I had an unpleasant experience Monday while driving for Uber. It involved Maryland’s child safety seat law and Uber’s refusal to support it.
I accepted a ride request that took me to an apartment complex. As I approached the pickup spot I saw a man, a woman, two very young children, and a stroller.
What I didn’t see where car seats for the children.
I attempted to explain to the couple that I could not drive them unless they had child safety seats for the children. The woman told me she didn’t understand. She said she didn’t understand English very well. She said she only understood Arabic.
I tried to explain that in Maryland, children younger than six years of age require a child safety seat when riding in a class A vehicle. Considering her limited understanding of English, I tried to make it as simple as I could. I asked her to please cancel the ride request. She refused.
Because she refused to cancel, I had to do it. I selected the option indicating they did not have a child safety seat. I began driving out of the parking lot when I got another ride request. The app showed that the passenger was four minutes away. Great! That told me it was not the people I just dealt with.
Or so I thought. As soon as I accepted the request the distance changed from four minutes to one minute and I was instructed by the app to turn around and that I had arrived.
I wanted to cancel the request. I felt I could not do that. The reason? I didn’t want the passengers to report me to Uber for discrimination. That exact thing already happened to me once before. I didn’t want it to happen again.
Once upon a time while driving for Uber
I was once sent to pick up a passenger at a truck stop. After waiting five minutes for the passenger to show up, I canceled the trip. As I was attempting to leave, the passenger showed up and tried to block me from leaving. I told him I canceled the trip because he failed to show up in time. I also asked him to please remove himself from the front of my vehicle so I could leave.
A few minutes later as I was driving to one of the places I park and wait for ride requests, I got a new ride request. I accepted it, but then noticed it was the same person from the truck stop.
Needless to say, I did not want this man in my vehicle. I did not want to drive him. If he’s going to try to stop me from leaving, what else was a capable of doing?
I canceled the trip.
We now interrupt this television program for an important call from Uber Support
Later that evening while sitting at home on the sofa watching TV, I got a phone call from Uber support. I didn’t even know they called drivers. They told me a rider reported me for canceling a ride request because of his race and/or national origin. He said until they conduct an investigation, they are suspending my account.
After speaking to the Uber support person, I got the impression they were investigating me for the second cancellation, not the first one.
I said I had a huge problem with the passenger because he planted himself in front of my car and tried to stop me from leaving.
The color of his skin and/or his national origin had nothing to do with the reason I canceled. I explained most of the people I drive are people of color.
The Uber support person said he would note everything I told him in his report. He also told me I had nothing to worry about. My account should be activated in a few hours.
Sure enough, when I tried to log in the next morning, everything worked. I was not suspended.
Fast forward to Monday. I was worried that if I immediately canceled, I could possibly be reported for denying someone a ride because of their country of origin. I don’t even know if the first “incident” is still on my official Uber record.
The second time was not a charm
I pulled up to the couple and they were very upset upon seeing me again. Then again, they should have seen it was me in the Uber passenger app.
I explained if they canceled, they would not be charged. It was at this point that I began to wonder if they knew more English then they were letting on. They both began calling me names in English. The woman told me I was a trouble maker. The man called me stupid and crazy. He then threw the stroller into the grass area next to the parking lot. I would not be surprised if he broke it. What he did to his stroller is probably what he wanted to do to me.
I canceled. Then, I immediately called Uber support. I wanted to tell my side of the incident in case the passengers reported me. As I was speaking to the Uber support person, another Uber driver showed up and gave the passengers and their two small children a ride. They still did not have any car seats.
Uber let me down as a driver-partner
I don’t understand why Uber does this. If a driver cancels twice for the passenger not having a car seat (in this case, two car seats), why are they then immediately dispatching another driver to pick up the same passenger? Why even provide the reason for canceling if they aren’t going to use that information? It’s no secret Uber uses artificial intelligence (AI) to manage ride requests from passengers. The AI is clearly not utilizing the information we driver-partners are providing.
I feel Uber let me down in this situation. Because the woman was able to request a ride without the next driver refusing to drive her without car seats, I’m sure she believed she was in the right and I was in the wrong.
In reality, I wasn’t stupid, crazy, or a trouble maker. I was only following Maryland child safety seat law. Too bad Uber refuses to do it too.