A Stormy Year for Uber: Sexism, Scandals, and Self-Driving Cars

Ride-sharing company Uber has been in the news frequently over the past year — and not in a right way. The company has been falling into sexism accusations and political scandals more often than they’ve been able to pull themselves out of them. What scandals have been hanging over Uber’s head and how will that affect the company’s growth in the future?

Sexism Within and Without

Uber David Bonderman

Uber has recently been accused of fostering a culture of sexism, allowing harassment and sidelining employees because of their gender. The scandal, which happened in February, alleged that sexual harassment claims from female employees were ignored or completely disregarded.

During a recent meeting, the company’s director, David Bonderman, made some sexist comments about women rather than addressing the harassment claims and problems that are inherent in the business.

When the statements came out, Bonderman tucked tail and ran — submitting his resignation and sending out a letter to all employees apologizing for his disrespectful behavior.

In addition to Bonderman’s departure, the company’s CEO took an extended leave of absence at the beginning of June and announced on June 24th, 2017 he was stepping down from the company.

With the upper level of Uber management dropping like flies, you have to wonder whether the company will be able to maintain its momentum into the future.

Politics in Silicon Valley

Silicon Valley Maps
Credit: www.siliconmaps.com

The [Tweet “#DeleteUber”] hashtag went viral after then-CEO Kalanick proclaimed his support for the Trump Administration, and Uber drivers picked up passengers at Kennedy Airport in spite of the taxi protest in response to the first immigration-based executive order signed by the president. Kalanick backpedaled after massive amounts of users deleted their accounts, but the damage was already done.

A new report has found the company is even having trouble retaining new drivers, though a significant percentage of people are downloading the driver app, many of them are leaving the app untouched on their phone or just uninstalling it.

Politics has a habit of either boosting or destroying a company, depending on which side of the line they stay on. When it comes to Uber, the politics of the CEO and the upper management seem to have been destructive, to say the least.

Self-Driving Cars

Uber Self Driving Cars

 

Self-driving cars are the wave of the future, and there’s been a lot of debate as to the impact that these new cars will have on both taxi companies and ride-sharing apps like Uber and Lyft.

In theory, this could be a great way for businesses to improve their profits — after the initial investment to purchase a fleet of self-driving cars, costs are dramatically reduced because there is no need to hire — and pay — drivers when vehicles can drive themselves.

Additionally, Uber’s self-driving cars may present a gray area when it comes to legal issues such as handling car accidents that involve Uber vehicles. Who is responsible for an accident when a self-driving car crashes — the car, the passengers or the programmer who wrote the code that drives the car?

This has been a big conundrum when it comes to self-driving cars and even cars like the Tesla with its autopilot feature. In the event of an accident, where does the responsibility lie — especially when the accident results in a fatality? And what happens when the car crashes as the result of its programming, potentially killing the passengers to save pedestrians or other drivers? Who is responsible then?

This quandary is continuing to stump researchers, though they are pushing forward nonetheless. No matter what they decide, it’s clear that Uber can’t take any more legal hits. Whether this prevents Uber from pursuing their self-driving car plans remains to be seen, but if they do invest in a self-driving fleet, they need to be sure all of their bases, legal and otherwise, are covered.

With an open CEO position, at least one open seat on the board and open slots for a CFO and COO, it will be interesting to see the path that Uber takes in the future and whether new leadership is enough to turn this ailing company around.

Kate Harveston
Kate Harveston is a freelance writer from Pennsylvania. She mainly writes about legal issues and the political realm, but her work has covered a wide range of topics. If you like her writing, you can follow her on Twitter or subscribe to her blog,