With one tap of a smartphone app, Uber is upending the taxi business and changing the way people around the world commute. Its technology seamlessly links riders and drivers in more than 200 cities and 53 countries. Becoming an Uber driver is almost as effortless, allowing people from all walks of life to earn money with their personal vehicle. The results have been staggering: The company will hit $10 billion in revenues in 2015 (it took Facebook 10 years to do the same), and is estimated to be worth more than $40 billion.
But, concerns about oversight, safety, pricing and worker rights have made 2014 a bumpy ride for Uber. Read more about the controversy here.
Are You Protected When You Use Uber?
Uber and other ridesharing companies make it clear that they aren’t in the transportation business but instead are technology services that simply connect riders and drivers. The drivers are independent third parties, therefore the rider accepts ALL risk as clearly stated in the Uber terms and conditions:
“By using the services, you acknowledge that you may be exposed to situations involving third party providers that are potentially unsafe, offensive, harmful to minors, or otherwise objectionable,” Uber states, and “that using the services is at your own risk and judgment. Uber shall not have any liability …” The Uber contract also includes a forced arbitration clause, which greatly limits an individual’s right to take the company to court.
But, many fear the public doesn’t know what they are really getting into when they download the app or step foot in a stranger’s car.
Drivers are required to undergo rigorous background checks, according to the company’s safety page. Uber also provides $1 million in liability insurance and $1 million in uninsured/underinsured coverage per incident once a rider is in the car. In addition, Uber provides contingent insurance between trips if a driver’s personal insurance company refuses coverage, which often happens when it is discovered that a driver is using his or her automobile for commercial activities. When a driver’s Uber app is off, he or she must rely on personal insurance alone.
Like many new and ground-breaking business models, Uber has clearly created great opportunities and challenges that previously didn’t exist. Like any company, however, Uber and its ridesharing competitors must play by the rules and take full responsibility for the safety and welfare of their customers. Time will tell if they live up to those obligations.
Should Charleston, SC, Chime In?
Many cities, states and countries have passed (or are considering) new laws restricting ridesharing services, while some have banned them altogether. What do you think? Charleston is one of the 200 cities serviced by Uber. Have you downloaded the app or used the service? How was it? Tell us. And, should South Carolina or Charleston consider passing its own ridesharing laws?