Dylan Hong

December 8, 2017

Uber Tries to Gain Our Trust

Everything that I’m going to be talking about is in reference to the video listed below, so be sure to check it out. The video itself is an unlisted YouTube video created by Uber (not yet being pushed as marketing material). The video details their journey and process of developing self-driving cars for their ride sharing platform.

I believe that this video is produced with the main purpose of gaining the general consumer’s trust. Now, Uber already has a shady reputation amongst the public. Uber has been known to use questionably legal tactics to spy on its competitors and users. The newly appointed CEO of Uber understands this and spoke to his team about this. He noted that, “The truth is there is a high cost to a bad reputation.” You can read the rest of that article in this link (http://www.businessinsider.com/high-cost-to-a-bad-reputation-new-ceo-warns-uber-in-london-ban-2017-9). Whether or not the new CEO can turn things around is yet to be seen.

So when you have a company with a bad public perception like Uber, it’s hard to dive into a new field of technology that also has a questionable view from the public. In my opinion, this video is an early step of Uber trying to build public trust for themselves in addition to self-driving cars in general. The video starts out by telling us how autonomy has been all around us our entire lives (to varying degrees). Then it shares with us that their self-driving cars have already been driving for over 1 million miles. It then explains the new hardware in the cars and how capable it is. The friendly-faced “vehicle operator” sits in the driver’s seat  to ensure that nothing goes wrong. The video tells us that all of these operators must pass several written and field tests before going out on the road. This leads the video into the idea that, the more these cars drive, the safer all cars will end up being.

To sum everything up, Uber is showing us what they are doing, how they are doing it, and why. This is a new level of transparency that we haven’t seen before; however, it’s a very polished and rehearsed production that they show in the video. This polish exists to tell us that Uber is maturing as a company and that they can be trusted. They don’t want their past reputation to soil any potential marketshare they can obtain in the field of autonomous vehicles. I think they made this video so early on, so in the future, they can look back and tell everybody “We’ve been all about transparency the whole time!” But it’s still a good thing at the end of the day. Because the Googles and Teslas of the world are starting out with public trust. We know how much information we willingly give to Google, and Tesla amounted over 500,000 preorders on a car that won’t ship for months or years (and most of the preorders came before the car was even officially released). So they didn’t have to take the extra steps to make sure their products are trusted by the public, they just are. Now that we have a previously shady company trying to repent for their mistakes, we see an Uber that’s trying as hard as they can to increase trust in themselves as well as autonomous vehicles. This could be what the public needed. Uber may very well be the company that starts steering the public into the favor of self-driving cars. Maybe Uber’s untrustworthy past will be the driving force in securing widely-accepted autonomous future.

https://youtu.be/27OuOCeZmwI, http://www.businessinsider.com/high-cost-to-a-bad-reputation-new-ceo-warns-uber-in-london-ban-2017-9,
Dylan Hong
Human Factors Engineering