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The Uber Story
Mike Isaac’s new book, Super Pumped: The Battle for Uber, looks at the history of Uber and former CEO Travis Kalanick. In an interview with Andrew Small, Isaac discusses Uber’s start as a transportation company, its impact on cities and planning, and Kalanick’s ultimate fall from the corporate pinnacle.
Small asks Isaac about Uber’s use of Greyball, the program Uber used to avoid authorities in cities where it was not permitted to operate, and how city officials have responded:
A lot of cities have learned a lesson about how much to trust a startup that’s just deciding to barge in. When companies tried to roll out scooters really rapidly in San Francisco, the transportation department immediately slapped them down and threatened to fine companies that pushed through. There are a lot of sore spots from how Uber flooded the zone. City transportation officials don’t want to go through that again. They just got completely railroaded.
Uber’s vision also always went far beyond just disrupting transportation, and transit was in the crosshairs, says Isaac:
Travis wanted to compete for most, if not all, of transportation. I don’t think that he would have been satisfied with saying "We’re just going to get so many people, but then just leave existing ridership on public transportation." I think they wanted to go for it. That’s why they did those carpooling options and shuttles. That’s problematic in and of itself, because it creates a cycle in which [transit] ridership goes down, perhaps funding goes down, and some fundamental public services start to see problems.
Small’s full interview with Isaac goes into a host of other Uber issues, including the toxic corporate culture, its relationship to other companies such as Google and Lyft, and its future as it continues to lose billions of dollars.