The island Canada forgot: On Campobello, citizens are left exiles in their own land

Victoria Matthews can understand the attraction of Campobello Island, N.B., to an outsider. It can seem a magical place, with rocky coastlines, dramatic ocean vistas, big tides, bogs, lichen-shrouded forests, clams to dig for and wild blueberries to pick by the bucketful come summer.

There are lighthouses, seabirds, breaching whales and, for history buffs, a star attraction: Roosevelt Campobello International Park, 1,134-hectares centred around the family cottage of former president Franklin Delano Roosevelt and his wife, Eleanor.

There are also the locals, about 800 or so permanent residents, such as Matthews. They hold community fundraising suppers, watch out for their neighbours and welcome scads of mostly American cottagers and tourists who stream across the Roosevelt International Bridge from Lubec, Maine.

But despite Campobello’s postcard-worthy attributes, the 23-year-old Matthews has pretty much had it with the place. It’s not that the island doesn’t feel like home. It’s that Campobello makes her feel as though she is a Canadian living in exile — physically, politically, practically, medically and economically separated from the rest of the country — which, more or less, she is since the bridge is the island’s only physical link to mainland North America and it’s not to Canada.

“At this point, there is not a whole lot I can say that I love about Campobello,” Matthews said. “Like, for example, our grocery store, it is really limited in choice. The only meat is ground beef, chicken and steak, and the fresh food spoils real quick and there is no fish, well, once in a great while our convenience store will have some fish. But if I want to buy real food, I have to drive all the way to the superstore in Canada — and that means I have to drive through the States to get there.”

There used to be a 30-minute privately owned summer ferry service connecting Campobello to Deer Island, N.B., but the service stopped in 2017 after the boat sank and it has yet to resume operation. To get to mainland New Brunswick to buy, say, groceries, islanders must cross an international bridge, clear U.S. Customs, turn right, drive 85 kilometres through Maine and check-in with Canadian customs in St. Stephen, N.B.

After all that, they are ready to go shopping, but not, ideally, for oranges, mangoes, potatoes grown in Western Canada, rice in burlap bags, avocados, more than 12 plants or a new pet parakeet, all of which are banned by U.S. customs.

Once back at the border, the islander must declare all the fruits and vegetables they have purchased to U.S. agents, and do the drive in reverse to get home, including passing (again) through Canadian customs. All told, one shopping trip equals four border crossings.

The star attraction of Campobello Island is Roosevelt Campobello International Park, 1,134-hectares centred around the family cottage of former president Franklin Delano Roosevelt and his wife, Eleanor.

But Matthews has more pressing needs than groceries. Her three-year-old son, Walter, has some learning challenges. He was assigned a caseworker in St. Stephen in October and a plan was made for the specialist to commute to Campobello four days a week to work with him. That plan hasn’t been initiated yet, because the Canadian specialist is waiting to receive a passport.

“It is a little frustrating,” Matthews said.

Islanders with plumbing problems speak of the impossibility of finding a mainland New Brunswick plumber willing to travel through Maine for a job. The same goes for electricians, septic bed maintenance companies, freshwater well-digging operations, washer and dryer repair technicians, major construction firms, furnace repairmen and veterinarians.

To get treatment for an ailing cow, an island farmer, and there are a handful of them in a predominantly fishing community, requires a permit from the U.S. Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS) to import the cow into Maine for the drive north to Canada — which nobody bothers doing. What they will do, according to Campobello Mayor Stephen Smart, is arrange for a lobster boat to take the beast on a cross-water trip to the New Brunswick mainland.

Island residents will also spend the majority of their income in the U.S. to avoid the multiple border crossings, the mayor said, regardless of the less-than-robust Canadian dollar.

“If our community is going to survive and not become a ghost town or simply a summer residence for the Americans, whom we actually do like, we need an easy way for Canadians to come and visit us, as far as tourism goes, and a clear way for us to get to Canada without going through the U.S. border,” Smart said. “Some people here, they don’t leave the island, unless they can leave it by boat. We’re down to 800 people. Our high school graduating class is down to four kids. I see transportation as a critical barrier to growth.”

Campobello’s day-to-day isolation from the rest of Canada irks Senator David Adams Richards, an award-winning New Brunswick author who sits in the Senate as an independent.

Richards is an outspoken critic of Bill C-21, a new amendment to the Canada Customs Act intended to crack down on smuggling and facilitate the sharing of traveller information between U.S. and Canadian border officials. The act received Royal Assent before Christmas, and the senator suspects it will amplify the daily headaches islanders already experience in relation to the border.

“The residents of Campobello must travel through a foreign country while transporting goods and services from one part of N.B. to another,” Richards said in an email to the Financial Post. “The regulations imposed and the new regulations enacted will make it almost impossible to conduct daily affairs.

“Even the basic transportation of household goods can be scrutinized by border security working for the U.S. government; in theory and in practice, the people of the island have been stranded by a good degree of thoughtlessness.”

Minister of Public Safety and Emergency Preparedness Ralph Goodale’s office in a statement to the Financial Post said the “traveller’s experience will be entirely unchanged” by the new bill.

The anti-smuggling component of the bill, moreover, is intended to target items such as “stolen vehicles and materials that violate Canada’s anti-nuclear proliferation obligations,” the statement added. “To deal with these problems — which are not serious concerns with respect to Campobello Island shipments — C-21 gives Canada Border Services Agency officers the discretion to require reporting and to conduct examinations, as and where necessary.”

There used to be a 30-minute privately owned summer ferry service connecting Campobello to Deer Island, N.B., but the service stopped in 2017 after the boat sank and it has yet to resume operation.

The one thing Senator Richards, Mayor Smart, Victoria Matthews, Campobello’s Progressive Conservative MLA Greg Thompson and Liberal MP Karen Ludwig can unanimously agree upon is that, ultimately, the island needs a year-round ferry service binding it to mainland Canada.

Thompson, a long time Conservative MP under Stephen Harper, has been bemoaning the “thickening of the border” since 9/11. But he said getting a ferry into action would take two to five years minimum, and that’s assuming all the players involved had already discussed how much it would cost and who was going to pay for it, a hypothetical dialogue that hasn’t happened yet.

“I am a big fan of magic wands, but you don’t often get control of the wand,” Thompson said.

Some lay the blame for the island’s isolation on East Coast Ferries Ltd., which operated the Deer Island-to-Campobello seasonal ferry loop until last season, when its ferry sank. The company has since built a new ferry, dubbed the Hopper III, but it is in bureaucratic limbo, awaiting a visit from Transport Canada officials to certify it safe for the coming summer.

Widespread chatter ensued in the absence of the ferry service last summer, ensnaring islanders, the New Brunswick media and different levels of government. But for all the noise, nobody apparently bothered to call Leanne Silvaggio, manager of East Coast Ferries Ltd., to ask what was up with the boat.

“Pretty well everybody likes to talk to everybody else except for us,” she said. “It wasn’t that we didn’t want to be running the ferry last summer. We had to rebuild the whole ferry, and it just didn’t get done in time.”

Silvaggio has heard, though not directly from Thompson, that the province is interested in extending the Campobello ferry’s operating season, starting earlier in the spring and running it later in the fall. (Thompson later confirmed that extending the ferry’s operating season was a logical interim measure and something the province will be pursuing.)

“If that is the plan, we’re interested,” Silvaggio said.

Extending the season would be a definite plus, but it is not a permanent fix, something Brent MacPherson, founder and chair of the Campobello Year Round Ferry Committee, a citizens group dedicated to its namesake task, wants to resolve.

MacPherson is 62, semi-retired and married to a native islander, Victor Mitchell. The couple moved to Campobello a little more than a year ago, but recently pulled up stakes after Victor, a hairstylist, got sick of commuting across Maine to get to his four-day-a-week job at Pure Hair & Esthetics Studio in St. Andrews, N.B.

A view from the Franklin Delano Bridge that connects Campobello Island with Lubec Maine.

The 160-minute round trip was long, to be sure, but the border crossings are what rankled Mitchell, 66, most. As a hairstylist, he travels with a bag containing clippers, scissors, a blow dryer, combs, brushes and other related tools that U.S. border agents repeatedly questioned him about.

Even more aggravating was when the pair traveled together as a couple. MacPherson believes, admittedly without any proof, that he and Victor were flagged at least “six to 10 times” by the U.S. simply because they were married men.

Nonetheless, MacPherson loves Campobello, wishes he still lived there, and was instrumental in pushing for a federally funded feasibility study on a year-round ferry service.

Phase one of the study was a survey completed in October. It revealed 81 per cent of island business owners feel that “crossing the border today is more difficult than five years ago, mostly owing to lengthier American border controls.”

It also found that a majority of islanders purchase between “21 and 100 per cent of their goods in the U.S.” Three-quarters of the respondents said they would happily divert their dollars to Canadian businesses — a total pegged at about $3.1 million annually — were they linked by a year-round ferry.

“There are strong regional economic benefits associated with a year-round ferry,” the survey concluded.

It is a conclusion Scott Henderson can’t dispute. Henderson is 56, and a Campobello native. He runs a small construction company that relies on twice-weekly deliveries from a supplier in St. Stephen. Henderson makes the order, and the supplier deals with the border-related paperwork.

Construction being construction, there is always something more he needs — a nut, bolt, light bulb, other bits and bobs — so he drives across the Franklin Delano Roosevelt bridge several times a week to Lubec Hardware on Water Street. He also gets gas and does his banking in Lubec, because Campobello doesn’t have a gas station or a bank.

Henderson reckons he spends a $1,000 a month at the hardware store — the owner doesn’t take Canadian currency at par — money, being Canadian, he would prefer to spend in Canada.

“I am 56 and I’ve lived here all of my days. I think everybody has thought about moving off the island at some point. Some of our elderly spend two or three days a week going back and forth to doctor’s appointments in Saint John,” he said.

“Sometimes, living here, it just feels like you are in the middle of nowhere. But when you take all the bad things out, all the inconveniences, and just look out at a summer’s day, you see that living here is pretty tough to beat.”

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Uber Rewards is rolling out. Here’s how the perks work

Did you blow enough money on Uber to get Diamond status? A lot of users are finding out tonight as Uber rolls out its rider loyalty Rewards program to San Francisco and a slew of other cities. The feature calculates how much you’ve spent on Uber and Uber Eats in the last six months awards you perks like no-fee cancellations if you rebook, guaranteed prices between your two favorite spots, and free car upgrades. Uber confirms to TechCrunch that Rewards will roll out to the entire US soon but now is available in 25 places across the country.

Uber Rewards is still a bit complicated to be easy enough for everyone to quickly understand, but it does a could job of offering powerful perks and a way for everyone to earn $5 rebates. The program could discourage users from checking other ride hailing apps if their Uber’s ETA or price seems too high.

Meanwhile, Lyft’s loyalty program remains unseen. The competitor tried to steal the spotlight by announcing its own rewards system just two days before Uber, yet it seems like that was vaporware as it still hasn’t launched. Uber was far from first here, as Southeast Asia’s Grab has had rewards since 2016. But Uber could flex its deep pockets and cultural cache here by using slick product design to differentiate itself in a crowded market of lookalikes.

How To Use Uber Rewards

Luckily, almost everything in Uber Rewards happens automatically. All you have to do is look out for the invitation to join at the bottom of the home screen and activate it. You’ll then see your tier and the associated perks that you’ll get to keep for the next six months.

The only non-retroactive perk is the $5 credits you get for each 500 points you earn going forward. You get 1 point per dollar spent on UberPool, Express Pool and Uber Eats;  2 points on UberX, Uber XL and Uber Select; and 3 points on Uber Black and Black SUV.  The one perk you have to configure yourself is if you’re platinum, you’ll have to choose which route to get price protection for. You probably want to pick your home and your most frequent destination or one of reasonable distance that you often travel to or from during rush hour.

Uber Rewards is now available in Boston, Dallas, Orange County, Houston, New Orleans, Kansas City, Indianapolis, LA, SF, Fort Collins, Rockies, Pittsburgh, Lehigh valley, Gettysburg, Erie, and Western Massachusetts. That’s on top of the launch cities of Miami, Denver, Tampa, New York, Washington, DC, Philadelphia, Atlanta, San Diego, and anywhere in New Jersey. Once Uber has nailed the experience in the US, it plans to roll it out to international locales.

Uber Rewards Levels

Now, here’s a breakdown of the Uber Rewards tiers, the best perks, and how much Ubering it takes to earn them (from our November post announcing the feature):

Blue: $5 credits

The only Uber perk that doesn’t reset at the end of a period is that you get $5 of Uber Cash for every 500 points earned regardless of membership level. “Even as a semi-frequent Uber Rewards member you’ll get these instant benefits,” Janakiram says. Blue lets you treat Uber like a video game where you’re trying to rack up points to earn an extra life. To earn 500 points, you’d need about 48 UberPool trips, 6 Uber Xs and 6 Uber Eats orders.

Gold: Flexible cancellations

Once you hit 500 points, you join Uber Gold and get flexible cancellations that refund your $5 cancellation fee if you rebook within 15 minutes, plus priority support Gold is for users who occasionally take Uber but stick to its more economical options. “The Gold level is all about being there when things aren’t going exactly right,” Janakiram explains. To earn 500 points in six months, you’d need to take about 2 UberPools per week, one Uber X per month and one Uber Eats order per month.

Platinum: Price protection

At 2,500 points you join Uber Platinum, which gets you the Gold benefits plus price protection on a route between two of your favorite places regardless of traffic or surge. And Platinum members get priority pickups at airports. To earn 2,500 points, you’d need to take UberX 4 times per week and order Uber Eats twice per month. It’s designed for the frequent user who might rely on Uber to get to work or play.

Diamond: Premium support & upgrades

At 7,500 points, you get the Gold and Platinum benefits plus premium support with a dedicated phone line and fast 24/7 responses from top customer service agents. You get complimentary upgrade surprises from UberX to Uber Black and other high-end cars. You’ll be paired with Uber’s highest-rated drivers. And you get no delivery fee on three Uber Eats orders every six months. Reaching 7,500 points would require UberX 8 times per week, Uber Eats once per week and Uber Black to the airport once per month. Diamond is meant usually for business travelers who get to expense their rides, or people who’d ditched car ownership for ridesharing.

Elon Musk has been pitching cheap tunnels from The Boring Company to big names

A map of a potential location for a tunnel through Australia's Blue Mountains.

Elon Musk—CEO of Tesla, SpaceX, and The Boring Company—has been pitching his new tunnel-boring capabilities to curious elected officials as well as the director of CERN (the organization that owns and operates the Large Hadron Collider in Switzerland).

Just a month after Musk opened up his first, rather rugged test tunnel under the SpaceX campus in Hawthorne, California, the CEO has been on Twitter floating prices and talking projects.

Last week Jeremy Buckingham, a member of Parliament in New South Wales’ Upper House, asked Musk on Twitter, “How much to build a 50km tunnel through the Blue Mountains and open up the west of our State?” Musk replied, “About $15M/km for a two-way high-speed transit, so probably around $750M plus maybe $50M/station.”

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‘Anti-Uber’ taxi strikes kick off again in Spain

Taxi drivers in major cities in Spain are on strike again to apply pressure for more stringent regulations to control app rivals such as Uber and Cabify which they view as unfair competition.

In Barcelona the taxi sector called an indefinite strike on Friday, using their vehicles to block Gran Vía in the Catalan capital, with protest action carrying on through the weekend and continuing into today.

Taxi drivers in Madrid are also on strike from this morning.

In Barcelona, the strike was called after the Catalan government announced proposals for regulating the vehicle for hire (VTC) sector which include a 15 minute wait time between a passenger booking and being able to take a ride.

The taxi drivers want the wait time to be much longer than that; at least 24 hours.

There were reports of violence during Friday’s action. The Huffington Post said a Cabify driver suffered a panic attack after his car was attacked by a group of protestors. It reports the police used cardiopulmonary resuscitation manoeuvers on the driver to stabilize him.

A journalist for El Pais also posted a video of the attack and resulting damage to the vehicle on Twitter.

The AP reports that local police arrested seven people in connection with the violence.

On Sunday, Elite Taxi BCN, one of the main associations backing the strike action, issued a video of its spokesman, Alberto Álvarez, calling for protestors to keep things peaceful.

The latest strikes follow a summer of action by the sector which also kicked off in Barcelona, also with violent scenes and reports of attacks on VTC drivers.

In that case Uber and Cabify temporarily paused services in the city on safety grounds. The pair do not appear to have stopped their services this time.

Although some VTC drivers have been holding counter protests by parking their vehicles along a stretch of Avenue Diagonal, causing further disruption to the flow of traffic in the city.

The taxi strike in the summer only ended after the government agreed to transfer regulatory competency for the VTC sector to the regions. The Catalan government is the first regional authority to have put forward proposals for regulating VTCs.

But the move devolving regulatory competency has not ended the ‘taxi war’. Far from it; it’s cranking up a gear as taxi associations demand a firewall for their sector by overruling the on-demand convenience of app-based rivals which are counter protesting in the hopes of steering out of a looming regulatory bind.

The latter group argues that imposed wait limits would be unconstitutional because they would go against the general interest of citizens. They also point out that waiting time based regulations have not been successfully enforced anywhere in Europe (London’s TfL proposed a five minute waiting time after a booking back in 2015 but dropped the measure after a public consultation, for instance).

While the taxi sector argues that existing laws aren’t being enforced meaning that a regulated public service is being unfairly undercut and undermined by multinationals that also only bring precarious work, rather than sustainable employment…

In Barcelona the annual Mobile World Congress tradeshow, which takes place in just over a month’s time — bringing an influx of around 100,000 techie visitors — is a strategic ratchet for the taxi industry to pressure authorities. Threats to paralyze the city are at their most politically and economically potent. So there’s plenty of uncertainty about where the latest huelga indefinida will lead.

If wait limits are imposed the VTC sector claims it would result in scores of drivers being put out of work. Commenting on the Barcelona government’s proposals for regulating the sector, an Uber spokesman told us: “Recent developments could have major consequences for drivers as well as the thousands of riders who enjoy new mobility services in the city. We continue to call for dialogue with all local stakeholders, including taxis, to shape the future of urban mobility in Spain together.”

We’ve also reached out to Cabify for comment.

Unauto VTC, a VTC association, issued a press release on Saturday decrying the blockade of the city and what it dubbed “intolerable levels of violence” by taxi associations, as well as attacking the “absolutely disproportionate” proposed VTC regulations. It also denounced the local government minister in charge of the regulation, Damià Calvet, accusing him of caving in to taxi industry “blackmail”.

“The Catalan Government’s umpteenth caving in to taxi sector blackmail has ensured it will no longer be satisfied with anything other than the disappearance of the VTC sector. We hope the government rectifies this immediately and allows the general interest of the citizens of Catalonia to prevail,” said association president, Eduardo Martín, in a statement (which we’ve translated).

“I wonder what the next thing Barcelona’s taxi sector will be asking for under threat of blocking the Mobile World Congress. Maybe the Metro closes an hour earlier, or that the Aerobus disappears. In view of the attitude of the current Government of the Generalitat it is possible that they will achieve it.”

The city government pointed us to a statement today, from the councillor for mobility and president of metropolitan transport, Mercedes Vidal, calling for an “acceptable” proposal so taxis and VTC drivers do not do the same work.

Uber is exploring autonomous bikes and scooters

Uber is looking to integrate autonomous technology into its bike and scooter-share programs. Details are scarce, but according to 3D Robotics CEO Chris Anderson, who said Uber announced this at a DIY Robotics event over the weekend, the division will live inside Uber’s JUMP group, which is responsible for shared electric bikes and scooters.

The new division, Micromobility Robotics, will explore autonomous scooters and bikes that can drive themselves to be charged, or drive themselves to locations where riders need them. The Telegraph has since reported Uber has already begun hiring for this team.

“The New Mobilities team at Uber is exploring ways to improve safety, rider experience, and operational efficiency of our shared electric scooters and bicycles through the application of sensing and robotics technologies,” Uber’s ATG wrote in a Google Form seeking information from people interested in career opportunities.

Back in December, Uber unveiled its next generation of JUMP bikes, with self-diagnostic capabilities and swappable batteries. The impetus for the updated bikes came was the need to improve JUMP’s overall unit economics.

“That is a major improvement to system utilization, the operating system, fleet uptime and all of the most critical metrics about how businesses are performing with running a shared fleet,” JUMP Head of Product Nick Foley told TechCrunch last month. “Swappable batteries mean you don’t have to take vehicles back to wherever you charge a bike or scooter, and that’s good for the business.”

Autonomous bikes and scooters would make Uber’s shared micromobility business less reliant on humans to charge the vehicles. You could envision a scenario where Uber deploys freshly-charged bikes and scooters to areas where other vehicles are low on juice. Combine that with swappable batteries (think about Uber quickly swapping in a new battery once the vehicle makes it back to the warehouse and then immediately re-deploying that bike or scooter), and Uber has itself a well-oiled machine that increases vehicle availability and improves the overall rider experience.

Uber declined to comment.

Sony venture arm invests in geocoding startup what3words

Sony’s venture capital arm has invested in what3words, the startup that has divided the entire world into 57 trillion 3-by-3 meter squares and assigned a three-word address to each one.

Financial details were not disclosed.

The startup’s novel addressing system isn’t the whole story. The ability to integrate what3words into voice assistants is what has piqued the interest and investment from Sony and others.

“what3words have solved the considerable problem of entering a precise location into a machine by voice. The dramatic rise in voice-activated systems calls for a simple voice geocoder that works across all digital platforms and channels, can be written down and spoken easily,” Sony Corporation’s senior vice president Toshimoto Mitomo said in a statement.

Last year, Daimler took a 10% stake in what3words, following an announcement in 2017 to integrate the addressing system into Mercedes new infotainment and navigation system—called the Mercedes-Benz User Experience or MBUX. MBUX is now in the latest Mercedes A-Class, B-Class cars and Sprinter commercial vehicles. Owners of these new Mercedes-Benz vehicles are now be able to navigate to an exact destination in the world by just saying or typing three words into the infotainment system.

Other companies are keen to follow Daimler’s lead. TomTom and ride-hailing services like Cabify recently announced plans to enable what3words navigation to precise locations.

And more could follow. The startup says it plans to use the investment from Sony to focus on more initiatives in the automotive space.

Veteran Googler heads to Lyft to lead team of 1,000-plus engineers

Eisar Lipkovitz, a veteran Google executive who most recently led the video and display advertising team there, is leaving the company to head up engineering efforts at Lyft .

As executive vice president of engineering, Lipkovitz will be leading Lyft’s engineering team, which now eclipses 1,000 people.

Lipkovitz’s hiring comes on the heels of massive growth at Lyft, specifically its engineering team. The ride-hailing company’s engineering team doubled in size in the last year. It also follows the hiring of another Google engineering veteran Manish Gupta, who joined Lyft in August as vice president of engineering to build out the ride-hailing company’s business platforms, including enterprise, partnerships and healthcare.

Gupta will report to Lipkovitz.

“It’s clear that Lyft is tackling one of the most interesting and world-changing engineering challenges of our lifetime, and the team has done an exceptional job innovating through dispatch, matching, pricing and mapping to create the overall experience,” Lipkovitz said. “The work Lyft is doing intersects with my passion of operating extremely complex systems efficiently while developing strong leaders in tech, and I couldn’t be more excited to join the team.”

Lipkovitz will report directly to Logan Green, Lyft’s co-founder and CEO. Luc Vincent, who is vice president of Lyft’s autonomous vehicle technology program, operates separately.

During Lipkovitz’s 15 years at Google, he led the team that built Google display, video and apps advertising products. He previously worked on the infrastructure behind Google Search. He also worked at Akamai.

Lyft has aggressively ramped up its staff and coverage in the U.S. over the past two years. And it’s paid off. The company’s ride-hailing app has more than 96 percent coverage in the U.S. and 35 percent market share.

It has also expanded Lyft Business, the company’s enterprise unit, through partnerships with organizations and companies like Starbucks, LAX,  Allstate, Hewlett Packard Enterprise, JetBlue, Delta and Blue Cross Blue Shield, as well as rolled out various other products such as a monthly subscription plan called Lyft’s All-Access.

How Lyft envisions bringing VR and AR to your ride

Lyft is exploring ways to integrate virtual reality and augmented reality into your Lyft rides, according to a couple of patent applications TechCrunch came across today.

The first, filed in July 2017, is for “providing a virtual reality transportation experience” that would respond to real-world forces and events that happen during your ride, like sudden stops, turns and bumps in the road. Over time, the VR system would be able to predict those bumps and turns in the road.

“For instance, the virtual reality transportation system accesses the historical information for each maneuver along the route and identifies previous inertial forces that transportation vehicles have experienced in the past for the same turns, merges, stops, etc,” the application states. “In some cases, the virtual reality transportation system determines (e.g., calculates) an average of each of the previous inertial forces for the maneuvers along the travel route to predict the inertial forces that the passenger will experience.”

From there, the VR system would generate a virtual experience with virtual interactions based on the real-world environment. Specifically, the VR system may include, “but are not necessarily limited to, virtual collisions with objects, virtual turns, virtual drops, etc.”  That sounds mildly horrifying, but it would definitely make for an unforgettable ride. Other ideas of virtual experiences feature a game with lasers and flying saucers.

During your ride, Lyft envisions passengers being able to share their VR experience with people in other cars, or those waiting for a pick-up.

This is likely possible in part thanks to Lyft’s acquisition of Blue Vision Labs, an augmented reality startup, last year. Blue Vision, for example, offers collaborative augmented reality to enable people to see the same spot in space.

Lyft’s other patent application, also filed in July, seeks to provide information to passengers using augmented reality. This one seems to be less about entertainment and more about practical information.

In one example, Lyft would generate virtual objects to overlay on a passenger’s real-world surroundings in order to help with the pick-up or drop-off process. Based on historical data, Lyft envisions identifying the ideal pickup location based on the passenger’s current location, traffic conditions and transportation restrictions.

TechCrunch has reached out to Lyft and will update this story if we hear back.