Do you think it's fair that women are charged more for their car insurance?
Photo by Richard Vogel/AP.
Over the last half-decade, public transit ridership declined nationwide. The number of vehicle miles traveled in cars is rising, and traffic congestion is getting worse in many U.S. cities. At the same time, the century-old taxi industry is struggling, with many taxi companies going bankrupt.
It didn’t take a startling expose about mismanaged sexual assault claims for women to know that Uber is not the most female-friendly service in this, our sharing economy. But when BuzzFeed News got a hold of some leaked screen shots from Uber’s internal customer support interface, seeing the words “rape” and “sexual assault” appear more than 10,000 times in the “Subject” field of the search query window was still a sickening experience. Uber executives said some untrue things about how their Zendesk database locates search terms – which they later admitted were literally “imperfect and fictitious” – and decried the figures as “highly misleading.”
Following a pervasive investigation by two cooperating firms, multiple sources are reporting that, in response to a rape claim made by an Uber rider against a driver, a high-level executive procured and shared the victim’s sexual history with others in the company.
Eric Alexander, Uber’s president of business for the Asia Pacific, obtained the accuser’s records through undisclosed means and, for a year, held and shared them with other Uber principals, including CEO Travis Kalanick, while the matter was investigated.
One of the biggest complaints Uber has had to face recently (and there have been many to choose from) is that the gap between what the passenger pays and what the driver earns is getting wider and wider. Thus far, Uber has kept its billing and charging strategies quiet, but, in the face of mounting complaints and question, the company has come clean … somewhat.
It’s no secret that the company’s current business model is far from sustainable, burning cash at a rate that no amount of scaling and adoption could save the upside-down economics in place. Speaking to Bloomberg, the company acknowledged that in some markets they’ve deviated from the familiar approach to something they have dubbed “route-based pricing,” using data points to determine what the most is that a customer is willing to pay. In addition to using distance, time, and driver availability to establish a fare, the company is going to use factors such as time of day, pick-up location, and drop-off location to determine the price sensitivity of the customer.
Millions of people are outraged over President Trump’s ban on Syrian refugees and Muslims from seven countries entering the United States, but there’s no shortage of surplus ire for ride share service Uber. The startup was blasted for exploiting the chaos, eliminating surge prices in what appeared to undermine solidarity efforts among cab drivers and protestors at JFK airport on Saturday, triggering a #DeleteUber social media campaign that’s gained traction over the weekend.
The company was already in backpedal mode after recently announcing a sizeable investment deal with Saudi Arabia, a country with outdated, sexist restrictions against women drivers. CEO Travis Kalanick is also a member (along with Elon Musk) of Trump’s Strategic and Policy advisory board, which may explain why efforts to clarify the specifics over the price surging scandal and promises to set up a $3 million legal defense fund, among other efforts at ensuring driver compensation, haven’t quite succeeded in a public image upgrade.