Uber has said before that its services prevent drunk driving. Now, it's going all in on that claim with a designated driver initiative that puts a caring face on a company known for its combative stances.
The company launched a promotion this month in Evesham Township, New Jersey to provide free rides home between 9 p.m. and 2 a.m. The township will pay for the rides to keep the offer going through Jan. 2. Ride costs are covered by contributions from non-profits and private donors, according to an Uber spokesperson.
Uber's ultimate hope, reports the New York Times: That members of New York's state legislature will pass policies allowing the ridesharing startup to start operating in places outside New York City, such as to upstate college towns, where the service is not currently permitted.
At Syracuse University, the student assembly is slated to vote soon on a resolution to support legislation that would allow Uber to expand its reach in the state of New York.
Uber is known for clashing with state and local governments, sometimes facing accusations of operating illegally in places where policies do not support the ride-hailing app. Earlier this year New York, Mayor Bill de Blasio proposed capping Uber's expansion in the city for the duration of a study on the impact of the app and other vehicle operators on city traffic.
Uber is facing a class action lawsuit by drivers over their classification as contractors. The company is continually coming under scrutiny for dangerous behavior by drivers. And on the business expansion front, a partnership between Lyft and Chinese ride-hailing service Didi Kuaidi doesn't bode well for Uber's operations in China, where the company has been hemorrhaging money.
The recent gentler approach couldn't come at a better time: Uber is apparently planning to raise another $1 billion in venture capital funding, at a valuation of between $60 and $70 billion. The company - a poster child for high-valuation tech startups putting off IPOs - has reported that it expects a 400 percent increase in revenue this year.