Uber

[oo-ber] 

  1. A disruptor in the transport sector
  2. An organisation that has been dogged by ‘issues’ – some of their own making – since their launch
  3. A company that is never out of the news for one of these reasons

This week has seen the next stage in the ongoing Uber saga, with a high court ruling due on the legality of the application due to a complaint by TfL. TfL of course is trying to protect regular folk like the drivers of Newbury taxis – arguing that Uber should not be allowed to show consumers how close a car is to them and that the drivers should have to wait five minutes before they collect their passenger.

Unsurprisingly, London is not on TfL and Boris’ side on this one. 60% of us don’t believe we should be forced to wait five minutes, and seven in 10 do not think the company the organisation should be banned from showing the location of available cars on the map.

The issue here is that we have an evolving consumer – technology has changed consumer behaviour infinitely – yet some sectors are resisting this. We are more impatient than ever before (I have no stats to back this up, but I am entirely sure it is true), we use our smartphones for almost everything and we want everything to just be easier.

It’s the reason apps like Citymapper, Y Plan, Amazon’s Prime Now, LaundrApp are popular … they take everyday tasks and they make them easier. Citymapper makes getting around (particularly when there is a tube strike, ahem, TfL) considerably easier – replacing maps; Y Plan improves your social life infinitely, replacing the need for posters everywhere and means you don’t spend hours trying to find something cool to do, it’s just there  – I could go on.

And this is exactly what Uber has done with its application. We don’t want to wait in the rain to try and hail a cab. We want to pay on our card (carrying money is so 2000). We want a fare estimate, we want to share the cost with a mate, we want to let them know our ETA. These are the reasons for its success – and these are the reasons it shouldn’t face legislation to change it.

This isn’t to say Uber don’t need to make changes. I believe that they do. There is a real need for them to address concerns on security and the roles of the drivers. But, that doesn’t – and shouldn’t – involve the type of legislation it is facing now.

There is no business logic to stifling innovation simply because it has posed a threat to another company. Black cabs have had the monopoly on London’s roads for a very long time; now is the time for them to evolve to ensure they remain a consistent presence.

Photo credit: Uljana EgliTaxi in Soho

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