Don't be surprised if your next Uber driver lectures you about the "miracle of sleep" or has a "nap pod" installed in the back of their car. Uber announced Wednesday that media mogul, author, and sleep advocate Arianna Huffington has joined its board of directors — a move that is already prompting backlash from some of the ride-sharing company's critics.
In a blog post today, Uber CEO Travis Kalanick praised Huffington as a successful entrepreneur and someone who's "emotional intelligence" can help balance out his own data-driven approach. "Arianna embodies the type of optimistic leadership we need as Uber continues to grow," Kalanick says. "Her guidance has been invaluable to me personally over the years, and I know that in this new role she'll help take Uber to the next level."
In a nod to Huffington's Greek roots, Kalanick said he was "confident she will bring some ethos and pathos to our Uber logos." Uber also posted a gauzy video on YouTube in which Kalanick and Huffington trade mushy compliments — and hugs — over a soothing orchestral soundtrack.
Huffington's addition to the board isn't a complete shock. Earlier this month, she partnered with the company to campaign against drowsy driving. She traveled to college campuses in Denver, Las Vegas, Nashville, Chicago, and the Bay
Area, popping up randomly in Uber rides to preach the gospel of a good night's sleep.
But not everyone is as thrilled as Kalanick about Huffington joining the company. Disability advocates that have been among Uber's most vocal critics sent out a statement questioning the The Huffington Post's ability to continue to cover Uber objectively with its founder on the ride-hail company's board. "Ms. Huffington must immediately recuse herself from any coverage of Uber or ridesharing and the Huffington Post must work to expose Uber's refusal to serve people in wheelchairs," said Dustin Jones, founder of United for Equal Access New York. "Anything less would be a failure of journalistic ethics for the sole benefit of a multi-billion-dollar company."
Jones's criticism, though, is probably a bit misplaced, considering Huffington is likely not involved in day-to-day coverage at her media company. A spokesperson for The Huffington Post said, "Arianna will be recusing herself from all of The Huffington Post's coverage of Uber going forward."
Various wheelchair advocacy groups have hounded Uber for months — especially in New York City, it's largest US market — over the company's struggles with providing access to the disabled. In recent weeks, Uber has proposed a plan to encourage more for-hire vehicle bases to add accessible vehicles to their fleets.