Like Audrey II, the talking plant in Little Shop of Horrors, the car-sharing-app company Uber—whose troubled entry to Portland is the subject of our cover story this week—does two things: grow and devour.
In five years, it has expanded to 247 cities in 53 countries. But also like Audrey II, it hasn't kept many friends.
Nearly everywhere Uber lands, it has picked fightsâwhat CEO Travis Kalanick calls âprincipled confrontationââwith existing taxi companies and regulators.
But criticism of the company has recently intensified after bad PR—including two rape accusations, a raft of lawsuits and bans in three countries.
In many cities, Uber has faced five major criticisms: that the company doesn't require drivers to carry adequate insurance, doesn't perform sufficient background checks on its drivers, hasn't guaranteed service to customers with disabilities, gouges customers with its market-demand pricing, and kills competition from other taxi services.
Here's what the Uber battlefield looks like:
1. San Francisco
An Uber driver struck and killed a 6-year-old girl as she crossed the street on New Year's Eve in 2013. The girl's family sued Uber for wrongful death. But the company says its insurance doesn't cover the killing—because the driver is an independent contractor and wasn't carrying or picking up an Uber customer at the time.
1A. San Francisco, Part II
The company faces legal action after a driver in September allegedly attacked a passenger with a hammer.
2. Sacramento, Calif.
The local chapter of the National Federation for the Blind sued Uber on Sept. 8, charging the company with refusing to serve more than 30 blind customers because drivers didn't want to transport their service animals. One allegation: An Uber driver stuffed one guide dog in a car trunk—then refused to pull over when the woman realized where her dog was.
3. Los Angeles
The county district attorney sued Uber on Dec. 9 for misleading consumers "regarding the quality of the background checks."
4. Las Vegas
A judge's order kicked Uber out of Nevada in November, as cab companies fought to protect their turf.
Arizona officials have hit 61 ride-sharing drivers with $2,700 fines for allegedly not carrying insurance.
Three wheelchair users sued Uber in June for not having enough disabled-access vehicles.
Uber removed a driver Dec. 10 after a passenger accused him of sexually assaulting her.
8. New York City
After surge pricing pushed minimum charges to $175 per trip during a 2013 snowstorm, Uber promised the state attorney general it would cap fare increases during weather disasters.
An Uber driver was charged Dec. 18 with raping a passenger.
A judge ruled Dec. 9 that Uber must stop operating in Spain, because it poses illegal competition to existing cab companies. The Madrid taxi association plans to file a lawsuit to keep Uber out for good.
Uber was briefly banned nationwide this fall after a taxi-company lawsuit.
Government officials banned Uber in the Delhi region Dec. 8 after an Uber driver was detained on suspicion of raping a female passenger. The driver had been previously accused of rape in 2011. Uber managers told media the company relies on government background checks in India. Uber's top officials pledged to toughen driver screening worldwide.
National regulators banned Uber this month, citing a lack of insurance.
When Islamic extremists held customers at a downtown cafe hostage Dec. 8, Uber used surge pricing to jack up its fares fourfold to a minimum of $100 per trip. Critics worldwide decried Uber's price gouging during the crisis.
South Korean officials on Dec. 24 indicted Uber CEO Travis Kalanick for illegally operating rental cars as taxis. If convicted, he could face up to two years in prison.