The head of Uber Toronto is acknowledging missteps the company has made, saying the app-based taxi service needs to become "more humble" – while maintaining it should be allowed to operate outside existing regulations.
Five months before the City of Toronto's case against Uber is heard in court, the company's general manager in Toronto, Ian Black, gave a speech at the Canadian Club of Toronto saying the company should have done more to engage with lawmakers, and that he's now reaching out in hopes of working with them. On the same day, Uber Toronto wrote to mayors – including Mayor John Tory – across the province, asking for their co-operation.
The move comes as Uber remains under fire for a number of controversies around the world, and subject to the local legal action, which aims to shutter the company's operations in the city altogether.
"We've made our fair share of missteps.… We know as we grow as a company, we need to be a more humble company," Mr. Black said Tuesday. Ever since its 2009 launch, Uber has been subject to growing criticism related to safety and privacy. Earlier this week, the company was under fire for raising rates in Sydney, Australia, during a hostage crisis – a move that Mr. Black himself described Tuesday as "dumb."
The City of Toronto applied for an injunction against Uber Toronto last month, arguing that the company, which matches paying customers with rides, flouts taxi licensing rules. A private member's bill at Queen's Park, meanwhile, aims to increase fines against unlicensed Uber drivers.
But Mr. Black maintained Tuesday that Uber is a technology company, not a taxi company, and thus not subject to existing regulations.
Instead, he said he wants to work with lawmakers to create new regulations specifically aimed at ride-sharing.
"I think here in Toronto, we probably could have done a better job over the last two years of not only sitting down with city councillors, but saying 'here's how the city should be updating its regulations for new models,'" he said in an interview after his speech. Now that the company is "growing up," he said, "I think we're realizing that the best path forward is engagement."