Uber riders traveled the equivalent of about 1 million times around the Earth’s equator in 2018.
But can the ride-hailing company become profitable?
Investors will weigh in on that question as Uber starts trading as a public stock on Friday, a much-anticipated event after it priced its initial public offering (IPO) late Thursday.
Even with questions lingering about its ability to go into the black, this much is settled: Uber has forever altered the way we travel, talk and work.
And it’s probably about to get even more dramatic. IHS Markit estimated on Thursday that “mobility as a service” rides will soar from 90 billion miles traveled globally in 2018 to 600 billion in 2030.
“Ride-hailing has already been so disruptive that one can forget how new this industry is, with much more room to run,” Daniel Yergin, vice chairman of IHS Markit and chair of the Mobility and Energy Future service, said in a statement.
‘With this money, I cannot survive’: Uber, Lyft strike hits L.A., NYC, Boston, Chicago as drivers protest
Can kids ride alone?: Here’s what Uber, Lyft say
Here are five key ways Uber has changed the world so far. Uber:
1. Revolutionized transportation
While archrival Lyft is a major force in the industry and went public first, Uber is the largest ride-hailing app and is credited with popularizing the smartphone-based service.
The service conducts 14 million trips daily in more than 700 cities on six continents, according to an Uber public offering document. More than 10 billion trips have been completed since the service launched in 2012.
Proponents say it helps people avoid buying a car. Opponents say it’s worsening congestion, undermining mass transportation and hurting taxi drivers.
2. Became a verb
Much like Xerox became synonymous with copying and Google became the term for a generic web search, Uber has become a verb, as well.
Sure, the right way to say it is that you took an Uber ride to your destination. But it’s faster to say you Ubered there.
Uber has also become the go-to term for wannabe services.
3. Accelerated the ‘gig’ economy
Uber is perhaps the single greatest catalyst in the expansion of the so-called “gig” economy, which encompasses anyone who performs services for others outside of traditional employment and often does so through a smartphone app. Uber has paid more than $78 billion to its drivers, according to its public offering documents.
Proponents say it’s for the better: The gig economy offers flexibility and new money-making options.
Critics say it’s for the worse: Gig economy compensation is less reliable, is often insufficient and worker protections are fewer. Some Uber and Lyft drivers organized a brief strike earlier this week to protest.
4. Tragically raised awareness of the risks of self-driving cars
In 2016, Uber held a flashy media event in Pittsburgh, where it crowed about the progress of its self-driving car technology. Ford sedans retrofitted with Uber technology drove journalists throughout the city, as the company made an aggressive push to deliver driverless cars.
But two years later, a self-driving Uber killed a woman in Arizona, and Uber temporarily suspended its work on the program.
The tragedy triggered a federal investigation and is widely cited in the auto industry for demonstrating that self-driving cars might be further off than previously believed.
Uber rides might someday come without a driver, but don’t count on it anytime soon.
5. Brought attention to sexual harassment and bro culture in Silicon Valley
After former Uber engineer Susan Fowler called attention to sexual harassment and discrimination at the company, the company fielded more than 200 such claims and ultimately fired at least 20 people.
Following an internal investigation into issues of sexism, a cutthroat corporate culture and other questionable tactics, CEO Travis Kalanick resigned.
The company has since taken steps to clean up its act under its new CEO, Dara Khosrowshahi.
Follow USA TODAY reporter Nathan Bomey on Twitter @NathanBomey.