Update, Friday, 11:17 a.m.: Uber responds, apologizes, and removes the ad. (See below.)
The arms race between Uber and Lyft is heating up -- and apparently getting nastier.
Unfazed by vigorous opposition from public safety advocates, jilted cab drivers, and an embattled insurance lobby, the two car-hire behemoths have taken more interest in cannibalizing each other.
And now, the fight might move into court.
A new Uber Facebook ad -- aimed directly at Lyft defectors -- features the personal testimonial of a driver named Sean K. Sean claims he left Lyft because Uber offered a more robust userbase, and with it, assurance that a new fare was always waiting around the corner.
"I value my time a lot," Sean says, gazing, lackadaisically, at waves breaking along what appears to be Ocean Beach. "I'm looking to make money right away. I don't wait around between rides."
A persuasive pitch -- albeit voiced by a long-haired, hemp-braceleted beach bum. But Lyft says it's entirely false.
"According to our records, [Sean] applied and did not pass our screening process," a spokeswoman says, via email. "Contrary to what Uber's ad is claiming, he has never given a ride on the Lyft platform."
Uber has yet to comment. Lyft says that its staff is exploring legal actions for false advertising.
This isn't the first time Uber has landed in hot water for aggressive marketing tactics. In January, it pulled a denial-of-service hoax against an Israeli competitor, Gett, by requesting rides via the company's app and canceling them right when the drivers were dispatched.
That induced a war of press releases and a flurry of defensive blog posts, though it appears the conflict fizzled out on its own.
But if Lyft's false advertising claim is correct, this stunt could be far more costly.
Update: This morning an Uber spokesman responded to SF Weekly's queries with this statement:
"It's unclear why this driver didn't pass a competitor's screenings - perhaps his fist bumps were sub-par - but he did pass Uber's multi-step screening and background checks, and has a perfect 5.0 rating. We removed the video upon learning that the driver hadn't previously driven for another ridesharing service and apologize for the error."
Uber actually took the offending ad down yesterday, but a Lyft spokeswoman says her staff managed to nab a few screenshots before it disappeared.