Uber: The Company Cities Love to Hate
BUSINESSWEEK – “Everyone’s private driver.” That’s how Uber trumpeted its business model when the taxi alternative started five years ago. For riders, it promised an end to overpriced trips in dirty, run-down cabs; for drivers, it offered an escape from working for a garage.
On the back of buses in New York City, Uber puts ads aimed at cabbies, and just about anyone else with a driver’s license and a little free time—“Drive With Uber: Get Your Own Car for Under $30/Day, No Credit Needed.”
Early on, the company was able to escape the attention of the taxi system it sought to upend. Its drivers, mostly livery car operators who used Uber’s app to connect with passengers looking for rides, provided a premium service and were vastly outnumbered by taxis.
In 2012 the company introduced UberX, which allows nonprofessional drivers to make money on the side ferrying passengers in their own cars, the way Airbnb helps people rent out their homes. Now, with tens of thousands of drivers in 140 cities worldwide, Uber no longer has the luxury of going unnoticed. The company has become the target of city and state legislators and union activists who want it to follow the same rules as real taxis.
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