Texas A&M Law Review
Uber, Lyft, and other transportation network companies (“TNCs”), have garnered a great deal of attention in the media and popular press for the efficiencies of their service, their “disruptive” business models, and their labor practices. Uber has almost 400,000 drivers in California and Massachusetts alone. Other TNCs have countless drivers of their own, and TNCs have become especially popular in densely populated cities. Gone are the days when one needed to hail or flag down a taxi, or call a dispatcher to request one. Now customers can summon TNC drivers using “apps” on their smartphones, and TNC platforms match them with available drivers, who arrive in personal vehicles. Many customers prefer this system for reasons of promptness and convenience, and the apps also allow them to track drivers via GPS “and thus to have a better sense of scheduling the trip.” Uber and other TNCs have made obtaining a ride considerably more efficient, cheaper, and more convenient for many customers.
In fact, TNCs have been described as a transportation revolution, changing the way taxi fares are provided and the way ordinary people routinely get from place to place. Uber as a corporation has been quite successful, attracting billions of dollars in investment from venture capitalists and quickly expanding its ridesharing businesses to many cities. To “uber” is now a verb, meaning “[t]o arrive at a destination via ridesharing service.”
As a company, Uber has also proven itself litigious, using some of the money it has raised through investment to defend itself in litigation with municipal governments over regulatory issues, litigation with its workers over employee status, and various other legal matters. Uber also now has a meta-meaning that encompasses a number of its distinct business practices, such as lowering labor costs by using “independent contractors,” managing workers by algorithm, and cutting inefficiencies and middlemen through technology. Many have noted that Uber has an aggressive attitude of “asking forgiveness” rather than “asking permission” of local authorities as its business expands. Thus, when people say they will “uber” a problem, they could mean seeking solutions from the crowd, using technology to improve solutions, taking humans out of the equation, or expanding rapidly—perhaps without permission.