The Uber Debate
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Politics and Activism

The Uber Debate

Every dollar you spend is a vote for the world you want to live in.

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The Uber Debate

Uber, the ridesharing service that lets customers connect with drivers through a mobile app, has been gathering media attention lately with several controversies concerning the security, safety and privacy of their customers. The service gained popularity last year because customers can charge their ride directly to their credit card via the app, no swipe required. But the recent conflicts force us to ask… is the shiny black car really worth it?   

Uber, now an 18 billion dollar company, expanded to Charlottesville this past August. NBC29 talked to various cab drivers in the area to get their take on the new service. The general response from the community was that traditional taxis in Charlottesville are safer than Uber because of the strict regulations and background checks provided by the state, calling the rideshare service “digital hitchhiking.”

The company offers two programs for their customers: “Uber Black” and “UberX.” Uber Black delivers the traditional black town car or SUV, but UberX allows drivers to turn their own car into a taxi, and provides a less expensive means of travel for the customer, as well as additional work for individuals in the area. 

Regulations and requirements concerning security procedure, such as background checks, were set in place by Terry McAuliffe and the state of Virginia in the agreement to allow the operation of companies such Uber and Lyft, another popular ridesharing service. Uber has cooperated with and encouraged these regulations to be upheld.     

Uber has drawn media attention in the past months due to several incidents, including but not limited to surge pricing, attacks on customers by drivers, and unauthorized location tracking of customers and drivers. 

When the twitter sphere reacted after a woman reported that a driver had choked her, CEO Travis Kalanick wrote an email to his team and accidentally copied a reporter, saying that he didn’t want the company to be “somehow liable for these incidents that aren’t even real in the first place.” 

Uber executives also received backlash when one exec suggested that they use the technology available to them, including “God view,” a system that tracks the GPS coordinates of customers and drivers, to gather “dirt” on a journalist that he felt portrayed the company in a bad light in the media. These comment elicited strong responses from both journalists and customers, and the executive apologized.   

Uber employs drivers that act as independent contractors, so when incidents between drivers and customers occur, the company is not liable. This is not the intention of Uber, but rather an indirect result of their business plan. 

Indeed, last year when a driver accidentally hit and killed a six-year-old girl with his car, the company was quick to state that the driver was in between fares, freeing them of responsibility. Obviously this tragedy was in no way the fault of Uber, but their distanced reaction stirred controversy.   

However, as stated before, the company that runs the app is different than the day-to-day happenings of the service. Cities that have made use of Uber are showing fewer DUIs, and many people say that they feel more comfortable when they use the app. Here is the heart of the issue: safety. 

There is something to be said for the sharing economy, and new innovations that promote safe returns home and lessen the chance that someone will get behind the wheel after drinking. That being said, it is important to be aware that Uber, Lyft, or any other ridesharing service is no safer than a regular taxi service. 

In Charlottesville, let’s encourage a service that maintains the highest standards of safety in order to protect its riders and employees, not in order to stay in operation or maximize profit, and take seriously reports of mistreatment or uncomfortable situations, so that new innovations can have a positive role in making our campus and city a safer place.     

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This article has not been reviewed by Odyssey HQ and solely reflects the ideas and opinions of the creator.
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