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Uber’s New Policy Advisory Board Taps Business and Political Heavyweights

May 4, 2016, 9:58 PM UTC
Photograph by Adam Berry

Uber is no stranger to regulatory challenges, so it’s hoping a public policy board filled with global business execs, government officials, and other policy experts can be of help.

On Wednesday, the ride-hailing giant said its new board had held its first meeting earlier in the week in San Francisco. The company hopes its board will be able to provide candid feedback and advice when it comes to its policy dealings and, of course, how it communicates with policymakers.

“Uber has a reputation for getting straight to the point (sometimes a little too quickly)—and we want their feedback to be equally direct!” wrote Uber advisor David Plouffe in a blog post. Uber recently added Huffington Post co-founder Arianna Huffington to its board of directors for similar reasons—her emotional intelligence, according to CEO Travis Kalanick.

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For most of its life, Uber has marched full-steam ahead when it comes to setting up its service in new cities around the world. Often enough, that’s happened either before local regulations had caught up with the concept of ride-hailing. Other times, it’s even defied those rules in the hope it can force them to change—and why not set up shop while it works on that, the company figures.

However, that strategy not always worked well. Uber’s executives were arrested in Paris, its offices in China have been raided by police, and it has been banned in South Korea, Germany, and Brazil, among other countries. The company’s battles have ranged from the legality of its service, to how it classifies its drivers as contractors instead of employees.

But Uber has also played nicely with some governments, like California’s, which made services like UberX and Lyft legal in 2013. It that kind of result the company hopes this new advisory board can help it achieve.

The Huffington Post’s Objectivity of Uber Coverage Is in Question

Uber already operates in all the countries represented on the board, but Plouffe’s blog post alludes to the company’s ambitions to shape policy where it currently doesn’t exist for ride-hailing.

Its public policy board includes an impressive range of expertise and international backgrounds, including:

    • Melody Barnes, vice provost for global student leadership initiatives at New York University and former director of the domestic policy council at the White House,
    • Roberto Daniño, former prime minister of Peru
    • Dr. Allan Fels, professor at Melbourne, Monash, and Oxford Universities, as well as former chairman of the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission,
    • Neelie Kroes, Netherlands special envoy for startups, and former vice president of the European Commission,
    • Ray LaHood, former U.S. secretary of transportation,
    • Dr. Gesner Oliveira, former president of the Brazilian Administrative Council for Economic Defense (CADE)
    • Her Royal Highness Princess Reema bint Bandar Al Saud, founder and CEO of Alf Khair, and
    • Adil Zainulbhai, chairman of the Quality Council of India and former chairman of McKinsey India.

Uber also has a safety advisory board that helps the company navigate relevant issues and policies.