Travis Kalanick just can’t catch a break this year.
In a dashcam video published by Bloomberg News, the CEO of Uber was seen arguing with his Uber driver over the company’s treatment of drivers. The video – reportedly shot on the evening of 5 February – shows Kalanick, along with two female friends in the back seat of an Uber Black, the high-end car service the company introduced in 2010. He is seen making small talk with his companions and even “shimmying” to Maroon 5 playing in the background.
As the ride comes to an end, the driver Fawzi Kamel took the opportunity to share with the CEO what is seen to be a widespread complaint among Uber drivers, “You’re raising the standards,” he is seen saying, “and you’re dropping the prices.” After Kalanick disagrees with him about the issue, the driver goes on to say, “People are not trusting you anymore...I lost $97,000 because of you. I’m bankrupt because of you ...You keep changing every day.”
Kalanick’s response was to reply, “Some people don’t like to take responsibility for their own shit. They blame everything in their life on somebody else. Good luck!” before getting off and slamming the door shut behind him.
Bloomberg reports that the driver rated the rider with one star following the argument.
On Tuesday, Kalanick apologized for his behaviour in an email to all Uber staff. “To say that I am ashamed is an extreme understatement,” he wrote, “It’s clear this video is a reflection of me—and the criticism we’ve received is a stark reminder that I must fundamentally change as a leader and grow up.”
In a surprising admission, the CEO also said that he intended to get “leadership help” writing, “This is the first time I’ve been willing to admit that I need leadership help and I intend to get it.” The letter ends with an apology to the driver, “I want to profoundly apologize to Fawzi, as well as the driver and rider community, and to the Uber team.”
This is another in a long list of controversies that have dogged the company since the start of the new year. It all began with the #DeleteUber campaign on Twitter in January as several thousand people deleted the app to protest what was seen as the company trying to profit from the strike called by the New York City Taxi Workers Alliance against President Donald Trump’s travel ban. This led to Kalanick having to resign from Trump’s economic advisory council that he had joined in December, under pressure from employees.
Close on the heels of that controversy emerged the sexual harassment controversy in which a former employee Susan Fowler claimed that she and other female staffers had been subjected to sexual harassment at Uber. The allegations of Uber having stolen its self-driving car technology from Google emerged soon after. Then on Monday, reports emerged that the company had asked senior executive Amit Singhal to leave the company for failing to disclose a sexual harassment allegation stemming from his tenure at Google.
This video only adds to the controversies surrounding Uber and Kalanick, whose brash and “ferociously competitive” style has been the centre of attention recently, even as it is credited for the success of the company so far.