Uber says rides grew more in early 2017 than in early 2016 despite issues

Uber held a press conference on Tuesday to discuss some of its ongoing issues, including what it’s doing to rectify its workplace cultural problems and the state of its business. The press conference, hosted by board member Arianna Huffington and including head of HR Liane Hornsey, US & Canada business lead Rachel Holt and Uber head of communications Rachel Whetstone, also saw Uber share some details about the business impact of its string of bad news from early in 2017.

Uber said that despite an “incredibly challenging” last two months, the company saw more growth in the first 10 weeks of 2017 than it did during the same period in 2016. Holt also shared that Uber saw more rides in the U.S. over the course of last week than it ever has previously, which seems to back up the armchair analyst perspective that Uber’s users aren’t significantly deterred by repeated reports about turmoil and turnover among its executive ranks, or deep cultural issues that include sexist and discriminatory behavior as detailed by former employees.

This leaves Uber in the “fortunate position” of being able to tackle its needed changes while the “business remains healthy,” according to Holt. Holt also described steps Uber is taking to improve its driver operations and relationships, noting that it’s “underinvested in the driver experience” thus far, leading to “frayed” relationships with its drivers.

Steps Holt outlined that Uber is taking to amend its driver experience include creating more stable earnings for drivers, removing stress from the driving experience and improving communication. Uber is updating policies that favor riders unfairly over drivers in its view, and will introduce new tools that allow riders to correct their pickup points mid-hail rather than having to cancel and rebook; new earnings statements that aim for greater clarity; and a new process of evaluating complaints that will take into account driver history to contextualize number of complaints versus volume of trips.

The news that Uber’s business doesn’t seem to have been impacted negatively in terms of rider volume, or indeed riders (Holt said that they continue to see strong growth in new sign-ups as well as in trips from existing users) is interesting given a New York Times report from February that suggested more than 200,000 people deleted their accounts following the original #DeleteUber social media campaign.