Sheila Raghavendran

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Uber CEO Resignation: Is Worldwide Taxi Culture Changing?

I spent the first two weeks in June traveling in South Asia with a group from my university. It was gorgeous, exciting and hot hot hot. While in Bangkok, I took special interest in taxi culture.

During the first part of our trip, we were in Dubai and Delhi, where many people speak Hindi. There were four Indian students on our trip who spoke Hindi, so navigating the area and communicating with taxi drivers wasn’t a problem. In Bangkok, where the official language is Thai, we didn’t have that advantage.

From the inside of a tour van in Bangkok.

Our hotel gave us wallet-sized cards with the hotel address in Thai and English, so that if we got lost we could communicate with locals across the language barrier. We had to trust our instincts when getting into taxis in Bangkok — at night and with unfamiliar destinations. It’s a risk getting into a car with a driver whom you have difficulty communicating, but it’s a risk getting into a taxi anywhere. Stories like that of a woman raped by her Uber driver in New Delhi are haunting.

That scandal and many more, including reports of sexism and workplace harassment within the company, led to¬†Uber CEO Travis Kalanick taking an indefinite leave of absence. After leaving Bangkok and reaching the States last week, my phone lit up with notifications about Kalanick’s announcement. Around 1:30 am ET last night, my phone buzzed again with the news that Kalanick had resigned.

His resignation marks a movement to improve taxi culture around the world. A recognition of the problem. Now it’s a test to see if the steps to improve work.