back to article Uber blackballs 'Greyball' tool it used to deny rides to regulators

Caught out over showing fake cars to anyone it suspected of being a cop or a regulator, Uber has announced it will end the practice. The company was accused of treating regulators and police with a disdain its staff might recognise when encountering harassment, or worse, at work. If the systems figured the app was on a …

  1. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Reward the little guy

    Use a regular old-school taxi!

    Even if they might be less attractive.

    Stuff these corporate pirates.

    1. Voland's right hand Silver badge

      Re: Reward the little guy

      Yeah, I rewarded them in Madrid over Xmas.

      The first one tried to take me from T4 to Alcobendas (1 mile) via the city center. The next morning the taxi company pretended that they need 2 taxis to load 2 adults and two kids with luggage. They did not do it very well as one of the cars was a Peugeot 5006 minivan. Then they drove from Alcobendas to T4 via T1. This time 8 miles.

      Pox on both of their houses. Screw them both sidewize - I am renting.

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Reward the little guy

      You mean the old school taxi that only accept cash, will only drive you where you want if it's convenient for them, that you can't summon with an app or just have to wait until one drives by or you have to call up to explain where you are, all of this while being more expensive?

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Reward the little guy

        "You mean the old school taxi that only accept cash..."

        Are you a paid Uber shill? You sound like one. I use taxis all the time all over North America & a lot of Asia. I've not encountered a cash only taxi in over a dozen years.

        1. Valerion

          Re: Reward the little guy

          Are you a paid Uber shill? You sound like one. I use taxis all the time all over North America & a lot of Asia. I've not encountered a cash only taxi in over a dozen years.

          Try Dubai. I've yet to get into a taxi there that takes cards (last time I went was about a year ago). That said, I've never used Uber there because the taxis are very cheap anyway, even if the drivers are absolute lunatics. Like the driver who didn't want to sit in the queue of traffic so absolutely floored it down the wrong side of the road, missing by about an inch a car that was pulling out of a side road and not expecting a Toyota Camry to be appear round a bend at about 60mph on the wrong side of the road.

          If Uber can create an app that lets you press a button to disable the accelerator of the driver then they'll make a fortune.

        2. Updraft102 Silver badge

          Re: Reward the little guy

          I encountered a cash only taxi last week. Only cab company in town here. I guess they didn't hear that you hadn't encountered such a thing in so many years...

        3. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: Reward the little guy

          Here in Central London most Black taxi's display the card pay signs

          BUT

          Once inside have a hand written "Cash Prefered" sign

          Stops them having to declare it to the taxman that way

          1. Voland's right hand Silver badge

            Re: Reward the little guy

            Stops them having to declare it to the taxman that way

            It is just UK being one of the last countries in Europe where the taxi meter does not also serve as a receipt printer as does not go for regular audits to the tax office (like all retail receipts/accounts elsewhere).

    3. The Man Who Fell To Earth Silver badge
      FAIL

      Re: Reward the little guy

      Given that everything Uber has said from the get-go has been a lie, starting with being a "ride share" rather than "car hire (taxi)" company, why would anyone believe this blog post means anything is changing? Besides, this blog post does not say they won't continue obstructing law enforcement. It just says they are reviewing, which just means "waiting for people to lose interest".

      The blog post is just typical SV obfuscation.

      The Feds should go after Uber & it's VC's under RICO.

      1. Robert Helpmann?? Silver badge
        Childcatcher

        Re: Reward the little guy

        I would think Uber would have an idea as to where it can and cannot operate legally. Just out of curiosity, how hard would it be for them to simply ignore hails from areas where they are not supposed to operate?

    4. Colabroad

      Re: Reward the little guy

      Amber Cars in Leeds have their own App, you can book through it, even up to 24 hours in advance, pay through it, it shows where your driver is on a map when he's coming to pick you up, it basically does everything Uber does but without the surge pricing, employee abuse, terrible morals, shady business practices, and spunting of Vulture Capitalist subsidies to crash the local markets. Also their call centre is in Leeds and seemingly staffed with a bunch of lovely Northern lasses.

      My point is, if it's possible to have an Uber beater like Amber in West Yorkshire, who presumably didn't create this app themselves, then other local taxi firms need to follow suit to combat the American charlatans trying to muscle in on their patch.

      1. John Brown (no body) Silver badge

        Re: Reward the little guy

        "My point is, if it's possible to have an Uber beater like Amber in West Yorkshire, who presumably didn't create this app themselves, then other local taxi firms need to follow suit to combat the American charlatans trying to muscle in on their patch."

        Agreed, there are many private hire companies operating as you describe and some were already doing it before Uber was created. I remember going out on a maintenance contract call out to a taxi office at least 15 years ago to fix the PC the used for their call management system. It automatically picked the nearest car when a booking came in. They were discussing back then how to get the information to the customer by SMS to give car reg and ETA and price.

        I've not travelled out of the UK much, but I wonder just which countries have similar arrangement to the UK, ie Taxi which can be hailed on the street, and private hire which can only be pre-booked. If, for example, the US doesn't have these distinctly different arrangements, than maybe that's why Uber and Lyft took off over there but are seen as just another operator here, albeit with lots of publicity, marketing and a national brand awareness. (not to mention deliberately running at a loss to beat the incumbent locals.

        Locally, I've always found private hire to be pretty good because there are competing companies. From what I've seen of past discussion here about Uber/Lyft/etc, that doesn't appear to be the case in the US.

    5. evilhippo

      Re: Reward the little guy

      At twice the price? No thanks, I'll stick with Uber.

      1. TheMole

        Re: Reward the little guy

        So shortsighted, I am amazed you can even see the keys on your keyboard.

        The insane amounts of VC money going into Uber represents the belief that it will provide massive returns on that investment - which can only be achieved by monopoly dominance and subsequent massive price hikes. If they attain their goals, do you think anyone will be able to challenge them and reintroduce fair/fare competition, given their approach to the norms of business and the law itself ?

        Each time you use them is another micro-boost towards monopoly dominance.

      2. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Uber is cheaper, but I hope you know why

        They lose 40% (can't remember the exact figure) on every ride. Deliberately, because they are trying to kill off the incumbent taxi business and prevent "ride share" competitors not also funded by billions of VC dollars from taking root. The long term plan is of course that when they have successfully killed off the taxi business, they'll raise their rates to whatever the market will bear.

        If they've killed off taxis and successfully prevented competition like Lyft from gaining critical mass, there will be little or no competition, and they will be able to charge MORE than taxis did. That's the ultimate goal, or at least what they'll tell investors when they IPO because the VCs are probably getting tired of pouring money into subsidizing those losses.

        They may never reach that long term goal though, as self driving cars may hit before then. Then they'll have to compete with well funded potential rivals like Google and Apple (via its Didi Chuxing investment, if they don't do a car) as well as rental car companies that transform their business before it dies, and probably the automakers themselves.

        1. Naselus

          Re: Uber is cheaper, but I hope you know why

          "Then they'll have to compete with well funded potential rivals like Google and Apple..."

          Unlikely, since Uber are already funded by Google, to the tune of about a quarter-billion dollars, and Apple has indirectly funded it by a billion dollars too (via Didi Chuxing).

  2. LDS Silver badge

    Shouldn't accounts violating the TOS terminated simply?

    What need of creating a virtual reality for them? Guess Uber has enough info about them to spot those trying to create a new account. Unless the TOS violation is simply applying existing laws, because the Ubermensch never approved them....

    1. Gordon Pryra

      Re: Shouldn't accounts violating the TOS terminated simply?

      "What need of creating a virtual reality for them?"

      Because these users have NOT violated any TOS.

      A private companies terms of service does NOT trump local laws.

      By blocking them for any breech, they would have to explain what TOS they have broken. While for a normal user, this just means the industry standard of "ignore any form of contact" for the police this may be slightly harder.

      1. LDS Silver badge

        Re: Shouldn't accounts violating the TOS terminated simply?

        I was exactly pointing out that the Uber excuse is quite lame - why create a complex technical solution when TOS violations could be addressed in a much simpler way? It's clear Uber had other reason to deceive a given class of users.

  3. IHateWearingATie

    11th Commandment

    Uber are merely obeying the 11th Commandment - Thou shall not get caught. It's served me well in my life, maybe they could apply it to all the other screwups recently and 'greyball' their CEO when he tries to find his office tomorrow morning....

  4. wolfetone

    A company built on telling the consumer that they're a more transparent safer way of getting from A to B, gets caught being opaque and misleading.

    The hipsters don't give a damn though. They'd rather use these charlatans than use what has gone before.

  5. iromko

    It seems that Uber and specifically its CEO are getting punished for stepping down from Donald Trump’s economic advisory council back at the beginning of February.

    I think board would admit that they must replace the CEO in several weeks, and after that all these regulatory woes would disappear.

    1. Gordon Pryra

      "It seems that Uber and specifically its CEO are getting punished"

      "regulatory woes"?

      That is ..... one way ..... of looking at being found out using systems that specifically target police to hide evidence of crimes being committed.

      regulatory woes.....

      1. Updraft102 Silver badge

        Re: "It seems that Uber and specifically its CEO are getting punished"

        If two people meeting voluntarily for an activity that hurts no one can really be a "crime." Real crimes have a victim. If the only complainant is some government official enforcing an arbitrary law, that doesn't count. No victim, no crime.

        1. User McUser
          Alert

          Re: "It seems that Uber and specifically its CEO are getting punished"

          If two people meeting voluntarily for an activity that hurts no one can really be a "crime." Real crimes have a victim.

          Except that hailing an Uber is hardly "two people meeting voluntarily"; Uber is a giant world-wide corporation that you asked to send someone 'round to pick you up and they chose who got to do it. *Your* actions may be voluntary but the driver got dispatched to pick you up and won't be driving for Uber much longer if he refuses to obey (meaning it isn't voluntary.)

          And there is a victim - lawful Taxi companies and their employees to start and the rest of us later. It would be one thing if Uber was competitive on their merits, but they're "competitive" by straight-up undercutting prices such that they operate at a continual loss and by completely ignoring all of the laws and regulations on their industry. They aim to drive out (no pun intended) the existing Taxi companies and then hike prices up to profitable levels while presumably still treating their drivers like fungible tools. They pretend that they are "disruptive" but in reality they are "running unlicensed Taxis." By that logic my neighborhood drug dealer is "disrupting" the pharmaceutical industry when he sells heroin; all he needs is an app I guess?

    2. Voland's right hand Silver badge

      all these regulatory woes would disappear

      Really? In Paris? Berlin? Frankfurt?

      I did not know that USA is capable of assembling an invasion force THAT BIG.

  6. creepy gecko
    Facepalm

    "If the only complainant is some government official enforcing an arbitrary law, that doesn't count. No victim, no crime."

    Nice trolling.

  7. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Unfortunately uber does fill a gap. I use to live in the SF bay area and out side SF and airports good look getting cabs. I have called cabs that did not show up and had to call a second company.

    1. Ken Moorhouse Silver badge

      Re: ...and had to call a second company.

      The address you gave as the pick-up point: it wasn't a government building was it?

      At least Uber haven't adopted this technique:-

      https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=71BC8M9Hw0I

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