End of the Line for Uber

Accounting tricks and tech gimmickry don’t matter when the coffers are empty.

Cory Doctorow
Published in
8 min readAug 10, 2021


The sinking mammoth exhibition at the La Brea Tar Pits; next to the doomed pachyderm is the Uber logo, also mired in the tar. Monopoly’s Rich Uncle Pennybags is partially in the bottom left corner of the frame, running away with a bag of money. Image: Tarcil (modified) CC BY-SA: https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/4.0/deed.en

Uber is a bezzle (“the magic interval when a confidence trickster knows he has the money he has appropriated but the victim does not yet understand that he has lost it”). Every bezzle ends.

Uber’s time is up.

Uber was never going to be profitable. Never. It lured drivers and riders into cars by subsidizing rides with billions and billions of dollars from the Saudi royal family, keeping up the con-artist’s ever-shifting patter about how all of this would some day stand on its own.

Like the pretense that self-driving cars would eliminate all their labor costs. They knew this would never happen. They spent billions on a doomed effort, then had to bribe another company with a $400m “investment” to take its window-dressing away.


Uber didn’t need self-driving cars — it needed us to think it would have self-driving cars. That way the company’s Saudi owners could raise investment capital from subsequent “investors” (AKA “suckers”) all the way up to the IPO, cash out, and walk away, whistling innocently.

That’s the bezzle at work — a dazzle op that keeps new money flowing in, convincing people that a pile of shit this big must have a pony beneath it. But as the years went by, the stories that Uber told us about its path to profitability got more and more fanciful.

Take the story that Uber could be a substitute for public transit. Private cars can’t substitute for buses, light rail and subways. It’s just fucking geometry. Number of cars * area occupied by cars * increased distances created by roads = infinity.

Uber increased road congestion.


Uber also made cities more hostile to bicycles, by turning bike lanes into Uber drop-off/pickup spots. No worries — cyclists can just take an Uber!




Cory Doctorow

Writer, blogger, activist. Blog: https://pluralistic.net; Mailing list: https://pluralistic.net/plura-list; Mastodon: @pluralistic@mamot.fr