They operated in cities and other areas where they were explicitly prohibited from doing so.
They camouflaged their activities (e.g. https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=14270534) and shadowbanned regulators
So, not only did they not avoid the metaphorical "speed traps", it's more like they covered over the license plates and intentionally sped through them.
Further, it's entirely possible to be cited for "illegal operation" in a jurisdiction that generally allows Uber drivers' activity. Certain areas are zoned for specific purposes. For example, my friend runs a limo service and there are areas that they are not allowed to pick up passengers for whatever reason, even though the ride is planned in advance. That friend has also been cited (incorrectly) for illegal pickups at the airport as if they were Uber, when they are not and the ride was planned days ago.
My point here is that Uber could still be allowed by law (in general) to operate in a district but a driver's specific actions may violate some smaller aspect of the local law with regards to livery/transportation rules.
Yeah, and if Uber had drivers breaking the law and making money for Uber it would be pretty naive to assume that a company like Uber doesn't know that this money was made in areas where Uber was not allowed to operate or illegal. That too, we are talking about a company which is an expert on location tracking. I don't think such an argument could even remotely fly in a decent court of law.
What I linked to says "Uber sent emails to driver training them on avoiding detection (e.g. When at airport take down phone; have drivers sit up front; etc...)"
That sounds like "Uber corporate" to me