The Uber Drivers Are the Product

The Uber Drivers Are the Product

Lyft drivers spread the Gospel with ride-hailing ministries

Drivers and riders ride through the neighborhood in the company of an Uber driver. (Credit: David Wilson/Yahoo!)

In a car filled to the brim with a family and a dozen or so other passengers, a family of five waits patiently — and patiently — for their ride to come.

Their car is waiting outside in the company of one of Uber’s own drivers as well as his daughter, a young woman who’s excited to have the chance to learn about life, love and community. She’s here to serve as a driver’s assistant, with the expectation that she’ll have the chance to make a change for both the families that ride at her side, and Uber itself.

Ride-hailing has become a $40 billion business in the US. With Uber’s help, the ride-sharing giant was able to create a workforce in its home base of San Francisco that is more than 25,000 people strong.

The first ride-hailing company to go public in 2010, it now has about 70,000 employees. Uber has made it possible for its drivers to provide rides for some of the most economically disadvantaged communities in the US. But its success has come at a cost: it’s been the recipient of intense scrutiny from some quarters, including from Senator Bernie Sanders of Vermont.

“Uber is the best advertisement for the failure of the entire idea of public transportation,” he wrote in a November 2017 op-ed for the San Francisco Chronicle.

The senator’s concerns were particularly acute as the company was attempting to expand beyond its namesake city to Los Angeles and New York. In 2015, in addition to the cities mentioned by Sanders, Uber started testing a service called UberEats in New York and San Francisco.

In a way, ride-hailing hasn’t changed since it launched in San Francisco: the drivers are the product and the product is the service. It’s built on partnerships between public and private entities.

In many ways, the private, independent drivers have been the public face of the company. They have been the ones the media focus on — often in the form of “bad news,” which often shows up in the form of the most unflattering headlines of the year.

The New York Times (NYT) has published

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