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Monday, 30 July 2018

It's Been A Bad Month For Uber...And It Keeps Getting Worse

It's Been A Bad Month For Uber...And It Keeps Getting Worse

Uber pretty much single-handedly changed the game when it comes to getting where you need to go. I've personally used it dozens (hundreds?) of times and haven't set foot in a traditional taxi in years.
It's gone through a few growing pains, culminating in the resignation of co-founder Travis Kalanick last summer. But this month, things have gotten even worse.

It was a little over a year ago that Uber was getting all kinds of bad press.

Travis Kalanick, who helped start the company in 2009, came under fire for reportedly ignoring sexual harassment at Uber and treating employees poorly. He stepped down from his position in June.

Earlier this year, Uber was again in the headlines for the wrong reasons.

Back in March, a self-driving Uber struck and killed a pedestrian in Phoenix. Autonomous cars just aren't going to be accepted by the general public if they're killing people, so it was a real black eye for Uber.

The summer of 2018 seems to be the summer of Uber behaving badly.

First, let's talk about "vomit fraud." It sounds unpleasant, and it is — not because it actually involves vomit, but because it doesn't. Does that make sense?

Vomit fraud is, in short, fraud related to vomit.

Uber drivers are allowed to ding your account for extra money if you mess up their car. This totally makes sense.
The problem here is that some drivers are apparently claiming vomit damage when there was none. I'll explain...

The mess surcharge runs anywhere from $80 to $150.

For some Uber drivers, whose wages have been shrinking for years, it's all too easy to fraudulently claim this fee. As we'll see, it isn't a new phenomenon, but it does seem to be picking up momentum.

Numerous passengers say they've been hit with a fraudulent charge.

The Miami Herald has done a full investigation into the phenomenon, reporting that it's happened a few times — including one passenger who says he was wrongly billed twice in the same night.

Vomit fraud goes back a few years.

Going back two and a half years, and moving cross-state to Tampa, we can find an account of an Uber driver who was fired after charging fake cleanup fees.
similar story out of Australia hit the news earlier this year, too.

Uber has responded.

It's pretty much what you would expect: they told the Herald that sometimes these things unfortunately happen, and they'll take steps to refund fees and take action against drivers when necessary.
While they engage in damage control over vomit fraud, even more bad news is coming down.

Remember the fatal crash in Phoenix earlier this year?

Well, that story isn't going away. An investigation found that the car could have avoided the pedestrian, but didn't. This prompted a lawsuit, which was settled out of court, and a suspension of Uber's self-driving program in Arizona.

The knock-on effect led to layoffs.

Uber laid off 100 backup drivers for self-driving cars in the wake of the incident. They created 55 new "mission specialist" positions that the laid off drivers could theoretically apply for, but this would still leave 45 of them out of work

But wait, there's more.

One of the biggest criticisms of Uber, going back to the early days, is the potential for creepy or unsafe drivers. While the vast majority of Uber rides are safe and secure, there is some validity to these criticisms.

Rather than go through the incidents one by one, consider this...

CNN reported earlier this year that a whopping 103 Uber drivers have been accused of sexual assault or abuse in the past four years. This includes one driver who was sentenced to 80 years in prison.
And yes, there's still more...

You just knew that eventually creepy drivers and livestreamers would become one and the same.

Jason Gargac, who drives for both Uber and Lyft, allegedly live-streamed his Uber trips, where passengers were unaware that an online audience was watching them.

Gargac's social media channels have been suspended or hidden.

Riders should have a reasonable expectation of privacy, which they certainly were denied when they unknowingly shared names, addresses, and personal information to Gargac's online audience.

Rideshare platforms aren't going anywhere.

It's pretty clear that people want a way to book affordable rides through their smartphone, doing away with the old-school hassle of hailing a traditional cab. 
But it's clear that there are some serious growing pains for Uber.

Uber's in the fight of its life to maintain its position as market leader.

Seriously, do a news search for Uber sometime — you'll find that it's a nearly constant stream of bad press. For Uber to stay ahead of its competitors (and federal regulators), it's got some serious cleaning up to do.

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