(Photo by Stephen Babcock)
Felicia Dibabo said driving with Uber is helping her raise four kids. For Michael Walker, it’s become a full-time job over the last year.
They were just a couple of about 100 Uber drivers that attended an event Thursday at Spark, the coworking space at Power Plant Live!
Along with getting a chance to interact with Uber’s staff, the drivers also heard from one of the transportation company’s top advisors — former Obama campaign manager David Plouffe.
Plouffe said the intent of the event was to bring the drivers together, and mark the fact that the company now has 9,000 drivers in Baltimore — three-quarters of whom drive less than 10 hours a week. City Council President Bernard “Jack” Young and Baltimore NAACP President Tessa Hill-Aston were also on hand.
“Despite the growing economy, for too many of my constituents it is getting harder and harder to make ends meet,” Young said, adding that flexible work opportunities can be a “game-changer.”
At a time when the local cab company launched its own ride-hailing app, the event also sought to position Uber as a company serving the entire city. Plouffe said the company does well in the Inner Harbor, but its “missing link” is the underserved neighborhoods outside the center of the city. Uber has released internal stats showing that 20 percent of rides start in West Baltimore.
“There’s a sense that it’s a service that used by young people, used Friday and Saturday nights,” Plouffe said. “That’s an important use case for us, but we’re 24-7 now and we’re in the community.”
Uber does well in Inner Harbor, but "real missing link" is underserved areas, David Plouffe tells Baltimore drivers pic.twitter.com/k7IRwqTuPm
— Technical.ly B'more (@TechnicallyBMR) February 25, 2016
Plouffe acknowledged that the company is often in the news, and that’s been apparent locally. Last year, Uber and Lyft mounted a political push to get regulatory a framework that was specific to ridesharing companies passed in the state legislature. Plouffe said the regulations provide “certainty going forward,” but didn’t talk about further expansion.
The company has also been the center of criminal investigations. An Uber driver is accused in a shooting spree in Kalamazoo, Mich., leading to questions about the company’s safety process and fingerprinting. (Fingerprinting was a key issue during last year’s negotiations in Maryland.) Earlier this week, the Baltimore Sun’s Justin Fenton reported that a man used Uber to transport drugs to a luxury apartment in Brewer’s Hill. Plouffe said the company has a “great relationship with Baltimore PD.”
“Every part of the ride is tracked by GPS. There’s no anonymity, you share your ETA. So When there is something that happens and we engage with law enforcement, we have a lot of information about what happened,” he said.
6 takeaways on tech and civic change from AccelerateBaltimore’s opening ceremony
How the student entrepreneurs at UB’s Rise to the Challenge pitch night are thinking about impact
This platform is tracking organs for transplant as they travel between donors and recipients
Lime is aiming to mobilize escooter riders to push for safer streets
Sign-up for daily news updates from Technical.ly Baltimore