What’s going on at Uber Technologies Inc.?

by A. R. Bunch

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Lot’s on every front and the downside of having a company everyone talks about is pretty obvious when you have a stumble. I don’t want the mud to be the only thing talked about, however, since it’s not all bad news.

So, on the dark side, according to stories by Greg Bensigner of WSJ  the CEO and co-founder Travis Kalanick, has stepped down. This comes on the heels of a boating accident that claimed his mother’s life and seriously injured his father. It also comes on the heels of a note from five investors asking him to step aside due to a lot of allegations around sexual harassment of women in the workplace.

The allegations receive merit due to the firing and resignation of many top executives at Uber, but the official statement by Kalanick was, “I love Uber more than anything in the world and at this difficult moment in my personal life I have accepted the investors request to step aside so that Uber can go back to building rather than be distracted with another fight.”

To put the events of the last four months in context here’s a brief run down brought to you by Justin Bariso:

Starting February 19, 2017 Susan Fowler, former Uber Engineer, reported on her personal blog that she’d faced discrimination, harassment, and career sabotage while at Uber.

Former Attorney General Eric Holder began a major investigation into the company’s practices and management style

Numerous executives fled the company on their own volition (or were soon fired)

Another 20 employees were fired over claims of inappropriate behavior

A prominent member of Uber’s board resigned after a comment was leaked that many felt was sexist

Uber brought aboard Wan Ling Martello, head of Nestle Asia, as its second female board member

Uber loses market share to chief competitor Lyft

Ultimately, Travis Kalanick, Uber’s founder, resigns as CEO

On the bright side. Uber appears to have cleaned house on this issue.

On the dark side, law suits have begun between Google and Uber over self-driving technology. Lawsuits between such companies aren’t typically that damning though. Its just a part of trying to develop new technology in a world where everyone else is too. Uber stands accused of hiring an engineer who took files with him when he left Google. Could be fire beneath that smoke, or could all just be fog.

Uber has recently a bid to force its drivers to abide by the arbitration clause brought against it from drivers who claimed that Uber misrepresented how much they could potentially earn (http://www.latimes.com/business/technology/la-fi-tn-uber-arbitration-20150610-story.html). Uber has gotten away with changing the deal on its drivers at the drop of a hat simply by requiring them to agree to new terms or don’t drive today. It ruffles feathers, which is unfortunate, because the company can probably make money hand over fist without doing so.

They’ve also been sued by drivers over worker classification and an ruling in that case, June 21st, declared that Uber drivers are Uber employees not contractors, and therefore not exempt from labor laws.

On the bright side. Uber has started to address some of the concerns from their drivers. In recent communication with it’s drivers they stated that they are beginning a 180 days of change campaign, during which they will be adding tipping to their app, reducing the time riders have to cancel without paying, and charging time for riders who order a ride and then don’t make an effort to be findable by drivers. These are all common sense changes and it’s good to see Uber focused on more than just expanding to new cities and countries.

Why is Uber getting so much coverage on the Kicker Blog? Because if car driving is automated by companies such as Uber, Apple, and Google, car ownership as we know it could be changed forever. Next week we’ll be looking at these possible changes. Stay tuned.

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