Uber- The good, the bad and the necessary

I recently listened to an episode of one of my favourite podcasts from The VergeWhat’s Tech? where they discussed Uber. This is on the back of months of media scrutiny of Uber locally as taxi unions and companies call for them to be banned and boycotted.

Casey Newton and Chris Plante discussed some of the questionable antics of Uber, including the use of college students to basically head hunt competitors drivers by requesting rides with the opposing company and then pushing the drivers to join Uber.

They have been pushed out of countries and states alike due to issues over insurance and licensing. They have threatened journalists who speak out against them. And above all else, they have been honest about it. They take it in their stride and you can’t help but love them for it.

Uber still surges in popularity and they just don’t seem phased by issues that would cause just about any other company to collapse under negative pressure. Between 2013 and 2014, they exploded by 700% in Australia. And taxi companies can’t stop them. One strike in London saw Uber signups increase by 850%.

And all this popularity, even after Uber’s automated system caused a spike in pricing of four times the normal rate during the Sydney siege by way of their automated system. Uber did eventually refund the entire amount to riders.

Here in Australia, they have been mostly criticised for their apparent disregard for local laws including gaining a commercial driver’s license and having commercial vehicle insurance. Australia can be quite different from the US in that there is a lot more government regulation in all industries.

They have avoided under cover stings by banning transport authorities’ accounts. And for those drivers who were fined- Uber paid it for them, and told them to get back on the road.

But Uber is calling for regulations. Uber’s Australian boss David Rohrsheim said that on top of their strict background checks for new drivers, they would like to see cars inspected among other measures. And it can’t come soon enough.

Disruptive technologies are the way the world is going. And we need more of it. To break up those industries that are protected. The destroy monopolies. To improve the world for each and every person. And the taxi industry is a perfect example of that.

Just like in the US, it can be extremely expensive to try and run a taxi. After insurance and licensing, it almost doesn’t seem worth it. But to make it more accessible to more people and bring the costs down, we need Uber. Taxi’s can make people feel unsafe, can rip customers off and there is often no other choice.

I have personally been threatened by a taxi driver for asking a question and following the instructions on his EFTPOS terminal. He turned his metre back on after the terminal read “Please remove card” and so I did. He physically and verbally threatened me and made me fear for my safety. Why on earth would I want to ever use a taxi again?

The smear campaign being run by the taxi union is not holding up. Customers want cheaper, safer modes of transport. And the government needs to get into gear and for once catch up with the modern world.