New Uber incident : Evading police arrest

I haven’t posted in a while, because I’ve been quite busy. I thought that my next post would have to be something technical, and something cool. Saddly, it is neither. The tech community has been following Uber a lot and this from the beginning, searching Uber on hackernews returns 2,240+ results. This post tells a story that happened to my partner and I while riding a Uber car.

Uber

First of all to give you a bit of context, we’re french expatriates living in Chennai, India, where I’m working as the associate CTO for KRDS. We went this week-end to Bangalore, only an hour away, to get away from the hectic city that Chennai can be and enjoy some bars/restaurants. We use Uber maybe 15 times a month, as it is a convenient solution here, you do not have to bargain with the local auto rickshaws, and you usually get a car in 15 minutes max.

We’ve had some minor trouble with some Uber drivers, but just as you would with any other taxi company in India. They almost all use their phone while driving, they some time spit out the window while driving which is unpleasant but usual here, but nothing came close to this ride we had yesterday.

Just a usual Uber ride

So here we are booking a Uber through the app to get to the airport in Bangalore after a nice week-end, and the driver arrives shortly after. He picks us up, and starts driving. But after driving a few minutes the driver starts telling us that he needs to get some cash from a relative and that we will have to wait a few minutes, saying that this is really important. We wait, parked but still paying for this, for 10 minutes. The person he is waiting for does not come so we ask him to go, reminding him that we have a plane to catch.

He drives for around 10 minutes while being on the phone (but as I said, this is normal in India), and then without asking us makes a big detour from the route to the airport, slowing us down by another 20 minutes. We start getting a bit angry but still politely ask him what he’s doing and he says that he needs to get some cash. He stops in the middle of a street and a woman gives him 100 ruppees (roughly 1.40$) and we realize that this is to pay the highway toll, where we could have just gave him that to save us a good half-hour and a good portion of this ride’s price. We tell him that now we might miss our plane because of him…

…and here begins the not-so-fun part

The driver suddenly starts doing +100km/h on a road probably limited to 60, and gets immediately noticed by a police radar. Two police officers stand in the middle of the road, waving and indicating him to stop. We yell at him to slow down and stop, what does he do? He keeps accelerating. The two cops barely dodged the car, and when I say barely I mean we heard their baton hitting the car. He then flees the scene to avoid getting caught, with us still screaming at him and asking him to stop this madness.

I’m not sure at this point if the speed caused this, or the state of the road, or one of the cops’ sticks, but he notices he has a flat tire and resolves himself to pull over. We rush outside of the car, and I still think that if he did not have a punctured tire he probably wouldn’t have stopped. The cops did not even bother chasing him.

As soon as we get some signal again we cancel the ride and I write a short review :

crazy driver almost ran over a police officer and didnt stop at the police barrage endangered our lives

A few minutes later we booked another Uber, who left us safe and sound at the airport.

Uber’s reply

I’m extremely sorry to hear that. We never want you to feel uncomfortable when riding with a driver partner on our system. I totally understand your concern and I’m extremely disappointed to hear this happened. We have a zero tolerance policy for this behaviour and I assure you that our team is following up with driver appropriately, and immediately. To begin with, we’ve waitlisted his account.

Again, I sincerely apologise for this experience and hope you’ll give us a chance to make it up to you real soon. Please let me know if there’s anything else that I can do.

Since that, they refunded us, but I started questionning their background checks. And what is a 3$ refund compared to your safety? But then again, it’s India and other taxi companies probably wouldn’t even have this kind of commercial gesture.

As of right now, Uber is already in a lot of trouble in India, this is just another unexpected incident where in the end, luckily, no one was hurt.


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