I feel it’s time to have a man to man talk. Or, to put it more pedantically, a human being to voraciously ambitious young company focused on world domination on other people’s money, at the significant cost of human dignity talk.
I mean, wtf people? You launched a taxi service in New Delhi, in India, a city where women till recently balked at the idea of getting onto public transport for fear of being groped or touched. Where carrying a safety pin was considered prudent in case of the need for self defence. Where most women think many times about taking any form of transport alone, after dark. A city that has witnessed horrific crimes on women in frighteningly recent memory. Into this environment, you dropped your oh-so-convenient taxi service which makes no more than mandatory background checks and takes little responsibility. Did you really think this was going to go well?
I am a huge supporter of your technology. I’ve written about it here and here. I’m also a huge supporter of your service, in general. I’ve even compared it to impressionism, and that’s pretty high praise. So this is not some disgruntled rant by somebody who doesn’t get technology and wants to stand in the way of progress. Just wanted to get that out of the way before we go any further.
Because the problem is obviously not limited to New Delhi or any specific place, as this terrible incident from Boston suggests. Let’s face it. If, hypothetically speaking, I had evil intentions, becoming an Uber driver may just give me the kind of opportunity my imaginary dark side craves. After all, you take no liability so you naturally are more carefree with your background checks.
The irony is that technology could actually make it much safer to take a cab. To start with you might consider using blackboxes instead of consumer grade mobile devices, as these guys do. These would be much harder to turn off. Second, and even with your current set up, the moment a GPS device gets turned off for more than a minute, a red flag should go off, triggering a call to the driver and the customer. If they don’t get answered, that should be a call to the police. You should also be able to track if the car has gone significantly off the path indicated by the customer, and you’d probably be able to mark off busy and lonely spots on a map. I mean there must be a hundred other ways for smart technologists like you to make your journeys safer.
I’m sure world domination is within your reach, but it seems like you are your adolescent worst enemy right now. After that ill-advised rant against a woman journalist, and that completely over the top idea to track down another journo, with carefree ignorance about privacy, you’d have thought that you would have battened down the hatches and focused very hard on doing the right thing.
But apparently not.
May I suggest that you seriously consider appointing a Chief Ethics Officer? I appreciate that this may cause some confusion with your existing CEO, but from where I stand, your Ethics Officer may just be the most important person in the company right now, given that he/she stands between you and implosion. I get that you’ve hired a Chief Privacy Officer, but I think that ship has sailed. I also understand that you’ve got helpful lists for customers such as this one. But isn’t that a bit like a giving out road safety instructions whilst dishing out licenses to dangerous drivers?
I sincerely hope you go from strength to strength and I will likely be availing myself of your service at certain moments. There is simply no better way to get home from Heathrow at the end of a long day. Btw, the Spotify integration was cool, and fun.
However, I will be advising all my women friends to stay away from Uber for a while until you’re able to demonstrate that you do really care. And there will be all those other times when I could use your service, or not. And I probably won’t. And you do realise that you can’t aim for world domination by being a last resort.