How ruthless UBER outwitted regulators and crushed competitors - Monday Night on FOUR CORNERS
The Uber Story: How the ruthless ride share giant outwitted regulators and crushed competitors.
“I think of it as the digital equivalent of that ‘greed is good’ mentality - the Gordon Gekko mentality, but in a digital space, which is, ‘We will do this. We can do this, and no one's going to stop us’." Digital economy analyst.
Uber is one of the most recognisable brands in the world. It’s embedded itself in our language and revolutionised the way we think about transport. Since emerging nine years ago on the streets of San Francisco, the edgy digital disruptor has upended an entire industry business model and made ride sharing cool. And Australians love it.
“In Australia, we now have some of the most progressive ride-sharing laws globally… Nearly 4 million Australians use Uber on a regular basis.” Uber Australia MD.
But Uber’s ride to success has been far from smooth. Behind the slick marketing an aggressive corporate culture has been at work.
“I've heard it described as kind of a modern wild west approach, where if there's a market there to be taken, we're just going to take it. Just try and stop us.” Digital economy analyst.
On Monday Four Corners investigates how Uber has been outfoxing regulators and outmuscling its competitors in Australia and around the world.
“Uber is a very significant technological company, but some of its technology is not about providing better services to the community.” Taxi industry leader.
Using sophisticated cyber weaponry, the company has deployed an astonishing array of tools enabling it to dominate the ride-sharing game.
“(The) ThreatOps team inside of Uber was pretty much made up of a bunch of ex CIA, FBI type guys who would travel around the world, spending millions of dollars… Spy type stuff that is kind of crazy to go on at a tech company.” Technology reporter.
Despite its undisputed popularity, Uber has yet to make a profit, and questions are being asked about the financial health of the company.
“To turn around four, four and half billion dollars of losses into steady growing profits would be one of the greatest corporate turnarounds of an operating company in history.” Transport analyst.
A series of corporate scandals and bruising court battles has put the company under further pressure.
“We made mistakes. I'll acknowledge that and at the same time, I think it's important how you recover from those mistakes and how you grow.” Uber senior executive.
Uber is banking on selling a vision, way beyond ride sharing, to secure its future. Four Corners has been given access to the company’s global tech hub where engineers are working on everything from electric scooters to flying taxis, with several Australian cities on the shortlist for Uber Air.
“By providing unlimited access to the sky the Uber mega skyport becomes a destination that reclaims more than just time.” Uber advertisement.
While Uber is looking to the future, others are still counting the cost of its arrival.
“It's a real threat to the future of restaurants, full stop.” Uber Eats supplier.
The Uber Story, reported by Sean Nicholls, goes to air on Monday 18th March at 8.30pm.
It is replayed on Tuesday 19th March at 1.00pm and Wednesday 20th at 11.20pm. It can also be seen on ABC NEWS channel on Saturday at 8.10pm AEST, ABC iview and at abc.net.au/4corners.