WDY Blog 10.16

Uber’s Psyche, or Why London Has a Problem with Uber

Put on your forensic-psychologist hat: Let’s delve into Uber’s psyche.

Scene one: San Francisco Bay Area courtroom.

For weeks, Moraga, California detectives have been waiting for Uber to comply with a signed search warrant seeking 90 days of records on a former Uber driver accused of sexual battery. The cops are trying to locate more victims, and strengthen their case against the driver. But Uber doesn’t want its customers queried about sexual assault by the police.

Police officer Brian South says in more than 15 years on the job, he’s “never seen anyone so brazenly defy a judge’s order for records.”

A local prosecutor concurs, testifying Uber is “actively preventing law enforcement from protecting riders from violence.”

Fed up with the company’s pattern of hampering police investigations, Judge Claire Maier sanctions Uber and says the following:

“The reputation of Uber for cooperating with law enforcement is horrific. The fact that Uber resists search warrants gives me grave concern that there is an ulterior motive here and not any desire to cooperate.”

(This is exactly what the London police and regulators are complaining about).

Under pressure, the Uber lawyer finally spits out: “We’re not trying to be obstructionist at all, we’re just trying to be fair and balanced.”

Question: fair and balanced between what and what?

Answer: Between passenger safety and Uber’s brand.

Scene two: London, United Kingdom.

Transport for London (TfL) has decided to defend its decision to terminate Uber’s operating license. The TfL had called Uber “unfit.” Previously, the head of the London police agency that oversees taxicabs wrote an official letter saying specifically what the Moraga, California judge, cop and prosecutor are all getting at: Uber is putting its own reputation above rider safety.

The London copper used exactly that word: reputation.

What a minute, you ask. What happened to the Uber CEO flying across the pond for a special meet and the London mayor saying the new CEO displayed “humility”?

OK, here comes some forensic psychology.

Apt word here: “humility.” Often misunderstood. Humility doesn’t necessitate humiliation or groveling. Instead, it can be a clear recognition of who and what you are.

Question: So…what is Uber?

Answer: A taxicab service.

But Uber won’t admit it. In fact, this identification is anathema to Uber. In order to receive and retain special rules, in order to justify its corner-cutting business model, Uber is constantly asserting it’s a technological wunderkind on the cusp of inventing self-driving or flying cars, enabling fabulously smart cities, or proffering on-demand kittens that arrive by helicopter with still-cold mini-Klondike bars attached to their furry little necks.

If Uber accepted it was a taxicab service, then it would have to further accept that, as such, it’s an extension of public transportation. As a form of public transportation, Uber would be duty bound to respond to regulators’ and law enforcements’ concerns quickly and fully.

Instead, Uber’s grandiosity, self-importance and business model places it above submitting to strong regulatory scrutiny.

Question: Why, after five years of running into problems domestically and internationally, is Uber still so arrogant?

Scene three: The California Public Utilities Commission (CPUC).

(The CPUC is the California regulatory board).

CPUC: We’d like to consider fingerprinting Uber and Lyft drivers to protect California passengers.

Uber: Forget about it.

CPUC: Oh yeah, you’re right. Sorry we asked.

Official language from the CPUC “proposed decision” on fingerprint background checks: “In confronting this issue, the Commission has sought to balance the need to adopt regulations that promote the public safety aspects of the TNC industry, yet not obstruct the public’s demand for this new mode of transportation.”

There’s that word again: balance.

In declining to fingerprint Uber and Lyft drivers, The CPUC, Uber’s first regulator, cites the need to balance passenger safety with Uber’s need to sign up drivers fast and easy.

Diagnosis: psyche-wise, Uber is a Kingbaby. Spoiled at home, this brat is a mess abroad. And maybe at a loss to understand why.

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