About Uber

I like progress. I like convenience. I like affordable services. I like apps. I like technology when it is used to take some of the toil out of life.

With that said, I should like the Uber ride sharing service. I might if I travelled more, but in the last couple of years my job has not required much travel and when I do it’s with family or around town in my own car. So I have been watching the debate as an interested observer, not a regular user.

I have many friends who love Uber. One comment perceived as negative will evoke their full-throated defense of the service and every driver they’ve ever had.

“Works good”
“quick and affordable”
“cool, modern”
“you never know who you’ll meet!”
“way better than taxi’s”

These are some of the things I’ve been told. I don’t dispute any of that. But it’s not the whole picture. Laws are in place for when things go wrong.


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When Uber goes wrong. Who’s liable again?

 


 

How does Uber get there so fast and charge so little? By ignoring the rules/laws that other companies have to play by.

If you need a ride from point A to B and you are not at an airport or train station where cab’s congregate, a Taxi company has to schedule a trained, licensed cab driver in a cab (livery vehicle) to get to point A. The cab usually takes 10-30 minutes to get to you. Your trip is usually metered by time, the price somewhere in the $1-$3 per minute range.

If a Taxi company has 50 cabs working the city at any moment, Uber might have 200 private drivers reporting from their app. That’s the secret to their timeliness.

The taxi vehicle is used all day and night to transport riders and their bags. The taxi driver has been trained in operation of the vehicle and customer service, particularly how to deal with unruly customers.

There are safety mechanisms in place for both the driver and the passenger. The driver probably clocked in, has a dispatcher, and received a full-life background check including fingerprints in order to get hired. The driver has applied and received a special license from the state. The driver is in constant contact with a human at dispatch and usually has relationships with co-workers.

The taxi vehicle is insured and serviced as a livery vehicle. The company is insured as a livery service. Liability is with the company should anything go wrong on that ride.

[not including musical choice, accent, oder, or headwear of the driver]


 

Something went very wrong with an Uber ride in Kalamazoo, Michigan this weekend. For no obvious reason, the white guy driver went on a killing spree while driving his car for Uber.

I won’t say he worked for Uber because he really didn’t. Just like all of them, he was a private contractor that applied online, passed a very flimsy background check, took on the liability, and started picking up strangers in his personal car, under his personal auto insurance.  That’s how Uber works.

So many things happened in Kalamazoo that would not have happened if he were a crazed Taxi driver. For one, he continued to pick up Uber riders during his killing spree.

His first passenger of the night, a single guy, jumped out of the car halfway to his destination, ran, and dialed 9-1-1 after the driver ran stop signs, drove over medians, sideswiped a car and received personal phones calls that irritated him. The passenger ran to his girlfriend’s house and tried contacting Uber through the app. All he could do was fill out a form and report “erratic driving”. His girlfriend posted a warning to Facebook.

The 911 operator filed the report as ‘erratic driving, Uber’ and since the caller was safe – ended the call. The cops had nothing to go on.

The police called him back 2 hours later, after several more murders had occurred, perhaps because there was no dispatcher to contact, no taxi number to track, and no Uber representative assisting law enforcement like a Taxi company would. Uber took no action, claiming “there’s millions of riders a day, we can’t immediately respond to every bad driver complaint.”

The witness provided information to the cops but it didn’t help much because the driver stopped home, switched cars, and kept his Uber app going for more riders.

Another fare was a family of 4 that had already heard rumors of shootings that night, so instead of walking home they took an Uber the 1-mile distance in order to feel safer. The father, sitting in the front seat, asked the driver directly if he had heard about the shootings and if he was the shooter (!?!). Flustered, the driver said no, mumbled small talk, and dropped them safely. He then continued getting Uber riders through his app and killed others.


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Random crazies aren’t Uber’s fault. But they also aren’t Uber’s responsibility according to their fine print.

Now that murders are occurring while on-duty, we shall see if the drivers personal car insurance, or Uber’s corporate ownership, pays the victim’s families accordingly. I suspect not. Insurance companies could put an end to ride sharing services.

Get your own damn ride, don’t you have 100’s of Facebook friends?

Uber’s driver background check (if they do it at all) uses SS#, Name and License# and only goes back 7 years. If you did something horrible before 2009 you can still drive for Uber. If you can borrow (or forge), scan, and email some basic documents you can drive for Uber. There is no fingerprint, there is no full history check, there is no in-person meeting, there are no co-workers.

Doing full background checks and offering proper livery insurance would drive up Uber rates and reduce their driver count drastically. This would make Uber similar to taxi companies without the safety or piece of mind.

Their business plan has lots of holes in it.

Progress is great, but cheating in the hopes of nothing ever going wrong is not progress.