Uber Shakes things Up!

Thursday, July 23, 2015
posted by elizabeth @ 2:24 PM

Uber is taking the world by storm, disrupting the status quo as a unique service provider. Uber, the original app-based ride sharing company, was valued in Forbes to be worth of $41.2 Billion. As the co-founder and CEO, Travis Kalanick continues to push growth, and push city officials, the company continues to surge and seemingly make more enemies. Is Uber a great example of capitalism, or is Kalanick a bully?
The Uber idea was born amongst start up techie friends living in Paris in 2008. The idea was the brain child of Travis Kalanick and Garrett Camp. After arriving back in San Francisco, Camp did not let go of the idea and wanted to partner with Kalanick. Their Uber Technologies launched in San Francisco in 2010.
Kalanick said “Uber should feel magical to the customer. They just push the button and the car comes.” Truly Uber is pretty fantastic. For those of you not familiar with Uber, access to Uber cars is through an app on your phone. GPS coordinates locations of drivers and riders. A photo is available to riders so they know who will be driving. The app automatically charges the rider’s credit card, including tip.
Uber drivers have been known to make darn good money driving their own cars, on their own time. Uber institutes “surge pricing” during peak times, allowing drivers to increase their income. While some criticize that, I do not. It is supply and demand.
I like Uber. Uber is a great example of how innovative ideas coupled with a free market can make life easier for its citizens. Not everyone is as pleased with Uber. As you can imagine, the cab companies are not as welcoming (including the addition of Uber competitive colleagues, Lyft, Sidecar, and Hailo). Cities have been fighting with Uber. Not just U.S. cities, but global cities, too.
In June, Paris cab drivers protested against Uber and other Transportation Network Companies (TNCs), by burning tires, smashing windows, and blocking roads and bridges. Cab drivers are taking the competition seriously. Back stateside, New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio is hoping to halt the growth of Uber by placing a cap on the number of for-hire licenses.
And this week, an administrative judge with the California Public Utilities Commission in California recommended that Uber be fined $7.3 million and be suspended for not complying with state laws that were implemented to ensure that Uber serves all people equally. To satisfy the commission’s request, Uber needs to report several items, including the number of rides for people with service animals or wheel chairs. We’ll see what Uber does, but they are calling the decision “deeply disappointing.”
Why all the fuss over Uber? Well, as in everything in life, it gets political. The Taxi Cab lobby has for decades been very involved in local politics, providing many contributions and having deep, loyal relationships. That is the accusation in New York City. It has been an accusation in Houston, as well.
Uber entered the Houston market last year with its own problems. While city council did work consciously and fiercely with Uber and Lyft, Lyft decided it could not meet the requirements of the Houston code, but Uber did. City regulations include physical exams for drivers as well as background checks as part of the licensing process. Even that doesn’t provide a perfect system. This spring, an Uber driver in Houston was accused of raping an unconscious female passenger. The Uber driver was not licensed with the City of Houston. Bad News for Uber. And maybe the opportunity to hone their community relations.
As many American companies commiserate, it can be challenging to do business in multiple states and municipalities with a spider web of different laws and regulations. A bill was introduced in the most recent Texas Legislative Session that would have created one regulatory process for TNCs with the state, but would not have regulated cabs. The law did not even make it to the Floor. However, other states have passed similar legislation, including California. But, of course, Uber is still struggling there and might be suspended.
But that is what is Uber is about. Disrupting the current way of doing things in order to improve and revamp the status quo. Kalanick has said “it’s hard to be a disrupter and not be an a#*hole.”

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