What The Uber?! Uber is in Hot Water in China

Recently, Uber has been struggling to gain ground within the rideshare market in China, with frustrating setbacks including having their Chinese headquarters raided by officials to being blocked on WeChat, China’s immensely popular mobile messaging platform. This week, Uber China has found themselves in hot water again as one of their drivers is suspected of robbing and molesting a female passenger at knifepoint. Sadly, while these occurrences are not new to Uber, this case has come at a particularly bad time for Uber China.

This latest assault happened when a 42-year-old female passenger hailed an Uber car in Chengdu late at night.  According to the woman, at one point during the fare, the driver stopped suddenly in a tunnel and pulled his knife on her. He then demanded she hand over her purse which contained more than 5,000 yuan (around $780). Afterwards he proceeded to drive the women to a secluded location, in the outskirts of the town, where he apparently molested her and took a few photos warning her that he would make the photos public if she were to speak of the assault.

The women did come forward to police and the driver was arrested on Wednesday. This is now the second known alleged sexual assault by an Uber driver in China in the last couple of months and we wonder how Chinese officials will handle this latest Uber assault. Uber has yet to make a comment.

If you have a What The Uber moment or want to share a What The Uber story please email[email protected] or use the hashtag #WhatTheUber to get your story featured and shared on our social media!

Which One? Uber vs. Lyft vs. Taxi

Trouble navigating the world of rideshares, taxi services, and other transportation options? Using RideGuru, we have broken down the costs of two of the major rideshare services, Lyft and UberX, and traditional taxi services. The costs of these three transportation options are compared in five major cities in the United States. Ride on!

To see the full RideGuru comparison breakdown:

Boston | Chicago | Dallas | Los Angeles | New York City 

Will Uber Ever Dominate The International Rideshare Market?

There’s no arguing that Uber is the undeniable champion of rideshare in the United States.  Regardless of which metric you use to define success, Uber is at the top and it’s not because of a lack of competition either.  Even rapidly-growing Lyft still has a ways to go to catch up, despite technically being in second place.

But outside of the US, it’s a decidedly different story.  Uber is now available in over 50 countries worldwide but they haven’t experienced the same rapid rate of growth as they have in the US.  In fact, Uber has faced bans in Germany, driver attacks in Amsterdam and raids in China just to name a few of its most recent international headlines.

In the US, Uber can attribute a lot of its success to doing a great job at everything that taxis did poorly.  They released an on-demand smartphone app that would let you hail a ride, pay with a credit card and even let you rate your driver.  None of which was possible before Uber.  And by skirting traditional regulations and licensing, they were able to offer a superior product at a much lower price point than conventional taxis.

The UberX model is the one that we all know and love and it uses every day drivers (like myself) to transport people around for next to nothing.  But while Uber may technically be in over 50 countries worldwide, this model of using unlicensed hobbyists does not have the same prevalence abroad.  In fact, Uber has tried this model and failed more often than not because of entrenched taxi unions and stifling government regulation.  The “innovate first, regulate later” strategy in places like Europe has frankly not worked very well.

I recently took a trip to Dublin, Ireland to experience the transportation situation first-hand and in-between all the pints of Guinness, I managed to talk to a handful of local Uber drivers or should I say taxi drivers.  In Dublin, UberX drivers are actually taxi drivers with an Uber app.  One driver I talked to told me that, “Hailo is actually the dominant rideshare app here in Europe.  I’d say about 90% of drivers here use Hailo but only 10% use Uber (in addition to Hailo).  And most of my Uber pick-ups are American tourists or other Europeans, locals use Hailo”.

For those not familiar with European rideshare options, Hailo is actually a very similar to Uber smartphone app that allows you to call, pay for and rate taxi drivers.  So in Europe, Uber is competing with a product that as I discovered, works pretty well.  Every time I needed a Hailo ride, there was a taxi cab within 1-3 minutes around the downtown area of Dublin.

Another challenge that Uber faces in places like Ireland is competing against very strong labor unions.  In Great Britain, nearly 26 percent of all workers are members of a trade union, compared to just 11 percent in the US.  Europe has traditionally been known for its strong labor force and that’s one of the reasons why US travelers often encounter things like airline and metro strikes when traveling abroad.  Unions like these present a much greater challenge to companies like Uber trying to disrupt traditional markets.

(I actually encountered a 2 day bus strike while in Dublin.)

The cost of an UberX in Dublin was just 10% less than that of a taxi and Uber’s commission was only 2%.  Hailo also takes a 12% commission but offers no discount to the passenger.  Most drivers I talked to seemed happy with the current arrangement but things could change if/when Uber tries to enlist unlicensed drivers on the UberX platform.  Cab drivers in Dublin already independently own and operate their cars (unlike in the US where drivers generally pay a weekly fee to a fleet owner regardless of whether they work or not) so there’s not a whole lot of incentive for them to ever undercut their own pricing scheme.

The only way Uber can experience US-like growth in these markets abroad is to use unlicensed drivers who are able to bypass traditional licensing and regulations.  These are the types of drivers that Uber has built its business on but the challenges abroad could be too much to overcome.


About Harry Campbell, The RideShare Guy

Hello TFF Readers, my name is Harry Campbell and I run a blog for rideshare drivers called The Rideshare Guy and I also write about the on demand economy for Forbes.  I’ll be sharing articles from time to time on what’s going on in the world of rideshare and what you need to know as a passenger whether you enjoy taxis, rideshare or all of the above!


This post was originally posted on Forbes.com

What The Uber?! Uber Hired 25 Drivers with Criminal Records Including a Murderer!

Another weekly What The Uber story about how Uber isn’t as thorough as they should be when conducting background checks of their potential drivers!

The San Francisco district attorney’s office states that Uber allowed 25 drivers with criminal records to drive for the ride sharing service. One of these drivers was a convicted murderer who previously spent 26 years in prison before being released in 2008. The driver supposedly joined Uber in 2014 using a fake identity and gave over 1,000 rides with Uber before he was discovered. How do you miss that?!

This wasn’t the only mistake Uber made– over 20 more of their drivers were previously convicted of crimes and many spent a significant time in prison. Another one of the drivers was convicted for “committing lewd or lascivious acts against a child under 14” which was conveniently not found when Uber conducted a background check. This ex-driver gave almost 6,000 rides with Uber, and according to the records, some of these rides included unaccompanied children.

Some of the other ex-criminals were convicted of felonies such as kidnapping, selling drugs, and drunk driving.

San Francisco is pushing Uber to use fingerprinting technology in their background checks but Uber is strongly resisting, because they believe that no system is 100% foolproof. I’d say it’s in their best interest to give it a try.

If you have a What The Uber moment or want to share a What The Uber story please email[email protected] or use the hashtag #WhatTheUber to get your story featured and shared on our social media!

Felicia is an intern at Unleashed, LLC. She is from upstate NY, and is currently pursuing a Marketing degree at Bentley University. One day she hopes to travel the world and visit every continent.

Taxis Through Time (Infographic)

Taxicabs are an important part of business, travel, and everyday life in most countries and as technology advances, so do the designs and features of taxis. In today’s taxis there are now televisions, credit card payment systems, and interactive maps for passengers but taxi’s were not always so technologically advanced and it took the “modern taxi cab” a long time to become what it is today.  Take a look at the below infographic, “Taxis Through Time”, to learn how the taxi industry evolved through the ages.

To view the original infographic  please visit The Taxi Centre.


View from the Other Side: An Interview with a Rideshare Driver

Many of us have experienced the rider-side of rideshare services like Lyft and Uber. The driver side is completely different though – their reasons and the process to become a driver as well as the passengers they interact with. We interviewed a current driver who works for both Uber and Lyft in Boston to hear about the other side. Check out the interview below.

How long have you been driving for rideshare services? And which ones do you drive for?

I have been driving for both Uber and Lyft since October 2014, close to a year now.

 Why did you decide to try driving for a rideshare services?

I have a full-time job, but wanted to make a little extra money during my downtime. A gig with Uber or Lyft seemed like an easy and convenient way to earn some extra money. Plus, I already used the services as a passenger, so I felt comfortable moving onto the driver side.

 How do you sign up to be a driver?

Uber: The process to become a driver for Uber is largely digitized and not too lengthy of a process. I uploaded all required personal documents online and the company conducted a background check. Final approval and permission to download the driver app, which is separate and different than the passenger app, took over one week. Overall, I felt this process was not as smooth as Lyft.

Lyft: On the other hand, the process to become a driver for Lyft was much more thorough.  More personal information and an in-person meet up with a Lyft “mentor” were required. A Lyft Mentor is a current Lyft driver who signs up to meet with you for an additional stipend from the company. Once all paperwork is approved and a background check is completed, a mentor reaches out via text message to schedule a meet up time and location. During this appointment, the mentor will take pictures of your car, walk you through using the Lyft app, and go for a practice ride with you. After this is successfully completed, I was approved to start driving for Lyft within 48 hours. Unlike Uber, the Lyft driver app is the same as the passenger app; you are given permissions to switch between the two.

How do you balance/manage working for both rideshare services?

Before starting my driving shift, I look over both apps to see if any surcharges or guarantees are available; this is based off of passenger demand. Uber uses surcharges to encourage drivers: surcharges multiply the fare price by a given amount so you can make more money with the same amount of rides. Lyft uses guarantees to encourage drivers: drivers are guaranteed to make $25 per hour (or another given amount) if you sign on and work for one hour.

I am more likely to choose to drive for Lyft because they implement the guarantee more often because this only affects the driver, rather than the passenger too. However, if there is no guarantee, I will choose Uber because there is normally a higher demand: more people using the app and requesting rides. This means more riders and more money.

Do you prefer driving for one service over another? If so, why?

I prefer driving for Lyft over Uber because of the clientele. The passengers I pick up for Lyft are generally more relaxed, conversational, and easier to get along with. Passengers I pick up with Uber seem to have a different mentality; many are rude, demanding, and less personable. They treat you like a chauffeur rather than a friend.

From a passenger perspective, do you prefer riding in Lyft or Uber?

I prefer to use Lyft as a passenger; it’s usually cheaper.

What do you see as the advantages and disadvantages of this type of work?

Advantages: The big advantage for me is the flexibility and ability to work whenever I want. I can work all night or for an hour, any day of the week. I love that there are no cash transactions and everything is electronic. It takes the headache out of dealing with cash and change and all that.

Disadvantages: The wear and tear on my personal vehicle as well as the cost of gas are both disadvantages. Neither Uber nor Lyft reimburses you for vehicle maintenance or gas costs associated with providing rides.

What’s best ride you have given? Worst ride?

Best ride: While driving for Lyft, I started talking to a married couple I was bringing to downtown Boston. The man worked for a large banking corporation in the city. I told him I was interested in potentially working for that company full-time and we ended up exchanging professional information! He took my resume and helped get me an interview with the company. I love that: people helping people.

Worst ride: I was driving for Uber when I picked up a rowdy group. They kept putting in addresses to incorrect locations and changing destinations after I arrived. They picked up and dropped off multiple people without ever asking. Then after I finally dropped them off at what seemed like the final location, they made a scene and entered into the vehicle again for a final drop-off. It was a nightmare.

Do you think these types of companies are here for the long haul? (Take over taxi industry?) How do you see them evolving?

Yes, I see companies like Uber and Lyft here for the long run. They already have decent market share and continue to gain popularity. The taxi industry is not evolving with the new type of demand from riders; so many people complain about taxis to me while I am driving for Lyft and Uber. I think rideshare services will take over the taxi industry very soon.

I see rideshare services evolving into transportation services for more than people. They will utilize their services to offer more types of on-demand services, maybe more food delivery or even package delivery.

Do you feel this type of work should be more structured or regulated as certain state legislatures are trying to achieve?

I personally don’t think that this type of work should be more structured, but I do see the other side. As a part-time worker, I like that I can create my schedule and have so much flexibility. I think benefits and structured schedules may work for full-time workers, but not for someone like me. If they switched over the more regulated work hours I would quit, I need the flexibility.

What The Uber?! Uber “Mistakenly” Hires a Convict

It is time for our weekly What The Uber story and this week we want to hear your opinions on the current Uber Dallas situation.

For those who are unfamiliar, last week in Dallas, ­­­a female passenger accused her male Uber driver of sexually assaulting her after he followed her into her home. To make matters worse, when the police looked into the Uber driver in question they found that he had been recently incarcerated on a federal weapons conviction in 2012 and that he was using a fake, expired city permit to drive for Uber. Any Uber driver applicant, you would think, would be immediately vetted from the process after serving time in jail or trying to apply with a fake permit! So how was this convict allowed to drive for Uber?

While Uber stayed mum about the situation for almost a week they are finally coming clean and explaining how they failed to catch this major red flag! According to Consumerist, “The screw-up began in Jan. 2014, when the convicted felon signed up with Uber — not as a driver, but as a “partner” to help drum up business for his family’s limousine service that was on the UberBlack platform. That’s when he presented the bogus permit, but since he was listed as “Will Not Be Driving,” on the account, it appears the company did not do any further screening. But then the real gaffe, one that would have devastating consequences, happened in April 2015, when someone at Uber “mistakenly” gave him access to be a driver for the company.”

We are glad Uber is admitting to their faults, but this is a pretty big “mistake” to make! How does someone just accidentally give a random partner access to be a driver? Uber did announce that since the sexual assault allegations, they have inspected the limo companies and livery drivers who use Uber and they also plan to increase their checks on driver permits in Dallas. We hope Uber has truly learned from this and plans to not only tighten their background checks in Dallas but in all their supported locations.

If you have a What The Uber moment or want to share a What The Uber story please email [email protected] or use the hashtag #WhatTheUber to get your story featured and shared on our social media!