The Verge published an estimated 165 articles about Uber in 2016. To me, that seems low. So much Uber-related news happened this year, it boggles my mind: Lawsuits, self-driving cars, a new logo, new app, more lawsuits, new community guidelines, a murder spree, self-driving trucks, and finally, the first Uber gadget.
In many ways, the company strengthened its stranglehold on the ride-sharing industry by making deals and releasing products at a furious pace, all with the purpose of remaining the most widely used transportation service on the planet. Lyft and other competitors stayed in the game, and will remain a prominent thorn in Uber’s side, but there’s no question which company won the ride-sharing wars.
But at what cost? Uber continued its furious pace of fundraising into 2016, at one point netting an insane $3.5 billion from Saudi Arabia’s main investment fund. How much of that money was incinerated in Uber’s ridiculously expensive cash-burning contest with Didi Chuxing in China? Hard to tell, but recent reports indicate the company was able to slow the bleeding by selling its Chinese business to Didi. Still, Uber is far from profitable. Turns out slashing prices to fuel one of the most rapid global expansion plans in history is a costly business.
Uber also embraced its destiny as a transportation company, forging deals with carmakers like Nissan, Volvo, and Fiat Chrysler with an eye on its future self-driving ambitions. It launched limited automated rides in Pittsburgh (with the blessing of local officials) and San Francisco (sans blessing). And it acquired a number of startups, including self-driving truck company Otto, as it announced its intention to expand into freight. Oh, of course, a flying car project. Because why not?
The company made overtures toward improving relations with drivers, redesigning the driver-facing app and raising fares in some cities. But a settlement has yet to be reached in a huge class action lawsuit, after a federal judge rejected Uber’s $100 million offer as too low. Drivers all over the world remain concerned about what Uber’s commitment to self-driving cars will mean for their future employment.
Uber is sticking by its juvenile posturing when it comes to local regulations, even while it employs shady practices to undermine its perceived foes. If Uber is going to be a grown-up company, in 2017, it needs to start playing by the rules.
Verge 2016 Report Card: Uber
- The app is good and getting better
- Interesting experiments, like carpooling, food delivery, and freight
- Boldly pushing boundaries on new technology
- Chafes unnecessarily at regulation
- Can we haz profit?
- Start treating drivers like people