1Uber's surge pricing comes into play during the Sydney hostage crisis
Uber was taken to task in the media for its surge pricing during the Sydney terror attack on December 15, 2014.
Amid a hostage drama in a city cafe, fares on the company's booking app rose to a minimum fee of A$100 ($82) for pickups near the siege, more than four times the fare before the drama unfolded. Sydney's public transport system was under pressure because of the incident as several businesses in the city, including major banks, evacuated offices and sent employees home.
When first challenged about the price increase, an Uber representative tweeted, "We are all concerned with events in CBD. Fares have increased to encourage more drivers to come online and pick up passengers in the area."
That lasted for all of an hour. After a flurry of online outrage, Uber started offering rides for free.
Since then, Uber has apologized and blamed the surge on “algorithmic” pricing that saw fares jump during the siege. The company explained: "Our priority was to help get as many people out of the CBD safely in the midst of a fast-moving event. The decisions we made were based only on helping to achieve this, but we communicated this poorly, leading to a lot of misunderstanding about our motivations.
Surge pricing is algorithmic and kicks in automatically when demand for rides outstrips the supply of cars that are on the road. This encourages more drivers to the area where people are requesting rides. As an increasing number of people were requesting rides that morning in the CBD, surge pricing came into effect automatically, and this is when you might have seen higher prices.
We didn't stop surge pricing immediately. This was the wrong decision."
Indeed it was, Uber. Indeed it was.
2Uber suffers a rash of sexual assaults at the hands of its drivers
Drivers for Uber have been charged at least three times for sexual assault – in Los Angeles, New Delhi, and in Boston.
In December 2014, Alejandro Done, 46, pleaded not guilty to charges of rape, assault to rape, kidnapping, and two counts of assault and battery in a Cambridge court.
According to prosecutors, the passenger summoned a driver and paid via the app prior to getting in the car. Once she was in the car, Done allegedly told her she would need to pay with cash and drove her to an ATM. After she got back into the car, he drove to a secluded area, jumped into the back seat and struck the woman. He strangled her, locked the car doors to keep her from escaping, and covered her mouth so she could not scream, before sexually assaulting her.
Done waived a dangerousness hearing at Cambridge District Court and is currently being held without bail. Uber says Done was not assigned by the service to pick the woman up, and authorities say it is unclear whether he used information gained as an Uber driver to carry out the alleged attack.
3Uber driver holds a passenger's phone hostage for $500 ransom
In December 2013, Jennifer Gomez contacted Uber for a ride while barhopping with friends in L.A. She soon realized she forgot her phone in the car and called the driver in hopes that he would return her phone. The driver (called Emmanuel) inquired as to how much she would be willing to pay to get her phone back, and then demanded $500.
Gomez got in touch with Uber. A representative for the company responded saying, "Our driver operations team has deactivated his account until he returns your phone. I really hope this works."
It didn't. Gomez continued to try to negotiate with Emmanuel, and finally agreed to pay the money for the phone. She made arrangements to meet with him, but he never showed.
The woman was working with Uber on being reimbursed for the phone. We don't know the outcome, but we wonder why police weren't called!
4The Uber driver who attacked a passenger with a claw hammer
Roberto Chicas, 35, a San Francisco bartender, was attacked with a claw hammer by an Uber driver after questioning the driver's route.
Patrick Karajah, 26, has been was charged with assault with a deadly weapon and battery with serious bodily injury. He has pleaded not guilty.
Attorney Harry Stern said Chicas had just finished having drinks following a night of work when he contacted Uber. When Karajah took the freeway rather than city streets to get to Chicas' home, trouble ensued. A female passenger tried to calm the two men down, but the argument escalated, and Karajah snapped.
Karajah pulled over in front of a public housing complex and told his passengers to get out. "For reasons that are unknown at this point, he then snapped and smashed Roberto on the side of the head with a claw hammer," Stern said.
Chicas' face was fractured, and he faces reconstructive surgery – he is in danger of losing an eye.
5The Uber driver who faces a misdemeanor charge after the death of a six-year-old girl
6-year-old Sophia Liu, her mother (Huan Kuang), and little brother were crossing the street in San Francisco's Tenderloin neighborhood when Sofia was struck by Uber driver Syed Muzaffar.
The little girl was killed. Muzaffar was charged with misdemeanor vehicular manslaughter and is free on $50,000 bail, but faces up to a year in prison.
The driver's attorney said the investigation does not show distracted driving, and the district attorney agrees, hence the misdemeanor charge. "There was no use of a cell phone, no texting, no calls, no engagement with the Uber device," attorney John Hamasaki said.
Sofia's mother, also seriously injured from the accident, disagrees with the finding: "He kept looking at the phone because green light shining on his face, it's green. He kept doing it driving. I'm glad the driver is being charged but what about Uber? They are responsible, you know."
Sofia's family has since filed a wrongful death suit against Uber and the company's transportation app as well as the driver. "I am just so sad, I just cry all the time about my daughter," Kuang said.
6The Uber driver who forcibly removed a passenger from his car and broke her phone
39-year-old San Francisco UberX driver Martin Hynek has been charged with battery, malicious mischief, and vandalism after "forcibly" pulling a female passenger out of his car and throwing her iPhone down the street.
The incident appears to have occurred over directions. Hynek, who reportedly struggles with English, told his passenger, "I need address for GPS." According to the victim, she told Hynek the address, but after just two blocks of driving, Hynek pulled over and "demanded that she get out of the car before forcibly pulling her out." She said of the incident: "I put my head down and was texting, and the next think I know we're stopped and he's running to my side of the car cussing, telling me to get the f out of his car. He grabs my arm, I take that hand and I hold it up with my phone to take a picture. He lets go, grabs the phone and throws it down the street."
The victim recovered her phone to take a photo of Hynek's ID. Months later, Hynek posted to SFlist to deny the accusations, saying he indeed asked the passenger to leave his car, but never forcibly removed her from it.
The victim also claims it took Uber 20 hours to respond to her complaints. So far, they have deactivated Hynek pending an internal investigation, will refund the victim's short ride, and will replace her broken phone.
7A driver that was arrested with marijuana and peach vodka draws attention to Uber's background checks
21-year-old Brandon Devante Oliver was arrested in Tuscaloosa, Alabama for possession of marijuana and driving with an open liter of peach vodka. in addition to driving on a suspended license, not having a tag light, operating a vehicle for hire without a business license, not having a chauffeur permit and operating a vehicle for hire without proper insurance.
Whew! That's a laundry list for any driver, but Oliver was an Uber driver, and as such should have gone through the stringent background check Uber claims to run on its employees.
Oliver and seven other Uber drivers were warned or issued citations in September 2014 by the Tuscaloosa Police Department during an undercover sting to root out drivers offering rides through the app without jumping through the hoops outlined in the city's code.
Tuscaloosa Mayor Walt Maddox said the city was glad to see Uber establishing themselves in the area, but made it clear that their convenience and novelty would not exempt them from relevant ordinances: "We want those companies here, but we also believe it's very important that they abide by our current ordinances."
8The Uber passenger that was abducted and taken on a 20 mile joyride
In October 2014, a Los Angeles woman contacted Uber for a ride home. Instead of taking her directly there, the driver took her miles out of her way to an abandoned parking lot. Scary to say the least.
The passenger sent her home address to the app before the driver arrived, but once in the car she was taken on a ride 20 miles out of her way. The driver ignored her questions and directions. After arriving at an abandoned parking lot, she tried to exit the car, but the driver locked all the doors. Only after screaming and causing a commotion did he take her home. The nightmare ride took over two hours.
When she detailed her story to Uber, she received only an "automated" email reply apologizing for the "inefficient route." Her fare was partially refunded, with no acknowledgment of the fact that she was basically briefly kidnapped (she's now dealing with the LAPD and an attorney). A day later, the remainder of her fare was reimbursed.