Uber has made waves this year, both for its position as a tech industry darling and its frequent run-ins with government regulators. It has also been dealing with a public relations fiasco when an exec made comments about hiring opposition researchers to look into the personal lives of unfriendly journalists. Though Uber has been banned from several jurisdictions in recent weeks, none of this has stopped its momentum.
The legal challenges against the ad-hoc taxi service have been substantial. In the last few months, the UberPop service has been banned nationwide in Germany by temporary injunction. Uber has additionally been banned from Nevada as per a court order. In Hoboken, N.J., police can issue fines to drivers because the service does not comply with commercial vehicle licensing laws. The service was banned in Delhi after a passenger accused an Uber driver of raping her (the driver has confessed to the crime, according to police).
Throughout all this, Uber has remained steadfast in challenging each measure. “[W]e have opened doors to thousands of people looking to supplement their income or find a way to support themselves and their family. We remain committed to the tens of thousands of Nevadans who already rely daily on Uber,” reads a company blog post.
Sometimes it looks like Uber is spoiling for a fight as it expands across the world. Uber has expanded into Portland, Ore., despite warnings from transportation officials that the company and its drivers will be operating illegally.
According to Portland city commissioner Steve Novick:
People who pick up passengers for Uber in Portland should know that they are operating illegally and could be subject to penalties. Public safety, fairness among competitors and customer service are our top priorities. Unlike permitted drivers, Uber drivers do not carry commercial insurance, putting Portland customers at great risk.
Uber has the support of younger users, which could enable the service to continue generating money, even if it’s currently operating outside the law. As we’ve seen with other services recently, younger users have less allegiance to established brands, so Uber can continue growing even if it keeps knocked back.
An important question to consider: Are government regulators really interested in protecting public safety, or are they just protecting established businesses models? Many existing taxi companies pay governments for licensing, and Uber has managed to sidestep that process entirely. This could be precisely why it’s receiving so much resistance, and also why it’s valued so highly right now.