So was Uber, the biggest company in this arena, encouraging drivers to commit insurance fraud by hiding the truth about how they were using their cars? No drivers have come forward to make this assertion publicly. But industry observers are skeptical. “There is no honest answer that doesn’t include, ‘I hope the drivers lie,’ ” said Brian Sullivan, editor of the Auto Insurance Report newsletter, which has reported on the issue extensively. “It’s just a little lever they were using during their early days to build the business.”
Lane Kasselman, an Uber spokesman, said that Uber does not encourage lying. “When driver partners ask us about the process for making a claim to their personal insurer, we recommend that they are honest and clear with their insurer,” he said in an emailed statement. Lyft did not respond to requests for comment.
At the beginning of the year, the insurance questions became more urgent after an uberX driver out looking for riders hit a family in a San Francisco crosswalk, killing a 6-year-old girl and injuring her brother and mother. The mother reported having seen the driver looking at a glowing screen just before he hit them.
Immediately, a question emerged: If drivers are merely out looking for riders with their Uber driver app on, what if any responsibility does the company have for them and any damage they do? Uber stateput out a mentafter the accident saying that the driver “was not providing services on the Uber system during the time of the accident.”
When drivers have the Uber driver app on, however, they are providing a great service to the Uber system. After all, riders will want to use Uber only if there are lots of empty nearby cars available that potential riders can see on their phone screens and summon. Drivers, then, are helping Uber plenty when their app is on and they’re available, even if they aren’t on their way to pick up a rider who has summoned them and don’t have anyone in the back seat.