updated 01:42 pm EDT, Thu July 10, 2014
Passengers subjected to car chase over possible $2,000 Uber driver fine
A driver for transportation service Uber effectively kidnapped their passengers for a period of time, according to reports. Ryan Simonetti, CEO of Convene, and two other passengers were allegedly involved in a 10-minute chase in Washington, D.C. on Tuesday, caused by the driver refusing to pull over for a D.C. taxi inspector in an attempt to avoid a $2,000 fine.
Simonetti noticed the inspector talking to the driver before getting in for the ride, reports the Washington Post, with the inspector heading to his own vehicle. After the Uber car set off, the inspector followed with his lights on, with the driver explaining the inspector was not a "real cop" after being questioned by the passengers. The driver apologized for running a red light, before driving above the speed limit for around 10 minutes. "It was like an episode of 'Cops'. We've all seen the 'Cops' episode. This only ends two ways," commented Simonetti. "Either the car crashes or the guy jumps out and runs. And he had plenty of opportunities to slow down and jump out and run, and he wasn't doing that."
The passengers apparently yelled at the driver to slow down, with Simonetti attempting to force the brake pedal down, but the driver continued, insisting he would receive the $2,000 fine. The passengers were freed from the vehicle after the taxi inspector pulled ahead of the Uber car, blocking progress, with the driver escaping by going the wrong way on an exit ramp.
A spokesman for the D.C. Taxicab Commission confirmed Tuesday's event, advising that a report has been filed by the inspector, and that he was checking if the pickup was legal, namely through the Uber app instead of being hailed on the street. An Uber representative issued a statement, advising it was aware of a "potential incident involving an UberBlack trip." Taylor Bennett, spokesperson for the company, said "Rider safety is our #1 priority. We will cooperate with authorities in their investigation and have deactivated the driver pending the outcome."
The incident is unlikely to win Uber any new fans, and also brings up the issue of driver vetting, a subject brought up during this week's launch of Lyft in New York City.