe incident was the death of 6-year-old Sophia Liu, who was struck and killed by an Uber driver on New Year’s Eve in San Francisco. There have also been more than a dozen allegations of sexual assault and groping; kidnapping; and physical assault, according to several media stories.

Even though Uber covers itself with its terms and conditions, Clark said Uber could still be held responsible for the hammer attack. “This appears to be a dispute about the route, and Uber will probably be on the hook for that,” Clark said.

When Karajah began driving for Uber, he had no criminal record, according to the San Francisco District Attorney’s Office. Even so, Uber still may be accountable for Karajah’s alleged actions if it’s proven the company didn’t adequately train him in how to deal with conflicts with passengers, Clark said.

“The question isn’t only did he have a clean record, but how well was he trained,” Clark said. “Just doing a background check and saying, ‘You’re on the way,’ is not enough. You need some guidelines saying ‘This is how you treat unruly passengers.'”

Uber declined to detail the training its drivers go through.

Uber drivers are classified as independent contractors, rather than employees, which could protect Uber from liability, Clark said. But the company’s terms and conditions could be trumped in court if it’s shown that Uber exercises a certain amount of control over its drivers and they are akin to employees. Such factors of control include the ability to hire and fire drivers, decide where their services are performed, or provide them with specialized equipment, along with other considerations — many of which, some would argue, Uber has.

“The problem for Uber is the more control they assert, the more likely these people are going to be characterized as employees,” Clark said. “It’s kind of a double-edged sword for Uber. If it doesn’t do training, it could be held liable for other reasons.”

What about taxi safety?

No transportation service can guarantee that attacks won’t happen. But if something terrible occurs, a passenger may receive monetary compensation without having to go through a legal nightmare to get it, depending on the type of insurance coverage a given service has.

Victims of assault can sue individual drivers, but they’re likely to get more adequate compensation if they go through the company that arranged the ride in the first place, said Dave Sutton, spokesperson for Who’s Driving You, an advocacy association for taxicab, limo and paratransit services.

While there are risks in using Uber and Lyft’s service, are cabs any better?

Regulations for taxi companies vary from city to city, but all cab companies must have liability insurance of at least $250,000. The key, however, is that most taxi companies also have a backup umbrella policy to cover rare occurrences, like a passenger slipping on ice or being attacked by a driver, Sutton said.

San Francisco’s Municipal Transportation Agency says on its website that the insurance that city cab companies carry means “when you hire a San Francisco taxi, you have proper legal recourse should the need arise.”

While Uber requires its drivers to have $1 million of liability insurance coverage, which is higher than many cab companies, it’s unclear if this would cover incidents like a driver attacking a passenger. This type of insurance coverage is typically meant for car accidents.

Uber declined to say whether Karajah’s insurance would pay for the costs of the alleged incident with Chicas.

Uber’s insurance adjuster has contacted Stern regarding the injuries that Chicas suffered, Stern said. He’s waiting to see whether Uber will “come to the table and accept responsibility.” If it doesn’t, Stern said, he’s prepared to sue.

“I’m not one that wants to stifle technology, by any means,” Stern said. “But [Uber] just wants to reap all the profits and not be responsible when things go bad.”

ABC in Fremantle

ABC Radio 720 is broadcasting in Fremantle tomorrow afternoon,Friday, between the Fremantle Markets and the Sail and Anchor Hotel.

Former Mayor of Fremantle, Barrister, raconteur and political analyst Richard Utting will be a guest.

Should be entertaining, he is on from 3.00pm.

Dexter

My wife and I are fans of Dexter the  American television drama series.

It features Dexter Morgan, (no relation) played by Michael C. Hall, who is a blood splatter expert for the Miami Metro Police Department. He also leads a secret life as a serial killer, but he only kills those that slip through the justice system.

Currently on Foxtel we are now watching Season 7, the first episode of this season was watched by over 3 million viewers in the USA, and Season 8 will be its finale.

Dexter is set in Miami but actually filmed in Long Beach, Los Angeles.

Dexter's House

Dexter’s House

This house is in Long Beach, not far from where my friends, Ray and Kathy live.

The reason for this post is that serial killer, Manuel Pardo was executed by lethal injection last week. He was a police officer who murdered 9 people and it is thought that the TV series was based on Pardo. In Season 3, Jimmy Smits played a character called Miguel Prado who was a lawyer and a murderer who befriends Dexter but then Dexter has to murder him to stop him from killing.

Pardo methodically photographed and archived his crimes, unlike his televised counterpart, he preferred Polaroids to “blood slides.” At his trial, he solemnly told jurors, “I am a soldier. I accomplished my mission and I humbly ask you to give me the glory of ending my life.”

Manuel Pardo ate a last meal of rice, beans, pork, plantains and avocado, and sipped on eggnog (wouldn’t you?) and Cuban coffee as he sat in his cell in Starke, Florida, on Tuesday night, awaiting whatever might come. As he did so, at least some of his victim’s relatives pulled into the parking lot, exchanged formalities with the guards and sat down to watch the show.

The real one. 

Australian National Flag Day-3 September

AUSTRALIA’S FLAG – “DID YOU KNOW?”
• The Australian National Flag is the only flag to fly over an entire continent.

• The Australian Flag was the first national flag chosen in an open public competition.

• The prize for the design competition (£200) was a substantial sum of money in those days – representing nearly a years’ wages for an average worker.

• Given that there were 32,823 entries in the design competition, and the ‘Australian’ population was estimated to be around 3.6 million in 1901; an equivalent response rate from today’s population would amount to some 200,000 entries!

• Arranging the 32,823 entries for display at the Royal Exhibition Building in Melbourne took eight weeks, and the judges needed six days to inspect them and choose the winning design.

• Entrants in the flag competition gave their imagination free rein: designs submitted featured “every kind of flora and fauna identifiable with Australia – sometimes all at once” (eg a kangaroo with six tails to symbolise the six states; a galloping emu heading south, and native animals playing cricket with a winged cricket ball !)

• The winning design was unveiled by the wife of our first Governor-General at a ceremony held at the Royal Exhibition Building in Melbourne on September 3, 1901.

• Two out of the five prize-winners in the 1901 flag design competition were teenagers (school boy Ivor Evans and apprentice optician Leslie Hawkins), another was a well-known female artist (Annie Dorrington) and one (William Stevens) was First Officer for the merchant navy. The fifth winner was a Melbourne architect (Egbert Nuttall).

• The Southern Cross (formally known as “Crux Australis”) is a constellation that can be seen only in the night skies of the Southern Hemisphere. The individual stars are named by the first five letters of the Greek alphabet – Alpha, Beta, Gamma, Delta, and Epsilon.

• The Southern Cross has a very significant status in Aboriginal mythology (eg as part of the legend of Mululu of the Kanda tribe).

• The Australian National Flag is raised every morning at the school in Villers-Bretonneux in France, in memory of the thousands of Australian casualties incurred in liberating their village in 1917 (during the First World War).

As our Governor-General (Her Excellency. Ms Quentin Bryce AC) has remarked:

“Since it was first unfurled from the Royal Exhibition Building in 1901, our Australian flag has been an icon of our shared identity, of what it means to belong to our country.
It is much loved, worn and flown by Australians here and across the world … Wherever it is raised, it stirs in us a sense of unity…”

Published by ANFA (Qld) Inc. For further information about flag history and protocol, and the “rules” for flying the Australian flag, go to http://www.australianflag.org.au .

Phone Licence for Kids-Ridiculous

Reported in The Sydney Morning Herald today:
NSW schools should introduce a licence for students before they can use mobile phones and tablets at school, says the adolescent psychologist Michael Carr-Greg.

His intention is not to ban them, rather to facilitate greater use of technology by first teaching students what safe and responsible use is and then obtaining their agreement to abide by a set of rules and conditions.

Students would sit a licence test online with their parents needing to sign up to validate their digital rights, says Dr Carr-Gregg, who has written a report for the Queensland Education Department.

”There is absolutely no point in banning them because it is going to be the central part of their education. This would at least ensure they have the skills, the knowledge, strategies and basic competencies before they’ve brought the device to school,” Dr Carr-Gregg said.

Why do beaurecrats commission this type of rubbish?

No doubt the Queensland Education Department paid a lot of money for his report and we can only hope that it is consigned to the bin.

 

Mr Bean goes to Ecuador

The latest edition of The Spectator Australia has an editorial titled “Mr Bean goes to Ecuador,” and I will quote all of it:

When they come to make the inevitable tele-movie about the Assange affair, may we recommend that Sacha Baron Cohen play the part of Ecuadorean despot, sorry, er, president Rafael Correa and that Rowan Atkinson don a white wig and play the great Aussie cyber-freedom fighter and political martyr himself. It is hard to imagine two more ludicrous characters thrown together on the world stage, and it is inconceivable that anyone other than the world’s two greatest comedians would be able to do them justice.

Speaking of which, Evading Justice could be the film’s title, as Julian fights to avoid doing what every other citizen accused of sexual molestation and rape must do: face the music. His woeful excuse – doing so puts him at risk of being extradited to the US – only highlights his refusal to accept the consequences of his own behaviour. Indeed, it is worth pointing out that, along with blithely endangering informants’ lives, Julian Assange is suspected of encouraging a young and naive Bradley Manning to upload the military secrets that WkiLeaks built its fame and wealth upon, knowing full well that Private Manning might end up in military detention on the sorts of charges (espionage, conspiracy, unlawful access to confidential information) that Mr Assange himself is so terrified of facing. Cowards and hypocrites don’t come any worse.

And Messiah complexes don’t come any bigger. “As WikiLeaks stands under threat, so does the freedom of expression and the health of our societies,” Saint Julian proclaimed to a throng of worshippers from his balcony a few feet above a packed London street, pitching himself as Nelson Mandela, the Pope and Rosa Parks rolled into one. Missing from his address was any mention of or sympathy for the two girls in Sweden who claim they were assaulted by him.

Sacha Baron Cohen plays dictators very well so he’ll have no trouble nailing the corrupt and narcissistic President Correa, the son of a drug runner, who loathes the US for imprisoning his dad, who jails you if you call him a dictator, who’s buddies with Hugo Chavez and Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, who’s setting up a media oversight panel so he can censor and fine journos without bothering to go to court  and who is quite happy to evade his economic responsibilities to the IMF and the international community, thereby pushing his people further into poverty and isolation.

Fantasising that he could “hear teams of police swarming up into the building through the internal fire escape”, Mr Assange’s balcony address was a rambling mixture of pop-politics and self-mythologising. “in the morning, the sun came up on a different world, and a courageous Latin American nation took a stand for justice,” he proclaimed to his fans, as he warned of an “oppressive” US, “in which journalists fall silent under the fear of prosecution and citizens must whisper in the dark”.

Pass the popcorn.

 

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