Sep 8, 201403:24 PMOpen Mic
Send us your blog for consideration!
Taxis vs. Uber: a perfect example of resistance to change
(page 1 of 2)
In cities all over the world, an ugly war is being fought by “traditional” taxi companies against a new form of competition from Uber and other ride-sharing services.
These newcomers’ methods aren’t news anymore: Through a mobile application, customers can find and reserve vehicles in their immediate area in minutes. From Los Angeles to Sydney and Singapore, these services are shaking up the taxi business and are being met with heavy resistance.
Historically, taxis have fought for their place in the urban transportation spectrum by staging strikes and paralyzing cities like London and Paris, leaving hordes of passengers stranded. But the taxi industry’s resistance to the rise of Uber and similar services is a futile attempt to put the brakes on innovation.
Fortune magazine’s lists compiling the 100 biggest companies from 1900 until today yield only one company that is still in the same business: Ford. Fifteen others still exist, but their activities have evolved drastically. All the rest are gone. The ones that have disappeared were leaders in their markets and had three things in common with today’s taxi drivers:
1. Prisoners of a system: The world is changing fast, with new technologies, increasingly expensive and congested transportation systems, and new consumer expectations. This is maybe too fast for the traditional taxi industry, which would prefer more stability. Now it has launched a crusade to defend its interests and prevent reform of an outdated, often monopolistic and overregulated system. Traditional taxi drivers are complaining about Uber’s “illegal” activities, saying their drivers don’t have official permits and can’t charge by the kilometer or mile since they don’t have meters. This is a perfect example of industry players being prisoners of an old way of thinking and entrenched in the defense of an aging system.
2. Stuck in denial: Long waits, rude drivers, uncomfortable vehicles, and lack of route transparency: The shortcomings of traditional taxis are exactly why the new car-sharing services are prospering. Uber founder Travis Kalanick, 37, has said that the idea for his company was born in Paris when he couldn’t find a cab, an experience that seems all too typical. On the Internet, negative comments about taxis abound. “Drivers should be serving customers, not lawmakers” is one of the usual complaints. Until now, taxi companies seem to have ignored the simple solutions that customers want.
In a recent Financial Times interview, a London taxi driver said, “We have been here long before Uber, and we will be here long after.” This denial is striking. The battles fought by the taxi companies will mean nothing if in the end they lose the war. What’s worse is that policymakers are supporting taxi companies’ resistance. Germany has just banned the service. In addition, a prominent socialist deputy in France, Thomas Thévenoud, recently submitted a report denouncing Uber’s practices to Prime Minister Manuel Valls with proposals on how to solve the ride-sharing crisis. These included banning the applications that help users find ride-sharing services in their area.
But legislation should protect consumers and not industries in decline. Following protests by taxi drivers in London in June, Uber registered an 850% increase in new users. This is proof that yesterday’s keys to success won’t be the same tomorrow.