The company has had a seemingly never-ending string of missteps, from its controversial CEO to questionable tactics and sexual harassment claims
Uber has been rocked by a steady stream of scandals and negative publicity in recent years, including revelations of questionable spy programs, a high-stakes technology lawsuit, claims of sexual harassment and discrimination and embarrassing leaks about executive conduct. The PR disasters culminated in CEO Travis Kalanick taking an indefinite leave of absence this week and promises of bold reform that largely ignored the ride-hailing companys strained relationship with drivers. Here is a timeline of some of the most consequential controversies. Boob-er backlash, February 2014 Uber CEO Travis Kalanick faced backlash for a sexist joke about his increasing desirability, telling an Esquire reporter: We call that Boob-er. Targeting the competitor, August 2014 Uber faced accusations that it booked thousands of fake rides from its competitor Lyft in an effort to cut into its profits and services. Uber recruiters also allegedly spammed Lyft drivers in an effort to recruit them away from the rival. The God View scandal, November 2014 Uber executive Emil Michael suggested digging up dirt on journalists and spreading personal information of a female reporter who was critical of the company. He later apologized. It was also revealed that Uber has a so-called God View technology that allows the company to track users locations, raising privacy concerns. One manager had accessed the profile of a reporter without her permission. Spying on Beyonc, December 2016 A former forensic investigator for Uber testified that employees regularly spied on politicians, exes and celebrities, including Beyonc. Self-driving pilot failure, December 2016 Regulators in California ordered Uber to remove self-driving vehicles from the road after the company launched a pilot without permits. On the first day of the program, the vehicles were caught running red lights, and cycling advocates in San Francisco also raised concerns about the cars creating hazards in bike lanes. The company blamed red-light issues on human error, but the New York Times later claimed that the companys statements were false and that the autonomous technology failed. Uber self-driving car drives through red light in San Francisco False advertising, January 2017 Uber was forced to pay $20m to settle allegations that the company duped people into driving with false promises about earnings. The Federal Trade Commission claimed that most Uber drivers earned far less than the rates Uber published online in 18 major cities in the US. #DeleteUber goes viral, January 2017 A #DeleteUber campaign went viral after the company lifted surge pricing during a taxi protest at a New York airport against Donald Trumps travel ban. A total of roughly 500,000 users reportedly deleted accounts after the scandal erupted. Trump ties, February 2017 CEO Travis Kalanick resigned from Trumps advisory council after users threatened a boycott. Kalanick said: Joining the group was not meant to be an endorsement of the president or his agenda but unfortunately it has been misinterpreted to be exactly that. Sexual harassment scandal, February 2017 Former Uber engineer Susan Fowler went public with allegations of sexual harassment and discrimination, prompting the company to hire former US attorney general Eric Holder to investigate her claims. The story sparked widespread debate about sexism and misconduct across Silicon Valley startups. Google lawsuit, February 2017 Waymo, the self-driving car company owned by Googles parent corporation Alphabet, filed a lawsuit against Uber, accusing the startup of calculated theft of its technology. The suit, which could be a fatal setback for Ubers autonomous vehicle ambitions, alleged that a former Waymo employee, Anthony Levandowski, stole trade secrets for Uber. Uber later fired the engineer.
A vigil in Delhi held in support of a woman who was raped by her Uber driver in the Indian capital. Photograph: Anindito Mukherjee/REUTERS Kalanick takes leave of absence, June 2017 Kalanick announced that he would take an indefinite leave of absence as the company released a damning report on workplace culture that recommended Uber review and reallocate the CEOs responsibilities. Board members sexist joke, June 2017 David Bonderman resigned from Ubers board after he made a sexist joke during an all-staff meeting about reforming the company and combatting sexual harassment. The venture capitalist had joked that there was likely to be more talking with another woman on the board. He apologized and stepped down hours later.