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Uber: Why a Driver’s License and 4 Doors Can’t Guarantee Safety for Travelers

“Do you take a cab sometimes?” I randomly asked one of my employees this morning. “Actually not”, she replied, slightly confused. “It is too expensive!”.

Interesting, I thought to myself, while I walked back into my office and tried to make a list in my head of all the things I do expect from a good transportation service. It should be safe, reliable and bring me from point A to point B for a reasonable price, that much was clear.

Even though Uber is currently not considered as the safest option for a trip (due to the latest incidents), many people still rely on it. Why? Because it is affordable. What makes the service so appealing to the customers is that the competition (regular cabs) is usually more expensive and often not as reliable as it should be. Last week a taxi strike caused many disruptions in Paris, blocked the roads and annoyed drivers on their way to work. The consequence? People do not trust in the services of taxi drivers and are looking for better options.

You Can Drive? Congratulations!

According to Uber, “anyone with a valid driver’s license and a car” can become a driver. Oh, and: Your car must have four doors. Does that make you feel safe?

Yes, I didn’t think so.

A 6-year-old girl was killed by an Uber driver in a car crash earlier this year, customers got raped in DC and India, choked, struck in the head with a hammer and even kidnapped.

How safe do you feel now? Exactly.

It is alarming how many people still take the risk just because it is cheaper. The reason why it isn’t as expensive as a regular cab is the following: As an Uber driver, you are responsible for your own taxes. Pay them, or don’t pay them (which is illegal by the way) – The transportation service doesn’t really care.

I’m not trying to bash the service; competition is always good and important for the market. But I think that there are many safety risks that need improvement as fast as possible. There are already good alternatives to Uber (for example Curb that only works with professional drivers) and if the horrible incidents keep happening, [U] needs to think of a way to turn the tables and be completely trustworthy again.

Kind of sad if you think of the good ideas Uber has, especially for corporate travelers. Every company wants to save travel costs and manage those expenses in the most comfortable way. With the special business service [U] offers their customers, each ride can be billed directly and receipts don’t need to be saved and organized anymore. The company started their service earlier this year and even allows corporate travel managers to analyze the transportation accounts easily through the app. Employees can be invited through the dashboard, connect their personal Uber accounts with their company’s account and switch between them whenever they want and need to. If an employee needs a ride during his corporate trip, the receipt will automatically be added to the system.

Sounds Good, But What About The Safety And Health Of Corporate Travelers?

According to the U.S. Travel Association, direct spending on corporate travel totaled $266 billion in 2013. Planning corporate trips should always be as uncomplicated and inexpensive as possible, which is understandable and the reason why PASS considers these important factors with its corporate travel management solutions. A company should always care about the health and safety of their employees and educate them about the risks of using transportation services that aren’t commercially approved and regulated, even if that means paying $10 more per ride. The main problem with Uber is that it doesn’t deliver consistent and safe results to the customers and can therefore be a foreseeable risk for the traveler. I am not saying that using the [U] service is always a bad idea, but since it is not regulated by a central system or government and due to the latest incidents, one cannot deny that there is a certain risk for leisure and corporate travelers. You wouldn’t hire someone for your company’s limo service who isn’t a qualified and licensed driver, would you? And you probably would make sure that the vehicles are safe and regularly inspected, right? So why expose yourself or your employees to this unnecessary travel risk just to save costs?

Uber Is Still A Big Deal

Many companies are aware of the risks and advise their employees to only use official taxi services. And then there is Morgan Stanley which has included Uber in their corporate travel policy last month. MS recommends their employees to use the transportation service for their business trips, since many of them were already using Uber in their personal lives and liked the flexibility it offers. Even Concur counts on Uber since July ’14. “For years our clients have been asking us to create a connection with Uber. Travelers will be able to request, ride, pay, and automatically expense – all from their mobile phone”, Concur states on its corporate blog. If you believe the stock, Uber seems to be a home run and is already worth $41 billion. According to Forbes, their app is on track to make $2 billion revenue this year.

So I’m interested: What is your opinion? As a corporate traveler, do you want to take a chance to save your company some bucks? Or are there other services which I didn’t mention you like about Uber?

Image by Sergey Ryzhov

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