Protests, riots, kidnapping but Uber fights on

Protests, riots, kidnapping but Uber fights on

It's been a troubled year for Uber.

The start-up, which is now worth $73 billion, has come a long way since it began in San Francisco five years ago. But traditional taxi services came together over 2015, starting riots, legal battles and protests against the company which is undercutting them financially, AFP reports.

Now operating in 58 countries, Uber allows customers to hail a cab using their smartphones and pay through debit or credit cards associated to the account they set up.

But it has been a turbulent ride, and Uber's safety standards have been called into question after some sexual attacks and abductions of females were recorded in India and the United States.

In New Delhi, authorities had a go at trying to ban the company, after it faced accusations of not conducting adequate background checks on a driver who raped a female passenger in his car.

But it isn’t just safety that has been an issue.

In much of Europe and many other countries, conventional taxi companies are claiming that Uber provides unfair competition for them as drivers do not have to adhere to the strict rules and regulations that they are governed by.

The anger was enough to cause rioting in Paris, and led to the arrest of Uber executives in June, forcing the company to suspend its low-cost service UberPOP – which was later banned.

Licensed cab drivers have also argued that Uber drivers bypass all the strict training that they had to go through and accuse the Uber drivers of endangering their market by flooding it with cheaper drivers who only need a GPS to get around.

Uber doesn’t employ drivers and it doesn’t own vehicles either, it instead opts for the use of non-professionally licensed contractors who essentially run their own businesses.

In London, 1500 black cabs blocked the streets earlier this year, saying that Uber makes a mockery of the three years they spend studying every street in the city before they can take the wheel of their vehicle.

This is a tradition dating back into the 1800s.

This sort of protest was also seen in areas such as Nice in June, where cabs blocked the main streets and carried picket signs stating "taxi en greve"(in taxi strike).

Lighting flares and arguing with police, the drivers caused major disruption to both holidaymakers and residents.

Uber's chief adviser David Plouffe has defended the firm this year, saying to media in Washington that the debate and attention had been heavily swayed towards the effect on traditional cabbies.

He said because of this, focus had drifted away from the effect that Uber was having on the economy, and that the 1.1 million drivers working for the company had raised a US$3.5 billion over 2015.

Uber has said that it will continue fighting the legal battles taken against it, especially in Europe, where it has been expanding quickly.

And for the rest of the cabbie world, they too remain fiercely opposed to Uber, with protests now expanding as far as Brazil.

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