Putting Uber Under a Cultural and Industrial Microscope
Simple, innovative, and sleek though Uber’s marketing campaign may be, there are some details about the company everyone should know. What’s not quite as trendy as Uber’s advertising is the effects the company is having on both riders and drivers. Multiple journalistic approaches have worked to delve deeper into what makes Uber tick.
“Under the law if you accept money to transport somebody, you have a greater duty than a regular driver on the street. Uber says, ‘We don’t transport anybody, we don’t owe a duty, and certainly not the highest duty of care,’” explains Attorney Chris Dolan in his interview with Who’s Driving You. Seeing themselves as simply a technology company, Uber excludes itself from any responsibility when it comes down to who is behind the wheel. Mr. Dolan continues: “Pizza delivery drivers? They have insurance ... From the minute [the car is] turned on to the minute it gets turned off. Everybody else who is driving vehicles on the road, whether they’re full or empty, carries commercial insurance 24/7. What [Uber has] done is they have externalized all the cost of their operation, so what they do is they just break cash. If this were Exxon people would be up in arms.”
Dr. Ray Mundy, the Director of the Center for Transportation Studies at the University of Missouri-St. Louis, describes Uber and companies like it: “Uber and Lyft attempt to be called ride sharing companies but it’s actually just smoke and mirrors to help sell their way into communities by saying they’re something different than a taxicab, or a sedan, or a limousine so they can avoid any regulations.” He goes on to point out that Uber is only held accountable by an app that is turned on and off, not by a regulated dispatch like other cab services. But is it really fair that a company who identifies itself as a technology company can walk away from safety obligations scott free?
PBS further explores Uber’s self-proclaimed, flashy identity. Hansu Kim is the owner of the San Francisco based taxi company DeSoto Taxi. Since San Francisco is the birthplace of Uber, DeSoto Taxi is one of Uber’s top and most adamant competitors. “The Taxi industry is so upset, not because of the technology, or the taxi industry is being beaten by technology,” says Kim in his interview with PBS, “But they now have to compete against people who don’t have to play by the same rules.” He predicts that ride sharing could put the entire taxi industry out of business.
Uber has provoked worldwide protests, turned a pre-existing industry on its head, shirked responsibility by hiding behind both its muddled insurance policy and its flashy self hood as a “technology company”, and has resulted in much bureaucratic competition with other ride sharing services. As human nature has historically been unable to ignore the allure of instant gratification, Uber has only grown in the five short years of its life. However, as evaluative reports on this start up continue to emerge, it will only become increasingly impossible to ignore Uber’s flaws.