Earlier this week, businessman Ryan Simonetti had a very unpleasant ride in an Uber. In an attempt to avoid a fine, the driver of his hired car kidnapped Simonetti and his two colleagues, taking them across state lines as a taxi inspector tracked behind him. Since the incident, Uber has fired the driver, but the situation has called into question Uber's vetting process for their drivers.
As Simonetti and his two coworkers approached the car they had ordered from UberBLACK, they noticed a D.C. taxi inspector speaking to their driver. It seemed the inspector requested some documents, and after the Uber driver handed them over, he took off with the passengers instead of waiting for the inspector to check the paperwork. After the Uber driver sped away, the inspector turned on his police lights and began trailing them.
Simonetti asked the driver what was going on, and if the inspector was a police officer, to which the Uber driver replied, "Oh no, he’s not a real cop. I’m sorry, we’re going to have to run this red light." The driver was going "well above the speed limit," and the passengers were asking him to slow down just enough so they could safely jump out of the vehicle. Instead, the driver continued through traffic, narrowly missing other vehicles.
Simonetti even attempted to physically force the drivers leg onto the brake pedal, before the driver finally pulled into an exit ramp. The inspector then pulled in front of the Uber, and the passengers were able to narrowly escape. However, the Uber driver wasn't quite finished yet, and decided to drive up the exit ramp the wrong way, crossing state lines into Virginia. The inspector stayed with the passengers.
The Uber driver's reasoning for the high speed case: if he stopped, he would get a $2,000 fine. Now, he is facing an investigation from the D.C. Taxicab commission and is no longer with Uber.
Uber spokesperson Taylor Bennett told The Wire, "Uber became aware of a potential incident involving an UberBLACK trip in Washington, D.C., yesterday afternoon. Rider safety is our #1 priority. We will cooperate with authorities in their investigation and have deactivated the driver pending the outcome."
The entire debacle began because the driver had Virginia plates, and Uber was recently banned in Virginia. The inspector was checking to make sure the pick up in D.C. was done legally, through the app, which the District allows. It seems that it was, but before the inspector could confirm, the driver took off.
Incidents like this are certainly a bad look for Uber, as they attempt to fight for the right to operate in Virginia once again. In D.C., Uber also faced mass protests last month, as cab drivers push for Uber to comply with traditional Taxi and Limousine Commission regulations.