Uber driver attack highlights difficulties with unregulated service

Published: November 4, 2015

Updated: July 24, 2018

Author: Luke Jones

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An attack on an Uber driver in Orange County, California, has placed the spotlight on the company again and opens up plenty of new questions as Canadian cities move to regulate the UberX service.

The driver working for the drive-share service recorded the moment a passenger engages in a heated argument and then finally gets physical towards the vehicle’s operator. The driver asks the inebriated passenger for directions as they were not provided, but the passenger insists that they were, prompting the driver to stop and request the passenger to leave. While exiting the vehicle, the disgruntled consumer starts punching the head of the driver against the side window.

While the attack highlights the dangers UberX drivers face, it also shows how their position operating outside the law means they could have less protection. Agitated and aggressive passengers are something taxi drivers also deal with, but there are more laws and regulations in place to protect licensed taxi operators.

The UberX driver sharing service is going to be regulated in Toronto starting next year, but until then drivers continue to drive unregulated and effectively illegally; Taxi drives oppose the company and think it should be banned outright.

While passengers pose a threat in some circumstance, there have also been accounts in Ontario and beyond where drivers have been aggressive towards their clients. There are reports of abusive UberX drivers in the province and in other nations, and in many circumstances there is nothing to stop poor operators from using the service.

Uber says it maintains a concise rating system where passengers can rate drivers from one to five, the company says this will weed out bad drivers. However, there is no legal ramifications for largely anonymous drivers who are operating without regulation and without any kind of license to drive with passengers.

Until Toronto and other cities finalize regulations, Uber will continue to have a free pass in Canada, operating outside of the law and in many cases with drivers who are not properly insured by auto insurance providers. Once regulations are in place, drivers for the service will have requirements to meet before they are licensed to travel with passengers in a commercial capacity.

When the Toronto City Council voted for UberX to be regulated last month, the city requested that Uber close its operations in the city until rules and guides were drawn up. The company outright refused and still continues to operate on the streets of Ontario.