UberX riders beware

Something I find very disturbing and others should as well is that it appears Uber allows anyone with a driver’s license to become an UberX driver.

A few weeks ago, I tapped on my Uber app to catch a ride to an event in downtown Washington, DC. A new option called UberX was featured at a lower cost than a taxi. The app didn’t describe how UberX was different from the other Uber options of taxi, Black, SUV or LUX cars. So, I assumed it was a cheaper taxi. As my mother always lectured me, never assume.

About 7:00pm, I received a text from the driver indicating she was waiting in front of my home. Peering through a window in front of my house, I didn’t see a taxi or black colored car, which are the only cars I’ve had pick me up in the past. As I walked out of the front door to look for my Uber ride, I was surprised to hear a car horn blow from a white SUV parked in front of my neighbor’s house.

I walked up to the car and asked the female driver if she was my Uber ride. She said yes. As I sat in the back seat, I thought to myself, “something doesn’t feel right here.” In hindsight, I should have never gotten in the car. The woman was very friendly but as I looked around, it occurred to me this was her personal car she was using to give people Uber rides.

“I’ve never been up to this part of Washington before, it’s nice,” she said, as she plugged in the address to the Hay Adams Hotel where I was headed.

“When did you start driving for Uber,” I asked her.

She explained this was only her second week. I asked how she got the job. She explained she worked at Macy’s as a sales associate and heard some people at work talking about driving for Uber. Being industrious, she researched it online and applied to be a driver.

Looking at her perplexed, I asked her what qualifications Uber asked for. She explained the company wanted her social security number and proof of a valid driver’s license. The only other qualification she explained was that her car had to be no more than two years old.

Presumably, Uber runs some kind of background check on people. I asked her but she didn’t know. She simply told me that two weeks later her application was approved. Online, Uber advertises a person only has to be “At least 23 years old, with a personal license and personal auto insurance and have a mid-size or full-size 4-door vehicle, in excellent condition.”

I told my pleasant driver, who is a mom driving for Uber to save money for her teenage son’s college education, I would not be comfortable if she had been a male driver. I also said I was not aware Uber was allowing just anyone to become drivers. The woman explained she heard that from several other female passengers recently, who also were surprised by the UberX service.

Uber advertises UberX as “Everyday cars for everyday use. Better, faster, and cheaper than a taxi.” But from my experience, this is deceptive marketing. Uber needs to tell customers the truth that “everyday people,” even, possibly, those with criminal records or intent, could be the ones giving customers an unsafe ride.

While bad people exist everywhere, I feel more comfortable using Uber’s professional chauffeur or taxi driver partners, who at least have to go through the trouble of getting a commercial or city license to drive people around and are held to a little more scrutiny than regular drivers.

I can appreciate my driver wanting to work part-time for Uber to raise money for her son’s education. But I think it’s reckless for cities to allow Uber to hire anyone with a driver’s license and car keys to be their “partners” in “moving people.”

Without a better background checking system–or even some type of background check system–this is a recipe for disaster.


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