Uber’s recent PR stumbles may have grabbed headlines for all the wrong reasons, but the negative publicity is unlikely to impact the company’s bottom line any time soon. It’s not that Americans are necessarily ambivalent to the company’s questionable behavior – such as remarks made by one executive that Uber should invest $1 million to investigate unfriendly reporters – it’s just that most aren’t paying attention.
Many Americans don’t use the service or have little interest (right now) regarding the company’s foibles. According to a recent poll, 38 percent of Americans have never heard of Uber, and for those that have – 88 percent have never used it. Among Uber users, 60 percent said the negative PR would not impact their use of the service.
Still, the lack of public awareness around Uber and other ride-sharing services is no reason for lawmakers not to take notice or action to ensure these companies operate responsibly. Across the country, Uber has fought numerous legislative and regulatory attempts to bring its service in-line with traditional taxi and limo services. In Washington D.C., for example, Uber is lobbying to change proposed legislation that would increase the small number of wheelchair-accessible taxicabs in the city. Uber and Lyft have also resisted efforts to have their drivers obtain commercial license plates and have more extensive commercial insurance, just as traditional cab services are required to do. Fortunately, lawmakers in at least 20 states are likely to take up legislation next year to address safety, insurance and privacy issues regarding these ride-sharing services.
While Uber may have done itself no favors with its recent PR blunders, it’s likely that the company’s biggest challenges still lay ahead. Uber has gone to great lengths to cast itself apart and unique from traditional taxis and limos. Next year it will have to convince lawmakers across the country why its burgeoning service shouldn’t be held to the same standards.