Uber Technologies Inc. is a San Francisco-based company providing mobility, food and package delivery services and freight transport. Uber operates in approximately 10,500 cities in 72 countries. The company sets fares based on local supply and demand at the time of booking and receives a commission from each booking. The company has 131 million monthly active users and 5.4 million active drivers and couriers worldwide.
Uber was founded in 2009 by Oscar Salazar Gaitan, Travis Kalanick and Garrett Camp and was initially named Ubercab Inc. The idea for Uber came about after Camp and Kalanick spent a pricey $800 hiring a private driver on New Year's Eve, and Camp needed help finding a taxi on a snowy night in Paris. Camp, Oscar Salazar and Conrad Whelan built the prototype for Uber's mobile app, with Kalanick as the chief advisor to the company. Ryan Graves became the first Uber employee in February 2010 and was named CEO in May 2010. In December 2010, Kalanick succeeded Graves as CEO, and Graves became the chief operating officer. Uber's current CEO is Dara Khosrowshahi, who replaced co-founder Travis Kalanick of Uber in August 2017.
Uber debuted in San Francisco in 2011, opening its services and mobile app to the public after beta testing in May 2010. Initially, the application hailed black luxury cars, which cost about 1.5 times as much as a regular taxi. In response to San Francisco's taxi operators' objections, the company changed its name from UberCab to Uber in the same year. Uber's early team consisted of talented individuals from various fields, including a computational neuroscientist and a nuclear physicist who worked on enhancing the accuracy of Uber's car arrival predictions beyond what Google APIs offered.
In the summer of 2012, Uber rolled out UberX. This budget-friendly alternative permitted drivers to use their cars provided they passed background checks and met insurance, registration and vehicle quality standards. UberX expanded to 35 cities within a few months, demonstrating its popularity among cost-conscious riders. In August 2014, Uber extended its services by introducing Uber Eats, a food delivery platform. It also unveiled a carpooling feature in the San Francisco Bay Area, which soon spread to other cities globally, enabling passengers to share rides and save on fares.
Uber has faced legal action in several jurisdictions due to its classification of drivers as gig workers and independent contractors. Ridesharing companies like Uber have disrupted taxicab businesses and allegedly caused increased traffic congestion. Additionally, Uber has been criticized for various unethical practices, such as ignoring local regulations, some of which were revealed by the leak of the Uber Files between 2013 and 2017 under the leadership of Travis Kalanick.
In August 2016, DiDi acquired Uber's business operations in China, and in exchange, Uber obtained an 18% equity stake in DiDi. DiDi also pledged to invest $1 billion in Uber as part of the agreement. Later that year, Uber purchased Ottomotto, a startup specializing in developing autonomous trucks. The acquisition was valued at $625 million, and the founder of Ottomotto, Anthony Levandowski, was previously accused of stealing trade secrets from his former employer, Waymo, to establish the company. In the same year, Uber also bought Geometric Intelligence, the cornerstone of "Uber AI," a department dedicated to exploring and researching AI technologies and machine learning. The Uber AI project disappeared in May 2020.
Despite the controversies, Uber has committed to carbon neutrality globally by 2040, and by 2030, in most countries, rides will move exclusively to electric vehicles. The company has also formed various partnerships and acquisitions, such as with IT Taxi in Italy, Cornershop for grocery delivery and Postmates for alcohol delivery. Uber continues to expand its services and develop new offerings, such as Uber Works, Uber Green and Uber Eats. The company has recently announced plans to become an emission-free platform and is investing in self-driving cars.