So what has grabbed British attention the most this week? Is it ISIS? Refugees? Donald Trump’s influence in UK politics. No. The potential loss of Uber on London’s streets, is in fact what has sent shockwaves throughout the nation. Approaching 800,000 signatures, the Save Your Uber In London petition has overtaken various petitions including Block Donald J. Trump from UK entry and Accept more asylum seekers and increase support for refugee migrants in the UK.
Translated as “over” or “above” in German with strong connotations of superiority and dictatorship, the word ubër has a history far beyond that of the multi-billion-dollar cab company we know today. Having been closely associated with Hitler’s project of world domination, the word was dropped from the German national anthem. It has come to be known as meaning ‘super’ or ‘ultra’. The word Uberisation has now been born.
As Uber faces various scandals because of their bullying corporate culture, the history of the word resonates; it is becoming clear that the name may suit the company now better than ever as they dominate the taxi market globally and face conflict with regulators, customers and their employees.
Founded in 2009 as UberCab by Garrett Camp and Travis Kalanick and officially launched in San Francisco in 2011, Uber is now the world’s biggest start-up and by far the biggest company in the gig economy. Operating in over 732 cities and 84 countries, Uber reached a record 40 million riders in a single month in October 2016. 4 times the population of London.
At the beginning, Uber was a revelation, without doubt a superior and mega company which appeared to excel all other taxi services. With a click of a button, users could order a taxi door-door and know their driver’s details, the license plate of their car, a photo of their driver and how long the driver would be. It felt more efficient and safer and avoided having to wait on the street to hail a black cab. Although originally costing 1.5 times as much as a regular cab, as Uber expanded and UberX was founded, Quartz went as far as to claim that “commuting with Uber in New York is cheaper than taking the subway this summer”. Exploding its services across the globe, the world as it was became uberised; UberPOOL, UberEATS, UberCARGO were all born.
However, headlines soon changed tone with ones such as “SICKENING’ Fury as Uber prices soar after London Bridge terror arrack carnage…” and “Uber Sexism: After Allegations of Harrasment, SVP Engineering resigns”. Having faced months of scandals and allegations regarding driver’s background checks, public safety and security as well as the employment rights of their drivers, Uber now has 21 days to appeal and turn itself around or else millions of drivers and hundreds of millions of passengers will find themselves back in black cabs, buses and all other modes that preceded Uberisation.
Image: [Here & Now]