Gaslighting Uber drivers on safety

See updates through January 6, 2023, at end of post.


When I say Uber’s concern about safety and health is performative, here’s an example.

Uber occasionally pushes notifications out through the driver app. Often these are reminders to select a “quest” or suggestions that the airport may be busy at certain times or that drivers are allegedly making lots of money late at night.

Yesterday, I saw one in which Uber was attempting to assure drivers that the company does care about our safety, outlining steps they take to verify passengers’ identities. These steps weren’t enough to protect an Uber driver who was shot in Monroeville.[1] I have felt that that driver was out driving at a time when no driver should be out, because, as I wrote, “Desperate people do desperate things. Like driving for Uber or Lyft. Like robbing Uber and Lyft drivers.”[2] And these steps utterly fail to address the problem of neighborhoods where people are fucking shooting and committing other acts of mayhem each other,[3] where drivers are liable to be caught in the crossfire.

I remember, once, when I was driving cab in San Francisco, I was driving down O’Farrell Street, along the northern frontier of the City’s Tenderloin district. I heard a gasp in my back seat. I thought it odd, but continued driving. A couple blocks down, it came out. My passengers informed me I had driven right through a gunfight.

I had no idea. I had been watching traffic. I had been watching traffic signals. I had been watching the stuff that drivers should always be watching out for. The cab was not hit. The passengers were not hit. I was not hit. But with that experience, it’s amply clear to me that Uber’s categorization of refusing service to certain neighborhoods as discrimination gives short shrift to legitimate concerns about safety.

Uber obviously can’t do anything about random gunfights. As I’ve previously argued, in Pittsburgh, you’re never far from poverty and the problems associated with poverty.[4] Driving here is simply dangerous. Especially at night, but even during the day. Often with a driving culture where what would be categorized as reckless in California is routine here. Sometimes with people shooting at each other.[5] Sometimes with somebody’s boyfriend getting in the car because she, the “identified” one, ordered it for him.[6] But we take all this risk and are paid a pittance.[7] We lack even the protection that employees would have.[8]

And Uber is gaslighting drivers, trying to tell us we’re safe.


Update, June 23, 2022: Lyft is going after the last bit of business the taxicab companies have, by making it possible for passengers to pay for rides in cash, albeit less conveniently than with cabs, through selected retail outlets. Such passengers are principally unbanked (overwhelmingly poor) people who will have to scan identification when they submit their cash.[9] This will, however, exacerbate the problem drivers face, really, of still having unidentified passengers get in their cars when other people order rides for them (very often, a more financially stable woman will order a ride for her less financially stable male partner, or a man may order a ride for a woman home following their, ahem, encounter).

This was precisely what happened in the case of an Uber driver murdered, apparently over money, by a male passenger, whose lady friend had ordered the ride for him, in Monroeville.[10] It is a significant part of the safety problem Uber gaslights its drivers about.[11] There will remain absolutely no way of ensuring that an identified person is the one actually receiving the ride.

In this latest twist, Lyft will just require that identification be presented.[12] It will likely have no way of ensuring that the (possibly stolen) identification matches the person supplying the (also possibly stolen) cash. And Uber will presumably follow suit.


Update, November 9, 2022: Between election news and the cruft of everyday life, I was way late getting out today. The first delay was picking up my laundry. I was on my way back from that when I saw two Allegheny County white supremacist gangster vehicles speeding with lights and sirens the opposite way on Washington Road.

Then I had to go up to West View to pick up a prescription that insurance snafus had led me to transfer to an independent pharmacy. This, of course, was a small package, so I went on line after I got back to my car.

My first passenger was a lady who had been in an accident, she said, in the Carnegie (Borough) Library. There was an “active shooter” on the loose, the white supremacist gangster told her she needed to get the fuck out of there, and so she’d caught an Uber (not me), whose driver nearly ran into the same pole she did, up to a friend’s house in West View. It fell to me to take her from there nearly to West Virginia.

Those delays might have kept me well away from a shooting in Scott Township:

Allegheny County Superintendent Christopher Kearns said authorities believe the shooting stemmed from a fight on Cochran Road between the suspect and victim, who they said knew each other.

Police said the suspect followed the victim into the office and shot him in the foyer. After the gunman ran away, police launched a search and several buildings, including Mt. Lebanon and Chartiers Valley schools and a Catholic school in the areaa were locked down. About 2:30 p.m., police ended the search and started lifting lockdowns, although the suspect remained at large. Police said that because the shooting was targeted, they don’t believe the public is in danger.[13]

There are a couple issues here. First, an Uber was sent into an area with an “active shooter” (who has apparently still not been apprehended[14]) to pick this lady, who would later be my passenger, up. Second, there are way too many people fucking shooting at each other in Pittsburgh. (This particular shooting happened in an area[15] I generally consider completely safe.) And I’m out there driving strangers around. But oh yeah, Uber wants me to feel safe doing so,[16] when the reality is I’m anything but and indeed that driving for Uber has to be about the stupidest thing a person can do in Pittsburgh.


Update, January 6, 2023: I first heard about a shooting along McKnight Road[17] from a passenger talking about it on the phone. By the time I went through, the evidence had been swept up, but the days are short right now and I was there during daylight, so it couldn’t have been long.

At about the same time, there was a shooting and hostage situation at the Eat ‘N Park restaurant along Banksville Road,[18] which is the road I drive on most nights at the end of my day.

Both these incidents occurred in what I generally consider to be relatively safe areas in broad daylight at around 2 pm.[19] But oh yeah, I’m safe driving for fucking Uber.[20]

  1. [1]Megan Tomasic, “Police charge Penn Hills man in death of Uber driver in Monroeville,” Pittsburgh Tribune-Review, February 17, 2022, https://triblive.com/local/penn-hills/police-charge-penn-hills-man-in-the-death-of-an-uber-driver-in-monroeville/
  2. [2]David Benfell, “The vulnerability of Uber and Lyft driving,” Not Housebroken, February 18, 2022, https://disunitedstates.org/2022/02/18/the-vulnerability-of-uber-and-lyft-driving/
  3. [3]Jesse Bunch and Andrew Goldstein, “In the Hill District, residents grapple with recent spike in gun violence,” Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, April 16, 2022, https://www.post-gazette.com/news/crime-courts/2022/04/16/pittsburgh-hill-district-gun-violence-shootings/stories/202204140127;
    Megan Guza, “3 shot in Pittsburgh’s Hill District,” Pittsburgh Tribune-Review, April 12, 2022, https://triblive.com/local/3-shot-in-pittsburghs-hill-district/; Megan Guza and Ryan Deto, “Multiple shooters suspected in ‘war scene’ that killed 2, injured 8 on Pittsburgh’s North Side,” Pittsburgh Tribune-Review, April 17, 2022, https://triblive.com/local/police-11-shot-2-dead-on-pittsburghs-north-side/; Sarafina James, “Man assaulted, hospitalized following crash in Pittsburgh’s Hill District,” WPXI, April 8, 2022, https://www.wpxi.com/news/local/man-assaulted-hospitalized-following-crash-pittsburghs-hill-district/CCH6JMSD6NAQXKODHLNFIETOZ4/; Nick Matoney, “Man shot multiple times in Pittsburgh’s Hill District,” WTAE, March 25, 2022, https://www.wtae.com/article/man-shot-multiple-times-in-pittsburghs-hill-district/39534380; Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, “One man dead after Marshall-Shadeland shooting,” April 16, 2022, https://www.post-gazette.com/news/crime-courts/2022/04/16/pittsburgh-fatal-shooting-marshall-shadeland-police-mcclure/stories/202204160041; Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, “At least 11 shot, 2 dead in North Side shooting, police say,” April 17, 2022, https://www.post-gazette.com/news/crime-courts/2022/04/17/pittsburgh-shooting-north-side-east-allegheny-update-public-safety/stories/202204170168; Brian C. Rittmeyer, “Pittsburgh police investigating shootout at South Side Flats clothing store,” Pittsburgh Tribune-Review, April 17, 2022, https://triblive.com/local/pittsburgh-police-investigating-shootout-at-south-side-flats-clothing-store/; WPXI, “19-year-old killed, 1 other injured in Hill District shooting,” April 11, 2022, https://www.wpxi.com/news/local/2-people-injured-hill-district-shooting/XL2XHK7AVFEVDD42QUYIGUDSOQ/
  4. [4]David Benfell, “Real and imagined hazards, real and imagined causes,” Not Housebroken, April 21, 2022, https://disunitedstates.org/2022/04/21/real-and-imagined-hazards-real-and-imagined-causes/
  5. [5]Jesse Bunch and Andrew Goldstein, “In the Hill District, residents grapple with recent spike in gun violence,” Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, April 16, 2022, https://www.post-gazette.com/news/crime-courts/2022/04/16/pittsburgh-hill-district-gun-violence-shootings/stories/202204140127;
    Megan Guza, “3 shot in Pittsburgh’s Hill District,” Pittsburgh Tribune-Review, April 12, 2022, https://triblive.com/local/3-shot-in-pittsburghs-hill-district/; Megan Guza and Ryan Deto, “Multiple shooters suspected in ‘war scene’ that killed 2, injured 8 on Pittsburgh’s North Side,” Pittsburgh Tribune-Review, April 17, 2022, https://triblive.com/local/police-11-shot-2-dead-on-pittsburghs-north-side/; Sarafina James, “Man assaulted, hospitalized following crash in Pittsburgh’s Hill District,” WPXI, April 8, 2022, https://www.wpxi.com/news/local/man-assaulted-hospitalized-following-crash-pittsburghs-hill-district/CCH6JMSD6NAQXKODHLNFIETOZ4/; Nick Matoney, “Man shot multiple times in Pittsburgh’s Hill District,” WTAE, March 25, 2022, https://www.wtae.com/article/man-shot-multiple-times-in-pittsburghs-hill-district/39534380; Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, “One man dead after Marshall-Shadeland shooting,” April 16, 2022, https://www.post-gazette.com/news/crime-courts/2022/04/16/pittsburgh-fatal-shooting-marshall-shadeland-police-mcclure/stories/202204160041; Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, “At least 11 shot, 2 dead in North Side shooting, police say,” April 17, 2022, https://www.post-gazette.com/news/crime-courts/2022/04/17/pittsburgh-shooting-north-side-east-allegheny-update-public-safety/stories/202204170168; Brian C. Rittmeyer, “Pittsburgh police investigating shootout at South Side Flats clothing store,” Pittsburgh Tribune-Review, April 17, 2022, https://triblive.com/local/pittsburgh-police-investigating-shootout-at-south-side-flats-clothing-store/; WPXI, “19-year-old killed, 1 other injured in Hill District shooting,” April 11, 2022, https://www.wpxi.com/news/local/2-people-injured-hill-district-shooting/XL2XHK7AVFEVDD42QUYIGUDSOQ/
  6. [6]Megan Tomasic, “Police charge Penn Hills man in death of Uber driver in Monroeville,” Pittsburgh Tribune-Review, February 17, 2022, https://triblive.com/local/penn-hills/police-charge-penn-hills-man-in-the-death-of-an-uber-driver-in-monroeville/
  7. [7]Dhruv Mehrotra and Aaron Gordon, “Uber And Lyft Take A Lot More From Drivers Than They Say,” Jalopnik, August 26, 2019, https://jalopnik.com/uber-and-lyft-take-a-lot-more-from-drivers-than-they-sa-1837450373; Alexa Noel, “Revised MIT Study Says Uber, Lyft Drivers Make About $8 or $10 per Hour,” Points Guy, March 8, 2018, https://thepointsguy.com/2018/03/revised-mit-study-says-uber-lyft-drivers-make-about-8-or-10-per-hour/; Edward Ongweso, Jr., “Uber and Lyft Can’t Find Drivers Because Gig Work Sucks,” Vice, July 8, 2021, https://www.vice.com/en/article/7kvej4/uber-and-lyft-cant-find-drivers-because-gig-work-sucks; Kari Paul, “Uber drivers plan shutdown over ‘poverty wages’ as company goes public,” Guardian, April 25, 2019, https://www.theguardian.com/technology/2019/apr/24/uber-drivers-strike-ipo; Rida Qadri and Alexandra Mateescu, “Uber and Lyft: woo drivers with stable pay, not short-term honeypots,” Guardian, June 20, 2021, https://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2021/jun/20/gig-economy-companies-uber-lyft-drivers-pandemic; Faiz Siddiqui, “You may be paying more for Uber, but drivers aren’t getting their cut of the fare hike,” Washington Post, June 9, 2021, https://www.washingtonpost.com/technology/2021/06/09/uber-lyft-drivers-price-hike/
  8. [8]Lee Fang, “Uber CEO Admits Company Can Afford Labor Protections for Drivers,” Intercept, January 7, 2022, https://theintercept.com/2022/01/07/uber-drivers-labor-protections-dara-khosrowshahi-european-union/; Brody Mullins and Ryan Tracy, “Uber, Lyft and Others Launch Campaign to Head Off Unions,” Wall Street Journal, March 8, 2022, https://www.wsj.com/articles/uber-lyft-and-others-launch-campaign-to-head-off-unions-11646733600; José Rodríguez, Jr., “Uber And Lyft Could Soon Have A Hard Time Denying Drivers Full Worker Status,” Jalopnik, December 28, 2021, https://jalopnik.com/uber-and-lyft-could-soon-have-a-hard-time-denying-drive-1848276541
  9. [9]Jon Fingas, “You can pay for your Lyft ride with cash now,” Engadget, June 22, 2022, https://www.engadget.com/lyft-pay-with-cash-153041711.html
  10. [10]Megan Tomasic, “Police charge Penn Hills man in death of Uber driver in Monroeville,” Pittsburgh Tribune-Review, February 17, 2022, https://triblive.com/local/penn-hills/police-charge-penn-hills-man-in-the-death-of-an-uber-driver-in-monroeville/
  11. [11]David Benfell, “Gaslighting Uber drivers on safety,” Not Housebroken, April 28, 2022, https://disunitedstates.org/2022/04/28/gaslighting-uber-drivers-on-safety/
  12. [12]Jon Fingas, “You can pay for your Lyft ride with cash now,” Engadget, June 22, 2022, https://www.engadget.com/lyft-pay-with-cash-153041711.html
  13. [13]Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, “Man shot and killed in Scott office building,” November 9, 2022, https://www.post-gazette.com/news/crime-courts/2022/11/09/scott-township-allegheny-county-shooting-police/stories/202211090096
  14. [14]Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, “Man shot and killed in Scott office building,” November 9, 2022, https://www.post-gazette.com/news/crime-courts/2022/11/09/scott-township-allegheny-county-shooting-police/stories/202211090096
  15. [15]Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, “Man shot and killed in Scott office building,” November 9, 2022, https://www.post-gazette.com/news/crime-courts/2022/11/09/scott-township-allegheny-county-shooting-police/stories/202211090096
  16. [16]David Benfell, “Gaslighting Uber drivers on safety,” Not Housebroken, June 23, 2022, https://disunitedstates.org/2022/04/28/gaslighting-uber-drivers-on-safety/
  17. [17]Megan Tomasic, “2 injured in shooting along McKnight Road in Ross,” Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, January 5, 2023, https://www.post-gazette.com/news/crime-courts/2023/01/05/mcknight-road-shooting-ross-township-allegheny-county/stories/202301050127
  18. [18]Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, “Arrest made after shots fired, hostage situation at Eat ‘N Park in Banksville,” January 6, 2023, https://www.post-gazette.com/news/crime-courts/2023/01/05/pittsburgh-shooting-eatn-park-hostage-situation-banksville-road-man-arrested/stories/202301050130
  19. [19]Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, “Arrest made after shots fired, hostage situation at Eat ‘N Park in Banksville,” January 6, 2023, https://www.post-gazette.com/news/crime-courts/2023/01/05/pittsburgh-shooting-eatn-park-hostage-situation-banksville-road-man-arrested/stories/202301050130; Megan Tomasic, “2 injured in shooting along McKnight Road in Ross,” Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, January 5, 2023, https://www.post-gazette.com/news/crime-courts/2023/01/05/mcknight-road-shooting-ross-township-allegheny-county/stories/202301050127
  20. [20]David Benfell, “Gaslighting Uber drivers on safety,” Not Housebroken, November 9, 2022, https://disunitedstates.org/2022/04/28/gaslighting-uber-drivers-on-safety/