It has never been about being more monetarily efficient than taxis - it's always been about cloaking the externalities more effectively than taxis. Anyone paying attention to Uber's business model has known this from the get-go.
I agree that on the inside, it must've been known considering how they've acted over the years. But I remember the 'yay sharing economy' narrative quite well, as it was parroted by media, pundits and writers. Which was then slowly replaced by the 'but surely Uber's the futuurree' narrative.
I'd argue that they've made quite a cloak for themselves, that many did not see through. And I don't think it's entirely because people didn't pay attention - there's a reason they targeted journalists with their systems.