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Uber users: Stop climbing into our cars, say random motorists

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Max Whittaker/Reuters/File

(Read caption) Taxi drivers protest against transportation network companies such as Uber and Lyft along with Assembly Bill 2293 at the State Capitol in Sacramento, Calif. in June.

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Lots of people dislike Uber. Many of them are cab drivers, who are suspicious/concerned/angry about the lack of restrictions governing Uber's ad hoc taxi network.

Now, however, there's another, much broader group of people frustrated with thestart-up: motorists. According to Valleywag, that's because average, everyday motorists are being accosted by Uber users who think that they -- and their car -- are open for business. Technology funder Ashwin Deshmukh says that "Basically anytime I'm pulled over on the side of the street, someone tries to hail me or just opens my car door".

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The problem seems worst on the coasts, especially in places like New York and San Francisco -- places brimming with young, early adopters toting iPhones full of apps like Uber's. Car owners report cruising the streets of bustling, hip neighborhoods like Williamsburg, when complete strangers mob their vehicle, certain that they've arrived to pick up a fare. One decidedly non-Uber driver said that "It's 90 percent white women and drunk bros". Based on our experiences in Williamsburg, that sounds about right.

Sadly, the problem is only going to get worse. Uber is expanding to new cities every week, and with a high-profile hire leading its global charm offensive, the company's drive toward world taxi domination is only picking up speed. Professional cab drivers can grouse all they want, but ultimately, no politician really wants to be pegged as the reactionary fool who tried to stem the tide of a huge, apparently unstoppable internet trend (one that gives lots of car owners the ability to earn cash on the side). 

That means more drivers are likely to be accosted by eager Uber users -- especially drivers of easily identifiable cars like the Toyota Prius. Get used to it.

Our take? If for no other reason than brand awareness, Uber needs to find a system of marking its cars (note: the fuzzy pink mustache is already taken). Either that, or riders need to sober up and pay attention. Only one of those seems viable.