Uber CEO Travis Kalanick Tells Colbert: I Drive an Uber, Have a Perfect Rating

Kalanick told Colbert that cab companies are wasting money that could be used buying you 'a Bentley' to ride around in.

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Sep 11 2015, 9:50am

Image: CBS

Stephen Colbert has spent much of his first week hosting The Late Show introducing tech's biggest names to a national television audience. That continued Thursday, when he interviewed a lowly Uber driver who just happens to own the company.

"I drive an Uber," Travis Kalanick, the company's CEO, told Colbert, adding that his driver rating is a perfect 5.0. "It's just fun."

With the company valued at more than $50 billion, it's doubtful Kalanick spends all that much time behind the wheel. Compared to Colbert's relatively softball interview with SpaceX CEO Elon Musk Wednesday, Colbert put the screws to Kalanick, spending much of the interview pressing him on some (but not all) of the controversies the company has managed to get itself into over the last couple years.

Colbert asked Kalanick about Uber's ongoing economic and political competition with taxi drivers, his plan to automate all vehicles, and surge pricing, specifically noting that surge went into effect during a Sydney, Australia hostage crisis last December. Colbert did not touch on Uber's safety issues.

"Explain surge pricing to me. If i'm someplace in say Australia and there's a threat of a terrorist attack, why do prices triple?," Colbert asked. "Is that how we should be treating each other?"

Kalanick responded "absolutely not."

"Sometimes something happens in a city, we don't know what it is," he said. "If it's an emergency, we basically turn it off because the community expectations are, in an emergency—major weather events that we turn it off."

Business Insider, sourcing Twitter users, reported that audience members heckled Kalanick during the taping of the show. Colbert apparently allowed the heckler to get quite a few words in before eventually apologizing to the CEO.

As for the taxi-Uber battle, Kalanick is aghast that we're not all riding around in luxury.

"Just take New York—the taxi driver pays $40,000 to rent a car from the cab company—that should be a Bentley that you're riding around in," he said.

That is, before we're all in robotaxis:

"Google is doing driverless, Tesla is doing driverless, Apple is doing driverless," he said. "This is going to be the world. Do you want to be part of the future or do you want to resist the future? We don't want to be like taxis were for us."