After months spent grappling with revelations of faulty background checks and stumbling through various PR debacles, Uber yesterday announced a pivot in its safety policies. Uber users received notice when opening the app today that “A new $1 Safe Rides Fee added to every uberX fare supports our efforts to always connect you to the safest riders on the road.”
Lyft, Uber’s closest competitor, also lists a $1 “Trust and Safety fee” on its breakdown of costs.
What at first glance may seem a proactive approach to ensuring rider safety combined with a deft bit of jiu jitsu that transforms a core responsibility of its service into a new stream of revenue, the policy actually calls on a rich pool of historical precedence.
That Uber would pass on the costs of providing safe rides directly to its users is curious given the massive amount of funding the company received last year, equivalent to at least $300 million. That all that funding doesn’t provide the company the wherewithal to connect riders with safe drivers is extremely doubtful and would seem to undermine Uber’s stated safety priority.
In yesterday’s announcement letter, the company said the policy would “showcase [its] continued commitment to safety.” Indeed, the policy does seem to be a case of showmanship, if not a dirty marketing ploy.
The response of uberX users in the days ahead will be telling. It’s entirely possible that people will recoil at Uber’s deployment of the well-worn libertarian strategy of forwarding the costs of compliance with regulation on to customers.