Kelvinwright's Blog

postmodern thoughts

Uber strike

uber   I’ve just returned to Madrid from a business trip to Barcelona, having suffered the chaos that is normally caused by a strike. This time it was taxi drivers who decided to strike; not over pay, but over an App called Uber.

 

Car sharing has existed for many years; many of us have done it, whether to cut down on fuel costs, or to do our bit for the environment. A point of thought and empathy (although not much given the day I’ve had) for taxi drivers is that Uber is far from a few colleagues looking to save money by car sharing or looking for somebody to give them a lift, and pay him the cost of the fuel. According to its website (www.uber.com), it now serves over 100 cities in nearly 37 countries. Uber has professionalised the car sharing business and is making a lot of money from it (latest valuation of the San Francisco based company is 17 billion US dollars). Behind the App are some high-profile backers. But is this really at a cost to taxis and is it really a bad thing? Are the users of Uber really regular taxi users? Or are they bus or train users who are looking for alternative and more comfortable means of getting from A to B? Taxi drivers are complaining of a drop in customer numbers; are there though other causes for this? As the economic crisis has kicked in, and as people have lost their jobs, have more taxi licences been handed out? A drop in revenues for taxi drivers may be due to more licences being given in an already tough environment, and admittedly falling passenger numbers.

 

Uber is viewed as unfair competition and a threat to taxi drivers. Others would view this as consumer choice, as innovation. But there is often a price to innovation: just as machines and mechanisation threatened and replaced people’s jobs during the industrial revolution, so it created opportunities for others. Innovation helps make things easier for us. Uber is a threat to taxi drivers, and a help to others. As consumers, we must decide whether we want more choice, or whether we want to protect existing industries. Do we blame digital print and online news for the decline of newspaper or paper book sales?

 

I had never heard of Uber before today, and this may present an ironic outcome to today’s strike: having seen that taxis were unavailable in Barcelona, I logged into Uber, to check it out. As luck would have it (for taxi drivers) I could not find an Uber car where I wanted it, but this will no doubt change. Maybe due to the pan-European strike, Uber would have experienced more users today, due to the fact that normally loyal taxi users, who were unable to find a taxi, decided to look for alternative means to get to their destination, and discovered Uber.

 

 

Image: http://www.uber.com

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June 11, 2014 Posted by | Uncategorized | , | Leave a comment