Wednesday 11 June 2014

Uber provides the taxi industry a good kick in the pants

by Todd Romaine
Striking London taxi drivers this morning.
The result? Uber sign-ups up 850%.
Image: @simonjackson80

Ask any seasoned traveler around the world and you will find few fans of the taxi industry and, more specifically, experiences with taxi drivers. Despite hundreds of personalized experiences, we tend to only recall the handful of bad ones and categorically declare disdain on any entire industry and a population of drivers. Throughout my global travels, it would seem that many taxi drivers from all parts of the globe share many of the same undesirable traits of trying to rip me off in variety of different ways. Arguably this is done most commonly in the developing world but we have all had experiences in the West dealing with our shady types here. It would seem, up until very recently, that we are permanently stuck with the taxi industry and its shenanigans.

Uber and various smaller replications may at the very least challenge in the medium term taxi operators and drivers to clean up their act. If travelers will continue to be loyal to the traditional taxi industry monopoly then their experience better be pleasurable and incorporate high tech apps, GPS feeds on the viewer screen and overall enhanced customer service. This will mean attracting drivers that are more conversant in the official languages and will likely mean that the taxi industry will need to pay increased wages and reduce the operator fees in order to be competitive. At the very least, all taxi companies will need to have an online app and be prepared to accept credit cards under all circumstances to compete. Despite protests in Europe and North America from the taxi industry on the issue of 'fairness' and lost fares from increased competition, it is unlikely Uber will go away but rather intensify globally.

The demand from younger travelers on increasing the pool of available drivers for a quicker pick-up, booking online and paying by credit card is a good thing for the travel industry. Maybe its time for taxi drivers themselves to adapt to the new trend, utilize their own car for transporting passengers and throw off the servitude shackles of the taxi industry once and for all. Let us hope that the replacement of the taxi industry with Uber does not create another type of monopoly that encourages long-term lethargy and indifference to customer loyalty and acquisition. And the most promising development on this fearful trend is the development of a driverless car, the idea being actively pursued by a Google/Uber partnership. The belief is that with rapidly evolving technology that cars should be able to safely navigate themselves and without the cost of a driver, the price for transportation should plummet so low to discard the idea of private ownership altogether which will mean less congestion and significantly reduced environmental externalities.

But, of course, would support any initiative that enhances your travel experience in a positive manner and ends the taxi monopoly!

Related resources:
Plus, in case you missed it; Do we really hate taxis? The story behind our name.

1 comment:

  1. Let's face it you are defending the wild west, Tanzania, Managua, etc., this is the united states and the only uber customers are the least wise, the youngsters.
    Everybody knows uber does not provide the commercial insured required by all cities in the united states because it is unaffordable withing their business model.
    Youngsters do not care if an ex convict is driving them or a drunk or a junkie, they are young and that is probably cool too.
    Taxi drivers are not the best but they are the only ones that are regulated by counties and cities, screened properly and they do have the commercial insurance required by the cities and counties, the one that if you have an accident you will be covered.
    Whoever does not want to see this is because they do not want to see it, the worse blind is the one that does not want to see.


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