A driver of the popular Uber car service has reportedly taken three passengers on a terrifying car chase that looked like a scene plucked right out of the TV series "Cops."
Self-proclaimed "diehard Uber fan" Ryan Simonetti, chief executive and co-founder of New York-based corporate services business Convene, and two other colleagues were at Washington, D.C.'s Verizon Center on July 7 for a business meeting. As the three walked to their app-hailed UberBlack car, they noticed a taxi inspector speaking to their car's driver.
Simonetti and his colleagues entered the car, with Simonetti taking the front passenger's seat, and the driver sped off. The inspector followed with his lights on and so began a harrowing 10-minute car chase Simonetti won't forget anytime soon.
"I'm sorry, we're going to have to run this red light," the driver told his passengers, apparently still not forgetting his manners even with a traffic inspector breathing down his back.
He then proceeded to race down the 9th Street Tunnel and on to I-395 at speeds "well above the speed limit," while his passengers yelled at him to slow down and a traffic inspector was following in hot pursuit. At some point, Simonetti "ripped off his pant leg" to force the driver to reduce speed just enough to let them jump out of the vehicle. But the driver, who narrowly missed hitting several cars throughout the chase, said he would be fined $2,000 if he stopped.
The driver finally pulled into an exit ramp where he let a horrified Simonetti and colleagues out. The inspector pulled ahead to block the Uber car from passing, but the driver turned and took the wrong way up the ramp, escaping into Virginia. The inspector stayed with the passengers.
"Was just kidnapped by an @uber driver in DC, held against my will, and involved in a high speed chase across state lines with police #Crazy," says Simonetti on Twitter.
The D.C. Taxicab Commission, through spokesperson Neville Waters, says the inspector, who remains unnamed, noticed that the Uber car had Virginia license plates and wanted to ensure that the driver was picking up passengers through the Uber app instead of an illegal street pickup, which is prohibited for Uber cars. Waters also said the inspector asked for backup but was interrupted by a power outage in D.C. emergency communications system.
For its part, Uber said it is willing to cooperate with authorities investigating the issue and has already "deactivated" the driver of the said Uber car.
Simonetti remains an Uber fan and will most likely continue hailing Uber cars in the future, but questioned Uber's screening process.
"The question is what the vetting process is for drivers?" he says. "As they get [bigger], how do you prevent stuff like that from happening? How do you screen crazy people out?"