In the beginning, Uber went from street fight to street fight as it sought to win acceptance around the globe.
Now the ride-hailing company is firmly in the driver’s seat, steering political and policy battles as lawmakers and regulators turn their eyes toward the growing sharing economy.
“There was an evolution” at the federal level, said Justin Kintz, head of public policy and communications for Uber. “After most of the U.S. had enacted [transportation network company] regulations, the question is no longer should Uber be in our city or not. It has become about showing why Uber is good for communities around the nation.”
In just a few years, Uber has transformed from a scrappy startup to a Washington powerhouse — a path traveled by many tech companies, but one that was largely unexpected for the nascent ride-hailing industry.
Uber’s first products centered entirely on the black cars that are traditionally operated by livery companies, a market that’s tightly regulated in many cities and counties.
The company says it ran into two issues: caps on the number of livery drivers in a given jurisdiction and limits on what they could charge for a ride. The former would make it hard for Uber to expand in a competitive market, while the latter impeded the deployment of Uber’s surge-pricing model.
But in some places the company decided to just start operating and then deal with regulators later. NextCity reported that Uber’s first cease-and-desist letter came in 2013 from a governmental authority months after the service launched.