Last week at a press event, Uber was teasing about plans on developing their very own network of flying cars by the year 2020. The event redirected the attention of the media up to the skies during a time that Uber is overwhelmed with PR disasters on the ground.
However, the PR disaster isn’t over yet.
Reports state that Uber is now under criminal investigation by the Department of Justice for a tool they built that helps drivers avoid law enforcement in areas that do not allow Uber to operate, such as Portland, Oregon. The DOJ and Uber are declining to comment on the investigation at this time.
In a statement, Dan Saltzman, Portland Commissioner, said that they support the investigation into Uber’s tool to avoid law officials. They will continue doing their part to move forward with the case.
Uber was also in court this week defending against charges of stealing intelligence and trade secrets for their autonomous vehicle service from Google’s Waymo.
And if that isn’t bad enough, Travis Kalanick, CEO of Uber, recently failed to appear at a major tech conference during an ongoing internal investigation of sexual harassment claims from a former employee.
Is This The New “Normal” For Uber?
It would appear so. The once unstoppable startup has taken a few falls this year. Now bad headlines, lawsuits, resurgent competitors, and executive departures surround the company.
Uber’s damage has been in the making for months. In January they were hit by a viral boycott after appearing to break a taxi driver strike protesting the travel ban. The following month, an urgent investigation began responding to the sexual harassment claims. And weeks later, a video of Kalanick arguing with one of his drivers also went viral on social media.
Along with the above, President Jeff Jones resigned over concerns with the company’s management culture. Head of policy and communications, Rachel Whetstone, also quit.
However, among the chaos surrounding Uber, their competitors are beginning to benefit from their struggles. Uber’s main rival, Lyft, increased funding by $600 million. And the week after Uber’s boycott, Lyft also saw a 60% rise in new customer signups.
However, Uber’s drivers aren’t suddenly leaving the company. An Uber driver, Harry Campbell, says drivers are still just as busy as before.
But the continuous trend of setbacks is raising questions on Uber’s IPO. They have raised over $10 billion for funding, and the company is being brief on when they will go public. Lise Buyer, an IPO expert, says their value will likely take a fall when they do go public.