After a rough period of press coverage, Uber is making a concerted effort to regain public trust. CEO Dara Khosrowshahi has even appeared in Uber's marketing spots in an attempt to show that the company is pivoting from a typical, messy startup that's blind to the effects it has on the world into a helpful, community-focused service that puts safety for passengers and drivers alike at the forefront of their strategy.
But things had gotten pretty messy for a while there and Uber is still outlawed in Denmark, Hungary, and Bulgaria, while they've pulled out of China and Australia's Northern Territory, on top of partial bans in London and much of Europe. The company will probably claw its way back into usefulness for residents of these regions—and massive popularity in the biggest cities in the United States certainly suggests that consumers appreciate Uber's services.
Every great idea goes through its growing pains as economies of scale and the follies of everyday human beings begin to affect a business as it transitions from concept to real-world product. Part of the way that Uber has combated the potentially fickle nature of its drivers, passengers, regions of operation, and overall utility is by implementing a series of rules that its drivers must follow.
While every business expects their employees to adhere to the norms of society and most include a handbook outlining acceptable behavior, the strange circumstances that many Uber drivers find themselves in has led to a series of strange rules put in place to protect them, their passengers, and the company as a whole.
A major part of Uber's business comes on weekend evenings when riders have had one too many and rely on a sober driver to get them home safely (and without any potential interactions with Johnny Law). And while inebriated riders may be highly likely to fall asleep during their ride home, there are also, surely, plenty of sober people who live lives so busy that they become uncontrollably tired when riding in the backseat of an Uber. But what exactly, is a driver to do when they arrive at their destination and their passenger is sound asleep? The best bet might be to turn on some loud pump-up tunes, because Uber specifically forbids their drivers from touching passengers while they're asleep.
Uber has strict rules when it comes to the vehicles their drivers can operate. And while it seems reasonable to make sure that the cars are insured, in good running condition, and clean, the ban on two-door cars doesn't make much sense. After all, wouldn't it be fun to be able to call a Ferrari for a ride? A good move for Uber could even be to have a special promo for riders who are able to say they are alone and then surprise solo riders with a treat like a ride in radical supercar rather than a bland Prius (for once).
This rule may surprise just about anyone living in Los Angeles but Uber actually has a rule that children, and specifically teens, are not allowed to ride without adult supervision. The fact that a 16-year-old teenager can be allowed to drive a car on their own but can't ride in an Uber doesn't make much sense. And for parents who find themselves completely nervous about lending their car to a new driver (or buying a car outright for a kid), Uber seems like a more reasonable way around the situation. This rule may be broken quite often, as drivers don't just go around asking for an ID for every passenger they pick up.
It seems reasonable that both drivers and passengers should expect a semblance of safety when using Uber's ride-sharing services. But for some people in this country, personal safety comes in one form, and one form only. Uber's legal section states, "Our goal is to ensure that everyone has a safe and reliable ride. That's why Uber prohibits riders and their guests, as well as driver and delivery partners, from carrying firearms of any kind while using our app* Anyone who violates this policy may lose access to Uber."
But that asterisk in there leads to a funny footnote: "*To the extent permitted by applicable law." Turns out, Uber may not want to get into a Constitutional crisis about the Second Amendment in the fine print of their rules.
While Uber wisely has plenty of rules in place to prevent bad drivers, dangerous predators, and otherwise nefarious people from picking up their riders and ruining the company's (already tenuous) reputation in the public's collective mind, some locations don't entirely trust the company to do their due diligence. An example is Los Angeles International Airport (LAX), which has their own rules—that are much more strict than Uber's—about who can operate a commercial vehicle. Drivers allowed to pick up riders at LAX must be additionally able to prove that they haven't had a DUI in seven years and have never been convicted of reckless driving, among many other details.
At the DMV these days, the line for taking driver license photos moves much faster than it did before everyone became a professional at freezing their faces in photogenic form for their forty selfies a day. Uber is part of the modern world and knows that the pics that are on driver licenses aren't always the most flattering or, more importantly, the most inviting. So they've decided that a driver's actual driver license photo simply won't do for their app. Instead, drivers must take a better photo of themselves looking a bit more cheerful than they were after having to wait three hours in a crowded, hot office just to be muttered at by a disgruntled DMV employee during their eye test.
The Uber community has an unspoken rule that drivers and passengers should attempt to communicate as little as possible during their ride. Some members of that community, however, do tend to be attractive—and other members can't seem to resist getting a little too forward. For drivers, Uber has stipulated—specifically—that one of the biggest no-nos is for a driver to ask whether their passenger is single. Sure, it's an innocuous question that can lead to a simple rejection but Uber understandably doesn't want to risk putting their entire reputation on the line because someone acted just a bit too creepy to a passenger having a bad day.
Most businesses wouldn't be happy with their employees hitting on their customers, and Uber is no different. And while Uber has told their drivers not to get too bold and ask their passengers whether or not they're single, another way that they keep anything from getting too creepy is to prevent drivers from being able to contact their riders after they've dropped them off. But even though the Uber app prevents such contact, there's no way that Uber could stop their drivers from being so forward as to ask for a phone number, so they've made a rule stipulating that contact after the ride is prohibited.
Even Uber drivers no the old adage about rules being meant to be broken and Uber as a company knows that despite their best efforts, humans are only human. To combat both drivers and passengers who are willing to break the individual rules that would theoretically prevent any advances—either wanted or unwanted—Uber has a strict rule that 100% bans any funny stuff from going on between riders and passengers. If broken, both willingly and (obviously) unwillingly, the rule leads to an immediate ban from their services. Whether or not good, old-fashioned yellow cabs have the same ban, Hollywood certainly seems willing to bet this one is getting broken left and right.
One rule that seems logical at first but then gets stranger the deeper down the rabbit hole it leads is the strict requirement that drivers use a phone mount. Sure, it allows for an easier view of a map with pickup locations, driving directions, and contact information—but Uber's app even accesses the accelerometer in their drivers' phones to make sure a phone mount is being used. This prevents drivers from texting too often on the job, but their app also helps keep drowsy drivers from pushing themselves too far in the hopes of making a few more bucks late some Saturday night.
Everyone goes faster than the posted speed limit occasionally. Whether it's while passing a slow truck, trying to make that yellow light, or just because of the feeling of blasting down a wide-open road, the easily accessible power at our beck and call while driving automobiles can be intoxicating. But Uber drivers are on the clock, working in an industry that depends on passengers feeling safe and secure during their rides—so Uber has made it so that their app will tell drivers when they are speeding, and even keep track of how often they break the posted speed limit to prevent horsepower-happiness from getting the best of everyone.
No one likes being told what to do and no one likes feeling like a cog in a big machine, unable to control their own life and destiny. But Uber drivers have to sacrifice much of their perceived freedom to earn what usually equates to barely a living wage. Much like bus drivers and long-haul truckers have limits on how many hours they can work in a row, Uber uses their app - and the drowsiness info that it collects - to tell drivers when to stop and take a break, and it will even stop sending them rides when the situation gets dire enough.
Companies like Uber and Lyft like to boast that they help improve traffic for the residents of the cities that they operate within but everyone with a brain knows it's a lie. From drivers who are cruising at five miles per hour trying to find their riders to riders who holler at the last second to be let off in the median during rush hour traffic, everyone involved seems to put their reason and sense of community on hold when it comes to ride-sharing apps. But that's not to say that Uber, as a company, isn't trying to keep things flowing—they've made a rule that their drivers can only drop off passengers in legal dropoff zones.
No one likes a backseat driver who is always telling the person behind the wheel how their habits are wrong. But let's be honest, no one likes someone in the passenger seat critiquing their driving, either. Well, it seems that Uber prefers backseat drivers to the other option and has a strong recommendation that their driving professionals request their passengers sit in the rear. So the next time an Uber rolls up and it feels awkward to sit in the back seat of a car that's not either yellow or black and white, do the driver a favor and wiggle into the back row.
Uber customers love being able to open up the app and see a map of their local surroundings that shows all the potential rides available for them to hail. And Uber's entire business would be borderline impossible without GPS tracking. (Remember having to call a yellow cab on a landline telephone?) But the flip side of all those tiny cars on that tiny map is that drivers give up any semblance of privacy and have to be aware that their every movement is being tracked by Uber. To be fair to Uber, though, everyone with a smartphone is being tracked pretty much 100% of the time, anyways, and their drivers are on the clock working, anyways.
While much of the news about Uber has focused on passenger safety and the role that Uber has played in decimating local cab drivers' livelihoods in droves, not many stories have focused on driver safety. But during their working hours, these people are cruising around neighborhoods they don't know, picking up people they've never met. Uber's recruitment page, on the other hand, expressly recognizes that potential drivers may be nervous about being out and about alone, so they have the option of having their drivers' GPS location sent to either a friend or family member to help keep them feeling comfortable.
This may actually be the Uber rule that gets broken the most frequently and that earns drivers the highest tips of all. Uber obviously doesn't want their drivers getting pulled over for having too many passengers, as a police encounter isn't liable to help anybody's ratings. But on a busy night when a passenger requests a regular Uber ride that's just a short distance and the driver arrives to find one extra rider, it seems unlikely they're going to pass up a few bucks when weighing the potential that they'll actually get caught by the police with four passengers in the backseat.
Considering that the entire point of being an Uber driver is to make money while driving other people around all day and night, it makes sense that Uber would require any potential drivers to have a valid driver license before applying for their job. But it also makes no sense that anyone without a valid driver license would even consider applying to become an Uber driver, revealing a strange trait among legal departments, who are forced to protect themselves and their company from actions that would be self-incriminating when undertaken by people trying to earn a quick buck behind the wheel.
Most regions allow humans to get behind the wheel of a car on their own for the first time at an age of around 16 to 18 years old. Whatever the exact number, it is usually preceded by a period with a learner's permit, when an adult of a certain age must be present for legal driving. Then, typically, a new driver can't drive around with underage people for a prescribed amount of time. To become an Uber driver, applicants must be able to show that they've been legally driving for one year. Meanwhile, potential hires under the age of 23 must be able to show that they've been legally driving for at least three years.
This seems like a no-brainer. In fact, so much of a no-brainer that it seems odd that Uber would have to stipulate that their drivers meet the minimum driving age in the city they hope to shuttle passengers around in. If drivers are required to have a valid driver license and have had at least one year of licensed driving, how could a driver possibly not be of legal driving age for their city? Perhaps this is just Uber covering their own tails—or maybe in other regions, where driving age may vary more widely within smaller areas, this is an important distinction.
Sources: Uber, Wikipedia, and Fly LAX.