In case you ever doubted that Uber was evil

I never doubted it, but now the CEO, Dara Khosrowshahi, confirms it for us all. He was asked about the fact that Saudi Arabia was the 5th largest shareholder and that a Saudi representative has a seat on their board, and then asked whether that was appropriate, since they’d murdered an American reporter, Jamal Khashoggi. Khosrowshahi made an amazing excuse.

I think that that government said that they made a mistake. It’s a serious mistake. We’ve made mistakes, too, with self-driving and we stopped driving and we’re recovering from that mistake. People make mistakes. It doesn’t mean that they can never be forgiven. I think they’ve taken it seriously.

If you’ve forgotten, Jamal Khashoggi was a dissident who was murdered by agents of crown prince, Mohammad bin Salman. He was tortured and dismembered and murdered in the Saudi consulate in Istanbul about a year ago.

Whoopsie. Just a little mistake.

I don’t know whether Uber is trying to confess that their “mistake” with self-driving cars that killed a pedestrian was equivalent to willfully sending thugs with bone-saws to hack someone to death, or whether he thinks that team of 15 Saudi hit-men who dragged Khashoggi into a room accidentally tortured him, accidentally slipped with a saw and accidentally chopped off his arms and legs, accidentally cleaned up the resultant mess, and accidentally lied for weeks about what had happened. I wonder if he thinks their atrocities in Yemen are also accidents?

That Uber has such a flexible definition of “accident” would worry me if I relied on their service.

Don’t worry, though. Khosrowshahi afterwards called up the reporters to say he misspoke, he didn’t mean to reveal what he really thought of Saudi assassins. It was an accident.


  1. nomadiq says

    As far as I’m aware, Uber hasn’t tried to control bad press with murder… yet. But apparently they don’t think that would be a major change for them.

  2. says

    Not to worry. The company has no prospect of ever making a profit. Once it’s burned through the last of its capital, it will be bankrupt, leaving behind a smoking crater. Of course Khosrowshahi will walk away with billions.

  3. says

    Yeah, Uber is apparently billions in the red. They lost 5.24 billion in the second quarter of this year. And their idea of eventually replacing their contractors with self driving cars would require them to buy billions of dollars in vehicles. Apparently they have a bit of a problem with basic mathematics.

  4. Dunc says

    Apparently they have a bit of a problem with basic mathematics.

    “We’re losing ten bucks on every sale, but we hope to make it up on volume.”

  5. Akira MacKenzie says

    nomadiq @ 1

    Now, now, we’re only a few years into the Dystopian cyberpunk nightmare that has become our reality. Give the mega-corporations time to assemble their own legally sanctioned personal armies and hit squads.

  6. Dunc says

    Akira MacKenzie, @ #5: The cyberpunk dystopia I was promised had excellent designer drugs and cool cybernetic implants. I feel very ripped off.

  7. whywhywhy says


    I feel very ripped off.

    I think that is related to the ‘Dystopian’ portion of the ‘Dystopian Cyberpunk Nightmare’. or I guess it could be the ‘Nightmare’ portion, so hard to tell. As with times of old, the fun stuff (i.e. ‘Cyberpunk’ stuff) will only be for the very few rich and powerful folks, the rest of us will simply suffer : )

  8. microraptor says

    Will Uber actually burn up or will it make itself “too big to fail” so the government props it up on the taxpayers’ dime?

  9. says

    Too big to fail only counts with big financial institutions and military contractors. I suspect even the big car companies count as military contractors.

  10. barbaz says

    Oh come on, who hasn’t accidentally tortured, dismembered, and murdered a journalist? Liberals are such hippopotamus.

  11. dianne says

    Two thoughts:
    First, if I understand correctly, Uber’s self driving car was not programmed to understand that there may be jaywalkers. So they more or less sent out a murder car. That makes the extremely avoidable accident closer to the murder of Khashoggi, but not in the direction they want the comparison to go.

    Second, I’m not ready to count Uber out in terms of its long term viability. True, it’s never made a profit. True, it’s business model is unsustainable*. However, consider Amazon.

    *Again, if I understand correctly, their plan, such as it was, was to lose money until they could get self-driving cars going and eliminate the pesky “paying drivers” cost.

  12. jrkrideau says

    since they’d murdered an American reporter, Jamal Khashoggi

    Just to be annoyingly picky, i believe Jamal Khashoggi was a Saudi national.

  13. says

    Kashoggi was a Saudi citizen but a U.S. resident.

    Yeah, Amazon chose to reinvest all of it’s cash flow and not make a profit for a long time, but it was actually making money on it’s transactions. It wasn’t burning cash, it was following an aggressive growth strategy. That’s completely different.

  14. PaulBC says

    No, I can’t say I ever really doubted that Uber was evil, to be honest. I also made it through about a year and a half with a company that offered to reimburse shared Uber or Lyft rides to cover the mile walk from the train. I can walk, thanks. I don’t even need a scooter.

    How did the idea catch fire that turning everyone into an amateur cab driver/hotelier was some sort of massive move into the 21st century? They promise you flying cars and moon bases. They deliver AirBnb. And this is the glorious future?

    Wasn’t specialization supposed to be a big win for the industrial revolution? I don’t really want strangers under my roof just to make ends meet, and in the rare instances where I need a cab, I’m happy to pay a professional.

    So, yeah, besides their destructive business model, they’re also run by sociopaths. No, I am not surprised. Was I supposed to be?

  15. chrislawson says

    Uber’s plan to move to self-driving cars is pure moonshine. Their current model relies on underpaying the drivers, who own their cars and pay for fuel and maintenance. That is, Uber is leeching off its workforce.

    If Uber survives long enough for self-driving cars to be a realistic option, then switching from human drivers will create two financial disasters for them. Firstly, it will now be Uber’s responsibility to pay for the car fleet and its upkeep. Secondly, Uber will no longer be able to claim the lie that they are a customer-provider matching company not a transport company (already this legal fiction is struggling to work for them because Uber sets the prices; if they own their fleet of vehicles then the lie will become transparent).

    Uber must know this. Which means the strategy to invest in driverless cars is nothing more than a distraction to keep their investors from bailing. Gotta keep the executive bonuses rolling in as long as possible. And the way to defer the collapse of a death-spiralling company is to promise investors a magic future that will overcome all the accumulated debt once the stone is rolled away to reveal the One True Financial Strategy Risen.

    The other giveaway that this is a scam is the sheer size of those losses. I fail to see how a business model that essentially runs a mobile phone app linking customers to drivers and takes a 35% cut of the fare is losing billions per quarter. At its peak in 2013, a NY taxi medallion was worth $1M. Somehow taxi businesses managed to make a profit off a system that cost $1M per car plus fuel, upkeep, and driver salary.

  16. harryblack says

    Uber doesnt need to wait for driverless cars. It just needs to wait for any competition (such as professional taxi services) to be bled out long enough for them to raise their prices to a profitable level.
    Of course this ignores the fact that another start up will probably do the same to them, but thats a future CEOs problem.

  17. slithey tove (twas brillig (stevem)) says

    [uber} is often the only form of hired transit available, EG Memphis essentially outlawed taxis and only allows [uber], and LA, my next example, is hard to describe succinctly. When I visited there recently, [uber] was the most convenient method to get point to point. I know it sucks how little of the fee the driver gets to keep, still, something is better than nothing, which most uber drivers would get without uber customers.

  18. microraptor says

    slithey tove @18:

    I know it sucks how little of the fee the driver gets to keep, still, something is better than nothing, which most uber drivers would get without uber customers.

    Except that that something is below the cost of fuel and maintenance for most cars. It only looks like they’re making something if operating expenses aren’t take into account (which most Uber drivers don’t otherwise they wouldn’t be Uber drivers). Once those are added in, Uber drivers are losing money.

  19. says

    @#16, harryblack

    That was more or less explicitly the plan: undercut taxi services and public transportation, then raise prices after those services become impossible to maintain and shut down. Uber hasn’t exactly been subtle about it, either, and IIRC in the most recent batch of legal challenges they basically said they needed those cases to be ruled in their favor or else they couldn’t do it. And also IIRC at least one of those rulings has gone against them. They are a dead company walking, and I think they know it and are just hoping to cash out before investors notice.

  20. robro says

    Khosrowshahi is now trying to back track describing Khashoggi’s murder as a “mistake”. Guess Dara made another mistake.