Uber has been in a fight for its business life since just about day one. Every time they expand into a new area, several local entities take exception. Certain politicians, regulators, unions, and other vested interests try first to force Uber out, then grudgingly accept that the market drives commerce and people with smartphones, and a need to travel will not be denied.
That’s not to say there haven’t been some denials. When Uber failed to acquire the proper permitting for its autonomous vehicle program, San Francisco officials told them to get lost and come back when they had the proper paperwork. Now, they have, but that’s not to say they will be welcomed with exactly open arms.
But that’s only the beginning of the bad press and hard feelings the company has to get past if they want to continue to expand both their driver-led and driver-less operations. One of the most volatile is the ongoing sexual harassment issue that has been nagging the company for some time now. Uber hired former USAG Eric Holder to help them out of that trouble.
And, now, CEO Travis Kalanick is planning to seek “leadership help” after a video of him profanely dressing down an Uber driver went viral on social media. That rant was prompted by questions related to driver pay, a contentious issue in just about every city where Uber operates.
Uber executives and investors may be longing for the salad days when they were just clashing with municipal and state regulators over their operating practices. The company has a reputation for just opening up shop and daring local governments to challenge their right to exist and operate. They’ve lost some but won more, building a world-renowned brand as one of the standard-bearers of the new service economy. But that approach doesn’t work in every arena.
Kalanick said his company has plans to put “fleets” of autonomous vehicles out on the road, bragging that the cost will be so small that many people will simply quit buying cars altogether. As you might imagine, this boast was not taken well by America’s automakers, several of which are working on autonomous vehicles of their own.
The San Francisco case is classic Uber. The company launched their self-driving test program in California, one of the most regulated states in the nation, without asking anyone’s permission. When they were asked why they went that route, Uber essentially shrugged … and moved operations to Arizona. Now, though, the company has complied with regulations and plans to continue its California program where it left off.
Uber is not alone. According to various media reports, they are the 26th company to receive that permitting. So, it’s a cinch that Uber will have some competition. If history is any indicator, they will relish the challenge.