Is Uber the new Darth Vader? CEO Travis Kalanick battles against the taxi cartels – Tech Crunch Disrupt

While this is an election year for our country, Uber is also running their own campaign to win battle-after-battle in the cities and on the streets to grow their ridesharing company. Kicking off TechCrunch Disrupt 2014, founder Michael Arrington delved into the political mess Uber faces with CEO Travis Kalanick.
“Are you the Darth Vader of startups?” Arrington asked Kalanick, referencing the perception that the press and government have placed on Uber.
To help overcome this image of the “big bad startup,” Uber recently hired David Plouffe, President Obama’s former campaign manager, to help guide and advise the company on branding, strategy and policy – in other words lead a political crusade against the taxi companies and governmental red tape.
“The opponent is the ‘taxi cartel’ and they have created a situation where there is a monopoly in cities, which causes a problem to create jobs. Drivers get stuck and have no other options [to make money],” Kalanick said.
Currently Uber employs over 100K drivers in 45 countries, and adds more than 50K jobs per month.
Their competitor LYFT is also watching every move, or as Arrington put it, “they are whining” about Uber at every turn. Kalanick said that while their main opponent is the “taxi cartel” there is some legitimate scrapping in this race.
In Arizona, Governor Brewer vetoed the so-called “Uber Bill” or House 2262 that would have permitted transportation companies, like Uber and LYFT, to operate in Arizona without the same insurance coverage, driver testing and safety requirements that taxi services maintain. “Consumer safety must not be sacrificed for the sake of innovation,” Brewer said in her Veto letter.
Both Uber and LYFT have insurance and safety programs in place to protect the riders. In case you are wondering what UberX drivers have in place:

  • Background checks
  • $1 million of liability coverage per incident
  • $1 million of uninsured/underinsured motorist bodily injury coverage per incident.
  • $50,000 of contingent comprehensive and collision insurance.
  • No fault coverage (e.g., Personal Injury Protection) in certain states
  • $50,000/$100,000/$25,000 of contingent coverage between trips.

While drivers for both Uber and Lyft continue to provide service in Arizona, representatives from both companies were disappointed with the decision.
Uber did get one major win in Colorado. Governor Hickenlooper signed into law the first ridesharing legislation in the country. Uber praised his leadership in their blog stating, “Colorado has sent a clear message that it embraces innovation, supports consumer choice and empowers small business owners.”
While the fights continue and lightsabers are drawn, Uber doubles their efforts to bring ridesharing to cities domestically and abroad.
“The nature of this business is that it’s too disruptive and there are a lot of incumbents that we have to overcome,” Kalanick said.
Follow our coverage of TechCrunch Disrupt throughout the week
Graphics courtesy of Uber &