An Uber ride is different from hopping into a taxi or a traditional car or limousine service. When you download Uber's app and get into a car summoned with the mobile reservation system, you agree to a host of terms and conditions by default. Uber claims it puts potential drivers through a background check so that they can become an impromptu taxi driver using their own car and Uber's tech platform. The incidents, injuries, assaults and accidents involving Uber drivers and the riding public are too numerous to detail. But the real issue is that the public should understand Uber's responsibility to passengers (or lack thereof).
What exactly do passengers agree to when they use Uber? That depends on whom you ask. Most people don't know what they're getting into when they get into one of these Uber cars and they surely don't know what they're getting into when they download the app. The public is essentially giving Uber a free pass -- up to and including possible death.
Uber's terms and conditions are a way for the company to absolve itself of any liability in cases of injury or accident and to avoid responsibility for a driver's actions. It is a way for Uber to attempt to cover their ass and claim they are not responsible for anything that happens to you. Uber's public statements on safety contradict its terms and conditions. It is akin to an outright deception on people. They surely do not in any way seek to warrant that their product/service is safe.
The fine print of Uber's terms and conditions clearly says that passengers accept a risk by using the service. "You understand, therefore, that by using the application and the service, you may be exposed to transportation that is potentially dangerous, offensive, harmful to minors, unsafe or otherwise objectionable," Uber's terms and conditions read, "and that you use the application and the service at your own risk." Lyft essentially operates the same way as Uber.
While there are some Uber and Lyft drivers that are safe, courteous and competent, several incidents have occurred during the past few years that have called into question the safety of the services. The most severe incident was the death of 6-year-old Sophia Liu, who was struck and killed by an Uber driver on New Year's Eve in San Francisco. There have also been more than a dozen allegations of sexual assault and groping; kidnapping; and physical assault, according to several media stories.
Uber claims its drivers are independent contractors rather than employees, which if true, it protect Uber from liability. But the company's terms and conditions can be trumped in court if it's shown that Uber exercises a certain amount of direction and control over its drivers and they more are akin to employees. Such factors of control include the ability to hire and fire drivers, decide where their services are performed, or provide them with specialized equipment, along with other considerations -- many of which, some would argue, including myself, Uber has.
Soon enough, the time will come when the issue of whether Uber's drivers are independent contractors or employees will hit the appellate courts and if it goes bad for Uber, then their entire business model may be placed in grave danger...the same type of grave danger that Uber often places its customers.....the danger of death.