Monday, 25 August 2014

The Uber Issue


Uber, a relatively new business seeking to revolutionise the taxi services of cities around the world, has been one of Silicon Valley's hottest new startups. Valued in June 2014 at $18.2 billion, the company has taken the world by storm, with its simple model: you can, via your smartphone, hail a taxi to your GPS destination, and get it to take you to any destination you choose on your device. You don't need cash- money is transferred via online payment, with a credit
card or PayPal, just with a press of a button.

Uber's driver hiring process is relatively simple- you need a car, a driving licence, insurance and need to pass various background checks. Uber takes commission from every ride and pays drivers the rest of their fees weekly.
What's more, passengers can rate and review drivers (and drivers can rate passengers), giving all parties involved the incentive to give good service.
It's a simple, efficient system.

However, Uber has come under increasing attack in recent times- not so much from its customers, or the public in general, but from its competitors (unsurprisingly) but most importantly the governments of various local and national authorities.

Cabbies took to the streets of London to protest against Uber
The main issue seems to be that Uber is undercutting local taxi fares- at most times offering fares lower than their standard counterparts. Also, Uber drivers are not forced to pass the same background checks and inspections as their counterparts- a separate background check is needed. Local cab services claim this is too dangerous and should be outlawed.
London has seen protest from taxi drivers against Uber in the form of 4000 cabbies causing a huge traffic jam in the centre of the city, claiming that Uber illegal due to its lack of a meter on every cab.

There has been anger across the world from drivers part of the same cause- to remove Uber from their streets.
Is this a fair point from the taxi drivers or are they simply trying to eradicate what they may see as a growing threat to their comparatively dated services?

Firstly, it's important to consider that Uber is usually cheaper than the regular taxi services. I took an Uber once from Paddington to a friend's house; normally it cost £24 by cab, but by Uber the same route at roughly the same time was £15.
The cheap fares, quick payment, the lack of a need for cash, these are all advantages that have made Uber so popular- and undoubtedly their nearing obsoletion is frustrating many traditional taxi drivers (though they may not admit it).
As for the question of Uber background checks, perhaps more needs to be done- Uber drivers have received their fair share of bad press, but so have taxi drivers. However, perhaps a unified background check system would ensure all transporters are relatively reliable (background checks don't ensure total safety).

As for meters, it's fair to say that they can prevent exorbitant fares- though perhaps regulation should allow for different systems of fare calculation and regulate those, rather than give them all a blanket ban.

My personal opinion is that the taxi drivers must accommodate innovation in their industry, and, even better, take it up themselves. As a customer of taxi services I want a low fare, I want to be free from the worry of 'do I have cash?', and I want to be able to pay quick and easily. I want a service like Uber, that is innovative and not caught up in 'tradition'- and obviously I am not alone, considering the company's popularity.

So perhaps taxi drivers should embrace change, and innovation. Uber has shown that in this case (though refinement is needed), it will be for the best of the average consumer.

SOURCES (and recommended reads)
http://www.heraldsun.com.au/business/breaking-news/uber-drivers-will-be-fined-sa-govt/story-fnn9c0hb-1227036403657?nk=c226658d765e4f3742a7ba82aefc4ed4

http://www.ft.com/cms/s/0/f07810f6-293f-11e4-8b81-00144feabdc0.html#axzz3BPEs4lxZ

http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-england-london-27799938

http://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2014/jun/11/why-london-taxi-drivers-protesting-uber-tfl
Mohammad Lone Editor