Uber: Lowering DUIs and Increasing Chases

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Uber is a quasi-taxi system that allows user to hail a ride using a cell phone app. The company’s founders are Garrett Camp and Travis Kalanick. Camp was the original CEO, he later switched with Kalanick, choosing instead to step down to Vice president of operations. The company was launched in June of 2010 in San Francisco, under the name UberCab. Since the company’s inception it has met with staunch opposition from many sources, including city legislation, while most users have nothing but positive reviews. Some people are claiming that the introduction of Uber and increase in other ridesharing companies may have lowered the number of DUIs, another has been involved in high-speed chases.

Ridesharing divers have a less rigorous training process than most city taxi services do, as many are normal citizens with regular cars. This has been the cause for much concern, many cities have outright banned the service for that reason. Many cities are saying that Uber and Lyft drivers are breaking the laws set forth by various states’ Public Utilities Commissions (PUC), by driving without proper commercial insurances.

The Pennsylvania Utilities Commission (PUC) has gone so far as to create a sting operation in which undercover PUC officers commission rides all over, then do not tell the drivers a thing, instead mail a citation to arrive weeks later. It seems the state might be less interested in the safety of citizens and more interested in the money lost, because these phantom citations continued for almost a month.

The sting garnered $225,000 for the state from the ridesharing companies, $130,000 for Lyft and $95,000 for Uber. Taxi services around the world have protested against ridesharing claiming that they are undercutting their business by not having to pay the expensive fees to get a cab license. In Paris, on such protest got violent as an Uber driver and his passengers were attacked by a mob of taxi drivers who had set up a roadblock near a French Airport.

Studies suggest that there has been a steady decrease in DUIs since the introduction of ridesharing company. In a study done by Pittsburgh’s Nate Good, a CTO for an event ticketing company, there was a sharp decrease after the induction of UberBLACK into Philadelphia in early 2012. Two things should be noted, the decrease was much more substantial for people under 30, and it does not necessarily implicate ridesharing as the root source of the drop. There was a much sharper increase before 2007 implying that the level may have been normalizing. However, when the San Francisco numbers were pulled by the police department, San Francisco had a similar trend. There was a spike in 2007 and right before the introduction of ridesharing in late 2010, a sharp drop before a steady decrease, after the company open its doors for the customers.

A spokesperson for the company said that their goal was less to provide a riding service and more to prevent crime in cities like Chicago, by taking money out of the equation potentially saving a few people from being mugged. Uber might be lowering the number of DUIs, but it has not been completely free of controversy, the number of citations and controversies surrounding the company has increased, including a high-speed chase in the U.S. on Monday.

The winner of the take place in a chase raffle was CEO of Convene, Paul Simonetti, and his two colleagues who were going to their new offices at Tyson’s Corner, after their meeting in Washington D.C. When the meeting concluded, avid user of Uber, Simonetti, had ordered a cab to take them to their new offices. When they were leaving the venue before getting into the cab they noticed that the driver was speaking to a taxi inspector who had just gotten out of the car before they got in. As soon as the driver started to pull away, the inspector turned on his lights and started to follow the car. Simonetti told the driver he was being followed by the police, to which the driver responded; do not worry, that is “not a real cop.” The driver proceeded to weave dangerously through traffic and run red lights, while Simonetti tried to physically move the driver’s leg onto the brake. Simonetti only succeeded in tearing the driver’s pants, so he presented an ultimatum, either Simonetti bludgeons the driver’s head in or he stops. The driver finally pulled out on an exit and let the passengers out. By then the inspector had caught up and blocked the driver in, so he did what any sensible man in the midst of a chase would, turn around and drive up the exit against traffic, after all in for a dime, in for a dollar.

Unfortunately, this is only the latest in quite a few controversies for Uber. Seth Bender claimed a driver verbally abused him, then slapped and spit in his face in February of 2012. Apparently, Bender burped which infuriated the driver despite his excusing himself. The driver went on a rant about how he hated gay and American people before slapping Bender and spitting in his face.

A more sinister crime was reported ten months later when a woman claimed that she was raped by a driver. The teenage girl ordered the taxi after 2 a.m. the driver delivered the girl home, but as she was walking up the driveway he called her back and hit her over the head before raping her. The whole ordeal was caught on tape by the family’s surveillance cameras in the driveway. A year later another Uber driver killed a six-year-old while he was on the app looking for a client. The company claimed that the driver was not driving a passenger and was therefore not working for the company at the time. In that vein, the company refused to pay the insurance for the driver and the family. With all these chases and crimes surrounding Uber, it is hard to say whether support for ridesharing services will lower like the DUI rate, or increase like the citations against it.

Opinion by Eddie Mejia

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