We live in a world that is paved with our own advancements, our own drives for success as a species. In our time, we have been responsible for some of the greatest innovations the world has ever seen. Each of these innovations has done its part to further shape the world we live in, and today we are positively immersed in and surrounded by technological advancements and rapid digitalisation. One of the greatest innovations of them all? The rise of the automotive vehicle. Born from the concept of the wheel (a concept that is thousands and thousands of years old, dating back as early as 3500 BC – perhaps even earlier), the automotive that we know and love today is our dominate mode of transport. In the world of automotive transport, there is never a dull moment. It seems that there is a constant influx of innovations, advancements, and even legal battles that are ongoing and relentless. The automotive industry is one that is responsible for most (if not all) of our fast-paced movements, and as such it is always a worthy news event when a new legal battle ensues involving the auto industry in some way.
Consider, for example, the ride-hail tech company Uber, and its ongoing string of legal battles that have caused only seemingly small bumps in the road during its rise to success and longevity in the automotive industry. It sounds like a silly concern – especially to be followed up by legal means – but the reality is that Uber has been – and continues to – parading itself as a technology company. While Uber definitively does use technology as the core of its business model, the foundation and building blocks are in what the company offers, which is automotive transportation. The legal issue here is that Uber (and other ride-hail businesses, for that matter) has been insistent that it is strictly a tech company, and because of this the business has been able to largely avoid the laws and guidelines for road-based businesses. The biggest and strongest legal issue surrounding Uber lies in its inability to accurately describe its own existence. But it is not the only legal grounds that the company is being taken to the courts for – not by a long shot.
As well as the biggest legal battle in its short-lived history, Uber has been taken to court for unfair and disloyal benefits and general treatment of its employees. Uber pays its employees a pitiful amount, and with no benefits (think annual leave, sick pay, etc), it was not long before the company was taken to court to right the ship. Additionally, Uber has been implicated in several legal disputes surrounding its self-driving vehicle movement. The company poured immense effort, time, and money into the investment, only to have the vehicles crash on two separate occasions during their trial period. Injuries and even fatalities occurred, and Uber responded by immediately taking down the initiative until further notice. Legal proceedings commenced to determine the fault of the incidents (this is where autonomous vehicles also become a sticky subject in the legal system), and Uber suffered its worst press in its young history. Recently, the self-driving vehicles Uber was pioneering have been released into development and production again, begging the question, “how long will it be before another traffic accident occurs, and will Uber be held liable at that point?”
In this case, it is not as simple as hiring a professional motor vehicle lawyer to battle it out in court. Because the very nature of Uber is that it is a company, the legal battles are far lengthier, more complex, and costlier than they likely would be if Uber were an individual rather than a growing business, a force in its field. With so many different ongoing struggles with the law, in so many different countries, Uber is somehow still walking the fine line between legal disarray and financial ruin – but only just. With so many auto law and business law cases against the rising company continuously finding their way into the legal courts, it is not certain how much more Uber can withstand before it becomes overrun with controversy and ruin. However, an educated guess says that this is a company that will continue to rise, even despite all it has had to endure in the eyes of its industry and in the eyes of the law. The road to success, longevity, and financial profitability may be long and tumultuous, but if nothing else, this is a ride-hail company that
The world as we know it is the product of our continuous striving towards species advancement and success. We are driven by our own compulsive need to be better, to do better, to know better. And so, this is how innovations like the automotive vehicle have come to fruition. A concept first born in the form of the wheel thousands of years ago, the modern vehicles that we use to get from point A to point B today are nothing short of awe-inspiring – we have just gotten so used to them, that we seldom remember this fact. Being such a pillar innovation in modern life, it is no surprise that when a legal issue in the automotive industry arises, it garners mass attention. The ride-hail company Uber and its seemingly constant string of legal battles is no different. Uber presents itself stubbornly as a solely tech-inclined company, and as such it has curved the road-based business laws that taxi companies, bus companies, and the like must abide by. Further, it has been at the heart of employee-based legal cases and even self-driving vehicle incident cases. And still, Uber remains successful. As to how long that success remains, is yet to be seen. But for now? Uber is the number one ride-hail road-based business in the world, and it is showing no signs of slowing down.