I seem to write for Obiter whenever something odd happens in my life – a noticeably hot day in Fall, in shorts and a tank top sipping a Starbucks PSL (which unsurprisingly has happened once again this year). However, this time it’s about the need to catch my flight to a particularly windy city.
Now, before I begin, I want to add a disclaimer that Uber is wonderful and I am thankful for its far cheaper services and GPS tracking. It has succeeded in providing more feasible and affordable options for the lay person seeking good and efficient services. However, that does not ensure that it is a service without a potential dark side. You see, we tend to have blind faith in Uber – they have an app with a GPS system, tracking, ratings, reliability, affordability, accessibility, and most importantly, you avoid being stuck in an old and smelly taxi. In a somewhat lazy girl’s opinion, there seem to be so many positives in not calling Beck or braving the TTC. So, like any other day, I put in the order for my Uber and, as I exited the building, I saw my driver waiting for me. He called me over… but remember how we were instructed about “Stranger, Danger!”? It is unfortunate, but as a woman I feel the need to ask if it’s Uber, and for my name. The man confirmed and put my luggage in his truck, as I climbed into the extremely cramped back seat. He proceeded to drive and inquired about where I was off to. “Well good sire, you know…” My destination was Billy Bishop airport, but I made sure that I emphasized I wanted the entrance and not the ferry terminal (which are basically the same thing but it is differentiated on the app). He paused and looked alarmed, and then proceeded to tell me that he actually was not an Uber driver. I was appalled and swung open my door. He apologized and got my bag out. Thankfully, I was not far from my original location and my real Uber driver called me coincidentally at that same moment. The man sped off and I rushed to the legitimate Uber driver awaiting me.
Despite my best efforts, someone still attempted something potentially malicious. More often than not, I have observed my friends enter into Ubers without even uttering their name. This blind faith can be potentially harmful to the individual. So, although Uber is the light of a tired law student, its dark side can be extremely nasty. Currently, we hear about how there is no real ability to regulate Uber. It is a business, but not the same as a taxi company. Some US states have banned Uber, but it’s still used—just under the guise of something else. Some drivers place the Uber emblem as a sticker on the back of their respective vehicle, ensuring that customers instantaneously recognize it as a part of the company. Is there a way for the law to create legislation that is accepting of Uber and taxi companies, while enforcing a rule that Uber drivers MUST place the sticker somewhere visible on their vehicles? The sticker would act as a warning to many passengers that it is actually the service you requested there at your location. At the end of the day, the superpower that is the Toronto taxi monopoly should one day end. It is the 21st century and apps and affordable and quality service are the future of driving services. Without the proper institutional regulations for how Uber drivers conduct their practices, situations like the one I faced can occur. Almost anyone can pretend to be an Uber driver, and almost anyone can forget to ask, “Uber?”. The regulation I suggest is likely to be shot down as Uber is a global corporation, and we see how Uber reacts when they are told to operate under similar conditions as taxi companies: threats to leave, bashing political representatives, holding conferences reprimanding localities, etc. For now, it seems that Uber’s reign will continue until something unfortunate happens, although I truly hope that this will not be the case.
I wish to conclude here with a happy, optimistic thought about how women and men can feel safe entering an Uber. Honestly, you usually are safe, but how do we ensure peace of mind for our safety when entering one? Is there a way to enter into a peace of mind contract, or is that simply for the driver and Allstate Insurance (or any other motor vehicle insurance provider)? I think everyone should be their own advocate! Speak out and ask; there is no reason to be shy because at the end of the day, we will all face a Motions Judge and advocate for clients. We should first advocate for ourselves and getting into an Uber car can be one exercise of advocacy for your own safety.