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Uber: Why So Controversial?

The Uber app has revolutionised the way we order a taxi. Hailing one has never been simpler, and with a quarter of the world’s population predicted to be using a smartphone by 2016, it’s taking advantage of an evolving digital world. But it hasn’t been such a smooth ride for Uber and it’s no stranger to trouble. So what makes Uber so controversial?

Uber is a start-up company founded by Travis Kalanick and Garrett Camp. It all began in 2008 when Kalanick was in Paris looking for a taxi, but failed to find one. He had his light bulb moment and went on to establish Uber in 2009. The company launched their first app on iPhone and Android devices in San Francisco (where else?) where users could pin point their location and virtually hail a taxi. Customers then pay via your smartphone once you get to your destination, so no money changes hands, which not only more convenient, but safer too.

The company quickly expanded, launching services across major American cities as well as overseas like Paris, London and Sydney. Today the company operates in 57 countries around the globe in 100s of cities. The start-up has been a major success, down to an excellent business strategy and lots of research. If you fancy learning about business strategies and advanced business learning yourself, check out our CEBA programme!

It’s transformed the way people feel about taxis too. Gone are the days of a scruffy old mini cab and extortionate prices; Uber taxis have to set a certain standard of condition and cleanliness which they offer customers and the prices are usually a lot cheaper than taxis running off a meter system.

There must be some downsides to Uber, right? Well let’s just say that Uber has had its fair share of controversy and is no stranger to negative headlines in the media.

For starters, the company hasn’t gone down well with private hire firms and cab drivers around the globe, which now have to compete with Uber for customers. Only last year, London’s famous black cab drivers held a strike to protest against Transport for London (TfL) for not doing enough to regulate Uber, which don’t currently follow the same regulations as Hackney carriages. Protests have been staged in major cities around the world too, from New York City to Berlin.

The company has also been accused of sabotaging the rival taxi app company Lyft, by hailing a taxi and then cancelling, which significantly reduced their business. They also were accused of poaching their drivers to come and work for them.

The most recent bout of controversy to hit the company surrounds their UberPop service in Paris. The UberPop service allows non-professional taxi drivers to hire out their cars, which has proved extremely popular with over 10,000 drivers signing up. However, French officials have questioned the legality of the service, which resulted in two Uber executives being arrested. It’s also led to violence, rioting and destruction on the streets of Paris. Uber had no choice but to suspend UberPop, stating it “does not wish to run the slightest risk to UberPop drivers and passengers.”

So what does the future hold for Uber? The company is on course to more countries and cities as well as expand in the places where it’s already operating. It looks like the trouble that follows Uber will no doubt continue; with increased pressure on governments by taxi firms to ban the service altogether! Regulations are sure to be brought in to bring Uber in line with other city taxi companies though, who have to go through tough training schemes and meet strict requirements. One thing that’s certain, with an estimated value of $50 Billion, Uber shows no sign of slowing down any time soon!


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