Can Uber’s past predict how it will handle Autocab’s customers?

Unexpected news broke-out earlier this month that Uber acquired Autocab, a despatch system provider.

This move seemed counter-intuitive, as Autocab have previously positioned themselves to be one in the ‘fight against Uber’. Fleet managers have expressed being baffled by the news.

The fight against Uber is because Uber has became the world’s largest fleet manager in the world due to the wrong reasons. It hires drivers’ services directly, on a B2B basis, and without required licenses. It undermines drivers’ rights as employees (therefore, their social security net), undercuts local fleets in price, and threats passenger safety.

Uber, on the other hand, takes the gig economy approach and places itself as a marketplace: offering rides from ‘independent’ drivers to its users, relying on customer feedback only. It takes little to no responsibility for anything, from driver’s rights, pay, and conduct, to passengers safety.

Licences and regulations ensure the profession is reliable and consistent. Drivers see the profession as a lifetime commitment, offering it dedication and respect. Passengers can hail rides expecting a safe trip, and London’s transport authority, Transport For London (TFL) has shown its commitment to Londoners by revoking Uber’s license to operate when it found a large number of its drivers were using fake identities. On September 14, Uber will finally face TFL in court to fight the loss of its license. Uber claims it has made changes to its processes, however, those changes were deemed inadequate by TFL, who refused to reissue the license.

Although the case have reached the Supreme Court, it is possible to predict that the outcome will not be favourable to Uber. Ruling against TFL would set a precedent in favour of rogue technology start-ups with little corporate responsibility and a hunger for fast profits.

Governing bodies around the world often express concern at Uber’s way of doing business.

In 2015, Uber was banned from operating in California and fined $7.3 million. In 2016 it was banned from the city of Austin, TX.

Uber is also constantly under fire for its practices, and not just related to drivers employment status and wrong-doings. In 2014, its Senior Vice President, Emil Michael, suggested hiring journalists to target other journalists who dared to write against the company. He allegedly said they would be looking into “personal lives, your families”¹.

This is just a short snapshot of the company’s troubles, yet it portrays a culture of ‘asking for forgiveness instead of permission’, if and when it decides to ask for forgiveness.

Cordic’s CEO, Tom Peyerl, believes the acquisition of Autocab could be a risk-mitigating manoeuvre by Uber in order to keep operational in London, should it lose at the Supreme Court.

It remains a question for Autocab customers if they are willing to trust Uber with their data (both customer data and drivers data). Uber says it will not touch it, although we find that hard to believe since Uber tends to be bullish in seeking market domination. Given the struggle fleets have been facing since Uber’s arrival, it is hard to imagine Uber would want to let go of the bone that the local fleets’ customers and drivers meant to them.

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References

  1. Lacy, Sarah (November 17, 2014). “The moment I learned just how far Uber will go to silence journalists and attack women”PandoDaily. Retrieved April 5, 2015.