Gravel Institute on how Uber is a scam

That’s what the self-driving cars were supposed to be for, to attain lower operating costs than anyone using human drivers.

Also, corrupt political fuckery has also always been part of the game plan. From day one, they were planning to lobby (read: “make enormous campaign contributions”) for the extermination of public transit once the were done killing off the taxis. And of course the California ballot initiative is a prime example. It doesn’t take much creativity to imagine that, once ensconced in a monopoly position, they’d lobby for laws that would throw up barriers to entry for taxi upstarts.

In any event, the original investors have pivoted to Plan B: pump and dump. They did an IPO and got out and some other fools will be left holding the bag when Uber finally, deservedly implodes.


And they has described themselves as a liberal response to PragerU.


I’m not an Uber apologist but I do have to say from personal experience that they have made my business trips much easier vs cabs. Until there are widely available viable alternatives, I will continue to use Uber and/or Lyft.

Like @bunkyboar above, I have been scammed more times than I can count by traditional taxi operators - especially in cities like Bogota or Mexico City where taxi crime is rampant. Sometimes it goes beyond the simple “taking the scenic route” scam too. A common occurrence (called a 'paseo millonario’ ride) is to hail a “cab” on the street only to be met by someone in the backseat pointing a gun at you and driven to an ATM for forced cash withdrawal. More benign are the times when a legitimate cabbie won’t take credit cards and you can’t get a receipt making getting around a strange town a major hassle.

In spite of the larger social issues, Uber has totally revolutionized my foreign travels. I can’t see any real workable alternative in many cases.


I wondered about this when I saw an ad for Domino’s, featuring an autonomous pizza delivery vehicle. The thing is presumably still in development or testing, but what caught my eye was the fine print along the lines of “a tip is not required but appreciated.” So the robot still gets a tip?

I’m paraphrasing from someone I forget, but when they develop a robot to consume the pizza*, they won’t need people at all.

(*Pretty sure ordering already is, or can be, automated)




Uber (and Lyft) solved the abysmal state of taxi companies and things like the medallion system and horrible, horrible customer service from taxis in cities all over the world. They made your trips tracked for fraudulent bathing and so you can track who your driver was, and made it possible for abusive customers to be identified as well. And they did this while offering more or less universal service in cities across the globe, which was a godsend in the days when people actually travelled and stuff.

I’ve taken literally hundreds of taxis in my lifetime in at least 10 different major metropolitan areas, and the combination of outright fraud by taking a longer route, copying my credit card, hostility towards non-cash payments, and times my partner was harassed by an otherwise anonymous cabbie are far too numerous. If I never take another taxi where I am expected to pay directly without the safety of my route being recorded and the driver being identified, all the better.

All of the above is independent of their shit business model and treatment of workers. In some cities, their rides are even metered at taxi rates just like taxis, in taxis, with the meter running. I’ve had countless Uber rides in taxis by actual taxi drivers (who were also Uber/lyft drivers) and had more than my fair share of conversations with those drivers.

Many of them preferred cash passengers for obvious reasons but also recognized the benefit of not worrying about payment and being able to report asshole patrons and being able to widen their customer pool.

IMHO there are two core issues here. The first is that the existing taxi industry was corrupt, exploitive, and stagnant in the first place, while the second is Uber and Lyft took a good idea - modernizing and centralizing taxi services - and shit all over them with a terrible business model.

Hopefully, the latter will shake out in the end, and the former can finally be laid to rest, even if it’s a newcomer or competitor that has to get it right in the future.


my understanding is that uber and lyft also allow for livery companies to buy fleets of cars which are then leased to drivers.

the system apportions some amount of money to the lease and some amount to the driver. and it’s popular for people who don’t have enough credit/capitial to buy their own cars or handle the maintenance.

when uber raised their driver fees a few years back, it pinched those drivers pretty hard, basically spending most of their time just paying the lease.


Whenever the subject has come up (which is admittedly almost never these days in the last 15 months), I echoed a lot of the sentiments mentioned in the video. People almost always responded that they like Uber and equivalent companies because it had been a positive experience for them.

It’s a huge difference when something makes your life easier on occasion but is detrimental to the overall, long-term livelihood of millions of people. Maybe it’s partly because that sounds like an exaggeration, but I did read another document from Uber’s business plans which indicated they wanted to fully eliminate public transit from major metropolitan cities to be replaced entirely with private, corporate, capitalist UBER… and even then, they still wouldn’t be profitable. Ugh.


Right, because for some, their experiences trump everything else, including the planet and the lives of others. And of course, we live in a society that actively cultivates that extreme kind of individualism to a dangerous degree. Because it lines the pockets of the chosen few.

Because they are a neo-liberal company that fully believes that the only real “morality” is building wealth for the chosen few, not building a society that works for all of us.


One side point: “Gra-vel”.

keeping up appearances 90s GIF


I still recall what a Pakistani driver in Chicago told me – he was some kind of building engineer but had several kids and he made the point that he’s got a car (a Toyota Highlander I think it was) and if he needs $400 to cover some unexpected cost, he uses Uber to extract the value out of his car. No one will buy a 1/100th interest in a car, but he can depreciate the asset by that much and put that money in his pocket. I thought it was an interesting perspective on it – this guy was clearly well educated and might be better to balance these things on his own, but he was getting what he wanted out of the deal.


Sounds similar to what’s been happening to truck drivers:

On top of that, we’ve got pro-business legislators bought and paid for by these corporate interests. Due to the pandemic, we’re getting yet another look at their views on government assistance, makers vs. takers, denial of the true cost of living and utter lack of concern about the societal impact of widespread joblessness. They’re having a fit about increased unemployment benefits and raising the minimum wage. Maybe the only hope is get them out of office before the majority of workers need UBI or another long-term solution to help those who have been scammed by gig economy “job creators” like Uber:



It’s funny how I had the idea that Lyft was started as a way to do peer to peer ridesharing to reduce the number of single occupant cars on the roads. It appears that the narrative of “take over all non private transportation” appeared quite early in its history.


Me too! “Ride Sharing”, taken literally as I originally did, would be fantastic. Essentially electronic hitchhiking, for the cost of pitching in for gas and inconvenience. It should have been a way to get additional use out of already owned vehicles and trips people were going to take anyway. I’m annoyed that the cars have to be in shiny new condition, nothing wrong with something that’s less than the best for a little less money. The fact that people were buying cars just to do Uber/Lyft is one of the things that ruined it.


definitely from the same feel-good marketing department as recyclable plastic, guns make you safer, and tobacco doesn’t cause cancer

For road congestion, the study found that in 44 cities with relevant data, rideshares resulted in a 0.9% increase in traffic, and that congestion duration increased by 4.5%. Of the 174 cities with regular public transit data, rideshares led to an average 8.9% decrease in ridership [ of public transportation]


Oh, but surely when the autonomous cars run by uber and lyft take over, traffic congestion will improve, right? /s


i think the goal is a continuous stream of cars so you can walk out the door and just sit down wherever in order to get where you’re going.

and whenever they aren’t steering or showing you ads, they’ll be mining bitcoins. so it’ll be a big win for the environment no matter how you slice it.


Sounds totally utopian…

Even more utopian!


A retro future!

The Jetsons Television GIF