Uber controversies

You know what Uber is:

It’s an alternative to expensive cab companies. It uses drivers that are not taxi-licensed that provide taxi-like services by using personal vehicles (that are usually newer, and smell nicer).

It uses apps to dispatch rides, track fares, bill customers, and pay drivers. Uber drivers are considered contractors.

You can drive for Uber if you pass an online screening and have a vehicle (borrowed, rented or owned–doesn’t matter). Usually, you won’t pay licensing fees, like other taxi drivers.

The company has never made a profit, and in 2016 alone lost nearly $3 billion.

Uber is probably the fastest growing company in the world, ever.

And it’s had its share of controversies. Here are a few:

surge pricing

During and following Hurricane Sandy, with most NYC public transportation not working, Ubers were in high demand, and prices doubled for their fares. They were accused to price gouging, and the company restored regular prices.

background checks on drivers

Uber doesn’t vet its drivers with the same vigor as taxi companies. One Uber driver made the news for hitting a passenger on the head with a hammer. Another driver abducted a passenger.

contractors versus employees

Uber drivers are considered contractors rather than employees, which means Uber does not need to pay a minimum wage or provide benefits, like health insurance.

Uber is already losing billions of dollars a year, if they were regulated, and had to give drivers employment protections and benefits, would they survive?

self-driving failure

Uber has been trying to establish the self-driving car/ride hailing service since it launched. Recently, a fatal crash in Arizona caused them to halt their testing, which is a devastating blow to a company that’s had its sights set on dominating this market.

#DeleteUber

When President Trump issued a travel ban on Muslim-majority countries, New York City taxi drivers responded with a boycott. Uber not only didn’t participate, they suspended their surge pricing. Over 500,000 users deleted their apps in a #DeleteUber campaign went viral.

CEO problems

Uber’s CEO Travis Kalanick resigned from Trump’s advisory council after users threatened a boycott. Kalanick said: “Joining the group was not meant to be an endorsement of the president or his agenda but unfortunately it has been misinterpreted to be exactly that.”

Kalanick was also caught on camera arguing with his Uber driver, who complained about the difficulty of making a living with Uber. The CEO yelled at the driver: “Some people don’t like to take responsibility for their own shit. … They blame everything in their life on somebody else. Good luck!” Later, he apologized.

Kalanick announced a indefinite leave of absence after the company released a report on workplace culture that recommended Uber “review and reallocate” the CEO’s responsibilities.

sexual harassment scandal

An Uber engineer went public with claims of sexual harassment and discrimination. The story started a nationwide debate about sexism among Silicon Valley startups.

Google lawsuit

Waymo is the self-driving car company owned by Google’s Alphabet. They filed a lawsuit against Uber, accusing them of stealing technology. The suit alleged that a former Waymo employee stole trade secrets for Uber.

Greyball

The New York Times reported that Uber used Greyball to deceive law enforcement in several U.S. cities. Greyball enabled the company to deploy a fake version of its app to people they believed to be working for city agencies who were trying to shut down Uber drivers that were operating illegally. A federal investigation followed the report.

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