Uber, a ride sharing smartphone application that connects people in need of rides to drivers, has been gaining attention. While the app is becoming more popular, potential dangers of Uber have also come to light.
“I like using Uber because it’s easy. I can request a ride and pay, all on my smartphone, which makes it more time-efficient than calling a taxi,” said Paru Meyyappan, a sophomore at Monta Vista High School in Cupertino.
Requesting a ride is a quick process. Riders open the Uber app and request a private car that is nearby to pick them up and drop them off at their desired location. The Uber app calculates the price of the trip and riders pay with their credit cards. Passengers can choose what type of car they want and, by paying extra, can request to be picked up in luxury cars such as Mercedes-Benzes or Audis.
Although this may be an efficient way to get a ride, the process is controversial. Uber has been accused of employing drivers with criminal pasts and poor driving skills, as the application process to be an Uber driver does not require the strict and thorough tests required for taxi drivers.
Since the company was founded in 2009, there have been several negative incidents related to Uber. On New Year’s Eve of last year, UberX driver Syed Muzzafar struck a mother and her two children in a San Francisco crosswalk, killing six-year old Sofia Liu. In March of 2014, a Chicago woman sued Uber claiming that her driver falsely imprisoned and sexually assaulted her. Although that driver was fired, there have been other claims of rape and harassment.
“I have used Uber a couple of times before because a lot of my friends were using it, and when I rode it I was fine,” said Jacky Moore, a sophomore at Silicon Valley’s Palo Alto High School in an interview with JSR.
“However,” she added, “now that there have been so many cases where the passenger has not been safe, it really scares me. My parents don’t allow me to ride Uber anymore.”
Uber classifies itself not as a taxi service but as a technology company, and has thus bypassed many tests and checks that normal taxi drivers have to take regarding safety, such as frequent motor checks and thorough background checks.
Insurance is also a problem for Uber. Beyond the driver’s personal insurance, the company pays $50,000 for body injuries and $25,000 for property damage caused by accidents with Uber cars. However, taxi insurance covers far more and pays for all damages instead of capping payment at a certain price.
There have been many reports of danger from Uber, and licensed taxi drivers have staged protests against the service as well as Lyft, a similar app. Although a ban of Uber in the US state of Virginia has been reversed, the German cities of Berlin and Hamburg have banned the service and Seoul, South Korea’s government released an official statement on July 21 that it plans to ban Uber and create its own app for official taxis.