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The Good, The Bad, and The Uber

There’s been quite a bit of talk about Uber, both good and bad.

Uber, an on-demand transportation company, allows people to contract “regular Joes” for cab-style rides in the driver’s personal vehicle, all via a simple smartphone app. Clients use the app to conveniently “e-hail” the closest available driver from their phone, and their credit or debit card on file pays for the ride, eliminating any physical money exchange. While the concept is simple, the execution and driver regulations have come into question.

Uber Technologies Inc. was hit with a consumer class action, Jacob Sabatino v. Uber Technologies, Inc. et al. (Case No. 3:15-cv-00363), alleging that the company makes numerous misrepresentations about the safety checks it conducts on its drivers and cars, including that the claim that it conducts “industry-leading” background checks on its drivers.

So what does it take to be an Uber driver?

  • You must be at least 21 years old
  • You must have access to a four-door car that is year 2005 or newer in most cities*
    • 2000 or newer: Los Angeles, Orange County, San Francisco
    • 2011 or newer: New York
    • 2001 or newer: Chicago
  • You must have in-state auto insurance with your name on the policy
  • Must have an in-state driver license, licensed for at least one year
  • In-state plates with current registration (commercial plates are acceptable as well)
  • Pass a background check and a driving record check

“Uber doesn’t even come close to these requirements,” the plaintiff wrote in a complaint filed in California federal court.

Instead, the ride-hailing company shields itself from liability by hiring drivers through wholly owned subsidiaries, Sabatino said. And it doesn’t use fingerprints in its background checks, which means the checks could be false, according to the suit.

This isn’t the first time Uber has been slapped with claims such as these. These lawsuits beg the question: Just how safe is Uber?

The pros of the service include fast service and the car being able to find you easily, thanks to the GPS system, which also allows you to track the Uber car’s location. Many would agree that the app keeping your credit card on file is a plus too, eliminating the need for cash and the ability for the driver to overcharge you.

While Uber does boast fast service and sometimes cheaper prices than taxis, the app also has its fair share of negatives that can be very unnerving.

Uber drivers don’t have the same type of insurance coverage as traditional taxi operators. All that is required is that the driver have personal auto insurance that complies with state requirements for registering the vehicles.

Another complaint against Uber is the possible misuse of personal information. The Uber drivers in some states have access to your full name on their trip record, making it possible for them to find you online, if they choose to.

Of course, registered taxi drivers have also been involved in criminal activities against their passengers. But, the cases being brought against Uber come at a time when they are battling pushback from critics and some government officials.

Whether you get in a taxi cab or an Uber vehicle, you’re putting your safety into the hands of another. Both options pose their own risks. We’d like to hear your thoughts on the subject. Leave a comment below!

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