The 90s were a great decade for high school cult classic films. I was actually in college by the time 10 Things I Hate About You came out, nevertheless, it immediately ranked up there with Clueless, Can’t Hardly Wait and Never Been Kissed as one of my top faves! In this modern adaptation of Shakespeare’s Taming of the Shrew, Kat Stratford (played by Julia Stiles) writes a sonnet poem for Patrick Verona (played by the late Heath Ledger) listing all of the things she loves to hate about their bittersweet puppy love romance, which unfolds when he shows up at Padua High. Though I haven’t watched the movie in ages, the title got me to thinking about all of the things I love to hate about driving Uber! It’s incredibly easy to tell people about all the things I totally love (the autonomy, getting paid once a week, freedom to roam around the five boroughs and meet interesting people), but the last three months have given me the type of insight and firsthand knowledge that CERTAINLY makes a girl frustrated at times.
So, the next few Uberlicious posts will be a part of series I’ll call:
10 Things I Hate About U(ber)!
Identity: So, Who’s Really Getting In?
As you may know, there are ongoing debates and reports made on issues surrounding safety when it comes to Uber drivers and passengers. Last week in Miami a neurology doctor, who is now on administrative leave pending investigation of violently attacking a driver’s car while drunk, appeared in a cringeworthy video that happened to be recorded by a passerby. And we all remember the drunken former Taco Bell exec who was caught by dashcam pummeling a driver in Orange County, CA back in November. Depending on what city you live in around the world, there may be certain safety issues that are more prevalent than others, and yet some incidents like these seem more likely regardless of location. There are even concerns over Uber’s decision to allow ex-offenders, whose felony convictions have been reduced to misdemeanors, to drive for the platform. Their position, according to a recent Los Angeles Times article is that:
According to Uber’s chief security officer, Joe Sullivan, the company will
continue to disqualify drivers with felonies on their records, and it has “zero
tolerance for DUI or any intoxication-related misdemeanors.” Anyone with
a record of physical or sexual violence and reckless driving would also be
disqualified, Sullivan said. “We think those are the types of categories most
indicative of a safety risk and those are the ones we’ll focus on.”
What I’ve noticed, though, is that while everyone is asking how safe it is to ride in an Uber with drivers of a particular background or certain dangerous passengers, there is one category that, from my perspective, is being overlooked. That is the issue of passengers being IDENTIFIED before they get into an Uber. What do I mean? Of course passengers are identified, right???
Yes, it is true that each person with an Uber account has their identifying information in their profile. Name, address, phone number and credit card details are on file, like most apps where payment is involved. But, what I’ve experienced in my time driving is how often a car is requested by an Uber client, but when I arrive at the pick up, SOMEONE ELSE gets in. There generally is no pre-warning that a third party passenger will be getting in although, every once in awhile, a person will call or text as a courtesy saying, “Hey this is Mark. I requested the car, but won’t be getting in. Victor will.” Or whomever is Ubering around NYC at that moment. Every now and again, I’ll get a call from a parent when their kid will be getting in after school. But for the most part, I won’t know that a third party passenger is getting in until they appear at my car door.
To be clear: this isn’t about me feeling unsafe about who’s getting into my car. But more so my thinking about a blind spot in Uber’s platform regarding passenger identity, and how it COULD lead to safety issues. The former Taco Bell executive in Orange County, CA was reported to be banned from using Uber for life, but upon hearing that I immediately wondered, “Well, what’s to stop him from having somebody… ANYBODY else call an Uber for him to get into?” Absolutely nothing.
So, this would be one of the top things that really gives me pause as a driver. The fact is, when I pull up expecting a certain person, often another individual gets in without notice or warning. This is something that should be addressed by UberGlobal. I will say that this very rarely, if ever, causes a problem for me beyond brief moments of confusion when a man gets in who is clearly not “Samantha”. But, having a way for Uber account holders to identify who will be riding in lieu of themselves is something that Uber programmers may want to consider integrating into the application.