Uber is a ride-hailing application that can be used on mobile devices with iOS and Android operating systems. Founded in 2009, Uber, Inc. now offers their app's services to users in over 300 cities across 67 different countries. As of February, 2018, Uber was valued at approximately $72 billion.
Users can choose from a variety of cars depending on number of passengers and desired level of luxury. Uber has also rolled out various delivery and experience-based services in select cities. Fare estimates, notifications about surge pricing based on demand, and the ability to split fares are additional features provided within the app. To improve the user experience and ensure the fair treatment of employees, passengers and drivers are required to rate each other at the end of a trip.
As a pioneer in the ride-hailing industry, Uber has become infamous for a variety of ethical issues, namely in user and employee privacy, sexual harassment and discrimination, development of autonomous vehicles, legal battles with cities and taxi companies, and price-fixing.
- 1 History
- 2 Requesting a Ride
- 3 Ride Options
- 4 Uber Side Projects
- 5 Pricing
- 6 Ratings and Reviews
- 7 Becoming a Driver
- 8 Ethical Issues
- 8.1 Privacy
- 8.2 Fake Uber Killing
- 8.3 Travis Kalanick Scandal
- 8.4 Driver Concerns
- 8.5 Autonomous Ubers
- 8.6 Competition
- 8.7 Legality
- 8.8 Surge Pricing
- 9 See Also
- 10 References
In 2008, Garrett Camp, the founder of StumbleUpon, and Travis Kalanick wanted to solve the "taxi problem". They were both in Paris at the time, and had trouble getting a cab due to snow. They thought of the idea of being able to press a button to get a ride. The two created the initial prototype UberCab in March 2009. The service was test-launched in New York City in January 2010 with 3 cars. In July 2010, UberCab went live in San Francisco. The company changed its formal name to Uber in October 2010. That November, Uber was added to Android phones.
In December 2010, Ryan Graves stepped down as Chief Executive Officer to become the Chief Operations Officer, and Travis Kalanick stepped in as CEO. By February 2011, the company had raised over $11 million in funds from different investors. Uber was launched in New York City in May 2011. By the end of that year, Uber raised over an additional $35 million.
In July 2012, Uber launched UberX, a hybrid vehicle service that is cheaper. By April 2014, Uber's services were offered in over 100 cities. 
Requesting a Ride
Users must first design an Uber account linked to a phone number and credit card. When requesting a ride, Uber uses GPS tracking on iOS and Android devices in order to determine the location of the user. Uber then connects you with the nearest driver based on your location. The name of the driver, their rating, and their car will appear on your device, and Uber will text your phone when your driver has arrived. You can track your driver's status on the application's map. Users will receive an estimated time of arrival and can share this ETA with their contacts if they wish. Passengers can also allow someone in their contacts to monitor their Uber trip to make sure that they safely arrive at their location. 
UberX is Uber's most basic car service. This service seats a maximum of 4 people and requires that the cars have been made in 2000 or newer. 
UberXL offers a car service that seats at least 6 people. Often times, these cars are either SUVs or MiniVans. UberXL has a higher base fare than UberX. 
UberSelect allows users to ride in a luxury sedan that has leather interior with up to 4 passengers. Base fare pricing is higher for UberSelect than for UberXL. 
UberBlack (Black Car)
UberBlack is a step up from UberSelect and is advertised as Uber's executive luxury service. UberBlack has the highest base fare price out of all the options. 
UberPOOL allows users to share a ride with others that are headed in the same direction. This service is currently only offered in New York City, San Francisco, Los Angeles, and Paris. When users select UberPOOL, they will be matched with another user in the area headed to a nearby location. The ride fare is split between the two users. Additionally, there are only certain areas where you can take an UberPOOL. For example, in NYC, riders are geofenced outside of airports, and can only go as far as certain locations. 
Uber Side Projects
Uber offers boat rentals in select locations. Currently Croatia is the most consistent location offering these boat rides. Users can hail a boat both for a transfer, a taxi-style transport ride from one location to another, or for a trip, which allows them the freedom to use the boat as they wish for the selected time period. Users order boat trips just as they would a car ride, by selecting their destination location and then going to the pick-up location to meet their boat captain. UberBOATS requires passengers to come to the shore to be picked up. 
In January 2015, Uber Launched UberCargo in Hong Kong. This add-on for people that live in the city allow people to hail a van, load it up with their stuff, and send it across town.The app also allows users to track where their things are going if they do not choose to ride along with it.
Most recently offered at the popular Coachella music festival, Uber is partnering with different helicopter services around the world to offer SUV-to-helicopter rides. The same service was also offered in New York City, in partnership with helicopter company Blade. The prices range anywhere from $600 to $850 depending on the package, and costing as little as $80 in New Delhi. Catering to a higher-paying audience, the service includes admission to an exclusive Blade lounge on NYC's 34th Street, overlooking the East River.
More recently, Uber launched its first standalone delivery app, UberEats in Toronto. This is separate than the iterations being used in places such as New York City and LA, and has a few added features. In an effort to make ordering food simpler, UberEats offers five options from local restaurants in your area. These options are delivered in five to ten minutes. For those that want more of a choice, they can use the Popular Items page for every restaurant Uber partners with. These take a little longer to be delivered, but do offer more choices.
Uber briefly offered a moving service for college students in Atlanta, Georgia called UberMovers. On Saturday, August 16, students had the ability to hire a pair of UberMovers for 30 minutes at a price of 30 dollars. The services that the UberMovers were able to perform were: mattress lifting, unloading moving pods, hauling junk, and otherwise moving items on site into the place of residence.
UberRUSH allows businesses that rely on deliveries to get their products to customers. This service is only currently available in San Francisco, Chicago, and New York. Businesses can call the messenger just like they do on the traditional Uber platform. The messenger will then come to pick up(on bike or foot) whatever it is that needs to be delivered, and goes on their way. The location of the package can be shared with the customer. Uber also provides a list of items that are not allowed to be shipped. The items on that list are: People or animals of any size, Alcohol, Illegal items, Fragile items, Very expensive or rare items, Dangerous items (weapons, explosives, flammable, etc.), Stolen goods, or Any items for which you do not have permission to send.
Uber will offer fare estimates in advance if you wish to know approximately how much your ride will cost. When your ride is complete, Uber will automatically charge it to your credit card. Users do not need to carry a card or any cash for the ride or for a tip. Different cities may have different base fares and prices depending on the speed at which the car drives. If the car drives above 11mph, the cost of the ride is based solely on distance traveled. If the driver is moving at a speed under 11mph, then the cost of the ride is dependent on the time of the ride. 
When demand for Uber rides increases significantly, Uber uses an algorithm to implement surge pricing. Surge pricing will raise the base fare by a certain amount based on demand, and users will have to take an additional step when requesting an Uber to confirm that they agree to surge pricing. Just as base fares for Uber vary by city, so too do surge prices affect cities differently. 
Uber offers a split fare feature as well, where users can divide the cost of the ride among the passengers. Uber charges an additional $0.25 for every that requests to split a fare.
The ability to tip your drivers was first added in 2017. 
Ratings and Reviews
Uber requires passengers to rate their drivers after their trip on a scale of 1-5 stars. If a rating is particularly low, Uber will follow up with his rider to learn more about their experience. Depending on consistency of ratings or feedback from riders, Uber has the power to no longer allow a driver to be a driver for Uber. They also have a 6th star award for drivers who go above and beyond what is required of a driver. 
Similarly, drivers have the opportunity to rate passengers after a ride completely based on their behavior or if there were any other issues. This may lead to increased waiting time for passengers. Customers can check their rating at any time by going to Help --> Settings --> I'd Like To Know My Rating. There can be issues with this because when splitting a fare or a ride, one's rating may be affected by others around them.
The average rating for drivers can be seen by the passenger once the request is confirmed and vice versa regarding the passenger's rating.
Becoming a Driver
Drivers for Uber can a flexible schedule by choosing their work hours and have no cap on the amount they earn. . If prospective drivers don't have a smart phone or car, Uber will help drivers in attaining them by connecting them to dealerships and carriers; Uber will also insure the driver's cars when a trip is accepted in addition to providing rewards such as discounts on fuel and car maintenance . The process of becoming an Uber driver happens online as drivers sign up online, share license, registration, and proof of insurance information, and downloading the application once approved .
Regarding privacy, the ride-sharing app faces two distinct issues — concerning both users and employees.
In 2014, Buzzfeed reported on Uber's "God View" feature, which allows employees to track the location of Uber users even when they're not actively using the application. In response, the company claimed that they have the right to use constant location tracking in order to determine customer demand and other factors that affect their services. However, the public response was still largely negative due to the sense that constant location monitoring is not essential to the app's operations — an opinion made popular in part to a journalist who alleged that he was tracked for no reason.  Many users feel that their privacy is violated through this Ubiquitous Computing. At the time, the company defends its actions because users must have location services turned on on their mobile devices in order for Uber to track location. 
In recent news, Uber has announced a pilot program where they will obscure a riders’ exact pickup and drop-off locations and instead, will display a broader location area. This change was intended to enhance rider safety and privacy, as part of several upcoming changes Uber is making to limit the exposure of users’ location data.  This change will also help the company comply with the European Union’s new General Data Protection Regulation , which requires tech companies to allow users to delete their data but also requires companies to give users access to their own data. When finally implemented, this feature will allow riders to delete their information while still giving drivers access to their own data.
The second major privacy controversy relates to Uber's employees, particularly their drivers. In 2014, Uber experienced a data breach and over 50,000 employee names and license plates were stolen. Although employees with identities were offered free identity protection services for a year following. , it took the company six months to release a public statement about the breach. Additionally, Uber faced yet another round of criticism for its treatment of drivers when cities across the United States sought to enforce stricter background checks on ride-sharing employees. These regulations would force the company to hand over drivers' fingerprints so municipalities could deduce who had criminal records. The most notable case was in Austin, Texas, where city officials mandated background checks with fingerprinting collection requirements. Eventually, the city replaced that ordinance with a bill that required ride-sharing services to pay annual operations fees  Uber in addition to Lyft pulled operations out of Austin for a year because the companies felt that fingerprinting was unfair 
Fake Uber Killing
In 2019, USC student Samantha Josephson was murdered after getting into a car that she believed was her Uber. State lawmakers called for policies enforcing rideshare vehicles to display illuminated signs when picking up passengers as a result of this incident. Uber issued a statement after the incident urging the public to be more cognizant of the car details and drivers when getting into their Ubers. Uber now sends passengers notifications reminding them to confirm the model, license plate, and other details of the car that is picking them up. Josephson's grief-stricken parents urge others to always travel with other people to avoid more instances like their daughters. 
Travis Kalanick Scandal
Travis Kalanick co-founded Uber alongside Garrett Camp in 2009 and served as the company's CEO from December of 2010 to June 2017. His resignation from the company was the culmination of various scandals. Although privacy concerns were one of the many which led to Kalanick's departure, the most notable was the company's alleged sexism, harassment, and discrimination towards its female employees. While internally, these issues were pressing, they had also began to be picked up by the media. With the spread of the #deleteuber hashtag in response to the controversy — in conjunction with pressure from Uber users, company executives, and VC investor Benchmark Capital — Kalanick stepped down from his position as CEO in June of 2017. 
Examples of Unethical Behavior
Uber has also received negative press for multiple sexual assault charges filed against their drivers. In 2015, investigations revealed at least 25 California drivers had criminal records, including as burglary or sexual assault, yet were able to become drivers due to the company's background check policy.  As a result, the company was sued and new competitors, such as Safr and Chariot for Women, were created to cater to the safety of women and children riders.
In February 2016, an Uber driver in Kalamazoo, Michigan killed six people and injuring two more while officially driving for the company. In between his killings, the driver picked up passengers and transported them to their destinations. A man who rode with him during this 7 hour shooting spree reported he drove erratically: blowing through stop signs, driving through lawns, and over the median. Uber executives quickly made a statement saying they were "horrified" and promised to aid in the investigation. After an investigation, it was found that the driver had neither a prior criminal record not any red flags indicating he was unfit to become a driver. 
Within the Uber app, users have reported a number of scams drivers run in attempts to deceit and make an extra profit users. From tricking users to pay them in cash and then charging them additionally through the app to making passengers pay for toll fees, Uber drivers have thought of sneaky ways to trick passengers into paying more than they should. 
Ethics of Uber Driver Background Checks
This conflict surrounding Uber Drivers brings ethical questions of on how Uber is monitoring the actions of their drivers, and ultimately how they filter individuals who wish to become an Uber drivers. On their help website, Uber provides information regarding their background check process stating that it includes a Motor Vehicle Record review as well as a Criminal Background Check . However, Uber continues to state later that background checks do vary from state to state in respect to the local government legislation and rules regarding drivers who participate in ridesharing applications.
If a driver has been previously convicted of "felonies, violent crimes, sexual offenses, and registered sex offender status, among other types of criminal records", they are automatically banned from serving as a driver for Uber . This statement relates to censorship and the question of whether or not the person in question has the right to be "forgotten". In this case of Uber Drivers and their right to privacy and censorship, there's a duality to their information being public. In Mathiesen's article on censorship and expression, she discusses how people choose to censor content based off what they percieve as "bad" or "harmful"  When looking at the case of prospective Uber drivers, one might argue that having access to these driver's criminal records will promote a safer environment for passengers given the multiple cases of sexual assault and misconduct against passengers from their Uber Driver. However, on the other hand, prospective drivers may see censorship as something harmful as it obstructs them from making a living. For these drivers who have a criminal record, but have served their time and learned from their sentence it's unfair they must suffer the consequences of their peers who act poorly on behalf of the group.
In August 2016, the first fleet of autonomous vehicles from Uber were deployed in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania for user-testing in a live environment. Users of the Uber platform were able to summon driverless cars to pick them up at a dropped pin location and then drop them off at their location.  All of the cars that were dispatched in this first fleet had human drivers in the driver's seat incase of vehicle failure. During the first and second deployments of these vehicles, there were issues of disengagement of the vehicles on the road as well as some vehicles failing to read environmental cues, in the second fleet in particular, a vehicle ran a red light. 
Legality in California
In 2016, following the success of their self-driving program in Pittsburgh, Uber launched self-driving cars in San Francisco. However, the state of California requires that ride-sharing apps have obtain the proper permits before releasing autonomous vehicles on public roads. In response, the company insisted it did not need these permits and ultimately continued their program in opposition to government regulators . The state's DMV eventually revoked the registrations of all 16 driverless vehicles in the fleet after growing protest from local and state regulators as well as local residents . Residents claimed they saw these vehicles take illegal right turns across bike lanes and run red lights on multiple occasions . Uber, however, claims that these issues were due to human error and that the tester "co-pilots" who were present in the vehicles were responsible for any traffic violations . This situation furthered the public scrutiny of Uber's ethical practices due to their bypass of regulations and apparent willingness to place citizens in harm's way.
Ambiguity with Autonomy
There are many concerns of autonomous vehicles on the road in the case of vehicular failure, sensors failing to read environmental cues and computer error. Since Uber is a cab-service, users are never in the driver's seat and therefore cannot react in the case that the vehicle must enter manual mode. If, for example, an autonomous vehicle ran a red light while a passenger was on board and got into an accident, it is obvious that this would be a scenario of ethical concern as it would be the vehicular error that would put a passenger's life in danger. In the same way, if there was an Uber driver in the driver's seat while the car was in autonomous mode but then switched into manual, then an accident occurred, the distribution of fault would be extremely ambiguous.
An example of this is when Uber halted all self-driving car tests in March 2018 after a pedestrian was struck and killed by one of their vehicles in Tempe, Arizona.  While there was a driver behind the wheel during the crash, the vehicle had been set to operate in autonomous mode. Uber is currently working with law enforcement to determine the agent responsible for the fatality.
Also, as the amount of Uber drivers has grown exponentially over the past couple of years, the introduction of driverless cars could potentially take away many jobs from drivers in order for the company to cut labor costs. Currently, the utilization rate of cars is around 10%. This means cars sit unused around 90% of the time. According to Tesla, the company seeks to integrate their future driverless Model S cars into a Uber-like model, where after sending out a signal, the car would generate revenue on your behalf through acting as an Uber to pick up customers while the owner is not using the car. On their website, Tesla announced that future owners of the car would be allowed only to use this car sharing service to pick up friends and family and not participate in the Uber network . Tesla, therefore, seeks to create their own network that would act as a ride-sharing service. This would significantly offset and potentially exceed the monthly loan or lease cost. While this would benefit the car owners, Uber drivers whose job is being done through technology in this model risk encountering moral qualms about their the necessity of their service.
There have also been concerns of discrimination, intimidation and sexual harassment at the corporate office. The idea that the Uber corporate office reflected this culture originated as a common rumor in Silicon Valley until February 2017, when Susan Fowler, a former Uber engineer, published a blog post detailing her personal experience with sexual harassment in the workplace. It was reported that HR representatives, CTO Thuan Pham, and CEO Travis Kalanick were aware of these issues within Uber yet nothing was done. After the release of her blog post, and a flurry of media attention, the company's chief executive, Travil Kalanick, opened an internal investigation into the accusations.  This blog post also inspired dozens of others to come forward about their poor experiences with Uber's workplace culture. The corporate workplace was defined by many as unrestrained and multiple accusations of upper management harassing employees was brought out. Some of the incidences include a director shouting homophobic slurs during a meeting, a manager groping a female co-workers' breasts at a company retreat, and another manager threatening to beat an under performing employee's head in with a baseball bat.
In 2014, Uber documents were released in which Uber allegedly sabotaged its competitors. Uber employees would create accounts and request rides, only to cancel them. This tactic was to inhibit other customers to access drivers. Additionally, Uber employees reportedly offered cash incentives to competitor employees to leave the company.  Uber's lack of "business ethics" has given customers second thoughts about using the application for these ethical reasons.
The competition and conflict between Uber and taxi drivers is also an issue that is happening in the global scale. Although a lot of places have had such unwritten rules on distinguishing the working scopes and responsibilities of the two parties, due to the unique strengths and weakness of these two transportation systems, the unfair competition is still ongoing, which leads to a lot of violent conflicts. It is crucial for the government to find out the balance point of the market.
Additionally, Uber has received many lawsuits claiming that they are an unlicensed taxi company, and are putting taxi drivers out of business. In order to be a legal taxi driver in many cities, individuals must pay for expensive medallions in order to be a licensed driver. Uber drivers do not need to pay for such a thing.  As a result, many cities and taxi companies have begun to fight Uber in legal battles, or have begun to enact laws to limit Uber's scope of service. Uber continues to fight these battles in court.  In April of 2016 Uber was fined $11.6 million by the Public Utilities Commission of the state of Pennsylvania for operating without proper approval from the state for a six-month period in 2014. The fine was the largest the Pennsylvania Public Utilities Commission had ever leveraged against a company by almost $10 million. The $11.6 million fine was still a reduction from the original $50 million fine two judges had ordered in a ruling last year. In a statement published in response to the Public Utilities Commission’s ruling, Uber said that they were disappointed with the ruling and have vowed to appeal the decision of the Commonwealth Court of Pennsylvania. 
Legislators have argued that surge pricing might be a violation of antitrust law. One court ruling suggests that Uber’s use of a surge pricing algorithm to set fares for all drivers in a given area could be viewed as a price-fixing conspiracy, especially since Uber considers its drivers to be independent operators rather than employees. States including California and New York have fought the issue of the surge pricing algorithm, but the company continues to utilize the surge pricing model as an essential aspect of their business model. . In 2014, Uber announced they would cease price surges during states of emergency or disaster . Local governments have previously proposed laws to expand those policies to a day-to-day basis .
However, during the rollout of the Trump Administration's travel-ban in early 2017, Uber was accused of profiting from the chaos ensuing at JFK International Airport in New York City, when the New York Taxi Workers Alliance stopped service to the airport to protest the ban. This prompted users all over America to delete the application from their smartphones, effectively boycotting Uber's operation, as the elimination of surge pricing during this time suggested they were taking advantage of the situation .