I love Über…I LOVE IT!!!! It’s affordable, it’s convenient, it’s safe, it has a two-way feedback mechanism for quality assurance, and I think it will make drunk-driving a thing of the past, likely saving 10,000 American lives a year–maybe more! And I think it’s great the way it is wiping out government-enforced transportation oligopolies across the country…but how is it managing to do that? The nature of government privilege is that government enforces it on the crony’s behalf.
When I lived in New York and San Francisco, it was pretty clear that the taxi industry and the government were in bed together in both places–very cozy. There were strict rules about the who, when, where and how of getting cabs, and the artificial limitations on how many cabs there were made you darn glad to get one even if you paid through the nose–and you’d get into it no matter how sketchy the vehicle or the driver.
Stories of million dollar medallions in New York abounded when I lived there (no one who actually drove a cab could ever afford to own one!) and when someone tried to sneak a fare without a medallion they were punished hard. A driver unlicensed to pick up a fare could be fined up to $1,000! So how did Über sweep New York and San Francisco, the two most politicized taxi towns I know? That’s a real question…How??
The official story is that authorities simply couldn’t keep up with Über. Given that Bloomberg has bragged about having his own army in the New York City Police Department, I sincerely doubt they couldn’t figure out how to stop this. But why on earth would they want to let us have Über? It erodes their power and a major source of revenue for the City. Sensing a hidden hand, I let my mind wander down the rabbit hole…
As this country gets more and more controlled and cronyized, I begin to think that very little of significance or major monetary value happens without the consent of the governing, whether pols, oligarchs or megacorps. So, cui bono? Who benefits?
Only after Über had become a clearly unstoppable force did California start messing with it, ruling that drivers were employees, for example, which would greatly raise the cost of the service and undermine the model. Then I started seeing articles in The Wall Street Journal about Über drivers committing crimes or hurting passengers. This seemed for sure planted because cabbies and cab passengers are much, much more likely to commit crimes and be the victims of them from each other because of the anonymity of the interaction and the cash on hand, yet such incidents never make the national news. With Über, the driver and passenger are known–not just to each other but to Über and anyone with access to the phones or emails of these people, and no cash changes hands. Über incidents are likely to be much rarer and much more quickly addressed. (That’s one of the reasons I love Über!)
I had already begun to notice the pattern of bad press against Über drivers, when I read yesterday a story with very weird details of an alleged shooter named Jason Dalton in Kalamazoo, Michigan, (who had no motive, of course) revealed as an Über driver, a fact which has become the focus of the coverage. Yesterday’s Journal carried an article, Uber Driver Held in Deaths, in which a passenger is quoted as saying Dalton “said that he had just started [with Uber] and that he had already gotten some bad reviews.” This report struck me as odd because I knew that drivers with even a few bad reviews are suspended, especially ones without a long track record of good reviews to offset them; similarly, low-rated passengers can be passed over or even banned. Today’s Journal carries a more plausible story titled, Uber Says Suspect Had Good Reviews, crediting him with over 100 rides and a 4.73 out of 5 star rating; also in today’s Journal was another story about the case, Uber Driver Charged in Michigan Shootings. So why drive home the point that the shooter was an Über driver?
I realized awhile back that only one big power would want Über but not the drivers….Google. What better way to get driverless cars to catch on than by getting us all hooked on Über (millenials aren’t even buying cars anymore!) and switching it over lock, stock & barrel to driverless. I even noticed Über was starting a food-delivery service (Atlanta is one of ten launch cities :)…That would be a great entrée for driverless vehicles–driverless AND passengerless rides to ease us into it. But the pièce-de-résistance of this transition is that it is a fantastic way for the powers-that-be to move us one giant step away from the universal automobile ownership that so epitomizes American independence and one giant step closer to Brzezinski’s promised “highly controlled society.” To further this worthy cause, according to the WSJ, Obama Proposes Spending $4 Billion to Encourage Driverless Cars. (As if Big Tech cronies need taxpayer money to establish a hyper-lucrative oligopoly! Not to mention, what wage-earning taxpayer wants our government spending billions to replace humans with machines?)
I had made the inevitable connection between Über and Google myself, but upon a little digging, I found that I’m not the first one to have that idea: a Google-Über match-up is viewed a natural in Silicon Valley, and here’s the kicker: Google Ventures’ largest investment to date was an under-publicized $258 million invested in Über in 2013–before Über drivers appeared in the crosshairs.
Tech pundits might think it’s a natural–I think it’s a set-up.
Update (8/18/2016): That was fast.
Uber to Put 100 Autonomous Volvo SUVs on Road in Pittsburgh
Uber Technologies this month will let customers in Pittsburgh summon rides from autonomous taxis
See also, The Übermorphosis Is Nigh…
Flawless logic Monica, in my opinion. I don’t use taxis and hence hadn’t focused much on the Uber phenomenon. And my first inclination was to chalk up the recent killings as a reason to avoid Uber. But I do believe you are on to something here. Guess the moral of the story here is to never ever discount the possibility of there being another aspect(s) to any matter!
I must state to begin with, that I am a Uber driver, so I come from that perpesctive. First of all, in relation to his rating of 4.73 with over 100 rides….I would consider that a bad rating. Once you hit 4.7, you either start getting nasty emails from Uber about your rating, or they kick you off altogether. I have over 500 rides and I’m at 4.86 which I personally think is poor. But you do have to take into account people who makes mistakes and hit 4 instead of 5 Etc, or super drunk college punks who are idiots.
As far as Google being behind the bad press, I find that unlikely as Google and Uber are actually working together in conjunction with Google’s same day delivery service…Uber Express. I know of some drivers in the Atlanta area who have done it already. Essentially the driver picks up a package from one of the many distribution centers and deliveries it to the customer.
I have been corrected mid-comment….Monica isn’t saying Google is behind the bad press, just working with Uber to replace all drivers with driverless cars. That, I totally agree with. Google and Uber have said that is exactly their objective.
I do find it ironic that just about every Uber driver/passenger related incident goes viral and is all over the news. I get questions all the time from riders, friends Etc…”don’t you fell unsafe?” My answer is always a strong, “No.” Uber has all of the riders info, my info, they know exactly where I am whether I am “En Route” or “On Trip”. If anything happens, they will know who the person is. My experience is that everyone is respectable, nice, friendly and totally appreciative of the service. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve gotten thank you’s for “saving lives.”
I also have to totally agree with Monica on the reduction of drunk driving. In my experience, it seems the 25-30 and under crowd don’t even consider driving after drinking, they simply Uber it. It’s just natural to them. Like it’s just the normal thing to do. So with that being said, I would be very interested in seeing the current stats on DUI arrests, and my guess is that the 30 and under crowd has gone way down the last 3 years, and the majority of current arrests are probably people over 30, and primarily over 40. Less technically inclined, less likely to change their current ways, less likely to try something new Etc…
Uber is growing everyday, literally. I just started this past December, and in that little of time, I have seen huge increases of how busy I am everyday. It’s almost hard to get off of the road because it’s so busy, but I can’t do 5 am to 8 pm every day….
If you haven’t tried Uber yet, give it a try…it’s a great service. And Monica, Uber Eats is available in Atlanta now. Only operating in downtown, midtown and Buckhead. Every day the menu changes and you have 5 restaurants/meals to pick from. Try it, I’ll bring your food.
I didn’t even address the taxi cab situation. Here’s the deal with that…their business model is failing. They are a dying breed. You either change your business model, or you die. So many passengers will not use taxi’s anymore, for several very good reasons. They are more expensive, the cars are dirty, the drivers are rude, the drivers are (I’ll be nice) not clean, they take longer to arrive, you don’t know where they are, how soon they will get there, and they try and screw you out of money all the time with filthy tricks (missing exits on purpose etc) and there is no follow up with the taxi company for any adjustment or reimbursement. These are not my opinions as I have never taken a taxi, but this is what I hear from my riders.
For the most part, the government in certain areas, they fight it all the way. Here in Atlanta, it is illegal to pick up passengers at the airport…..even though it does happen… Taxi companies don’t want us there….this should be resolved sometime this year.
I will try Uber Eats! A comment on the taxis…I ate at a restaurant in a hotel in mid-town recently and I was going to call for an Uber (that’s how I had gotten there) but I saw the line of taxis out front and I felt bad for them so I hailed one. The cab was dirty as you mentioned, the driver was rude and hard to understand, he had no idea how to get to where I was going and I was a little sketchy on the route too so I had to google it and read it to him which made me carsick AND it cost DOUBLE of what it cost me to get there via Uber!!!! That was it for me. And I am defo one over 30 to embrace the model whole-heartedly…for my husband and I both, if there’s a chance we’ll have a glass of wine with dinner, we’ll “just Uber it!” It makes me sick, though, that Obama wants $4 billion to usher in driverless cars which will result in the mass unemployment of tens of thousands of people who will have grown dependent on that income. Bums me out.
Surely we aren’t saying that a new technology will make us all poorer? the smart phone makes uber possible, radios and telephones made taxicab dispatching possible before that. The driverless tech will not make people poorer. It will make us all wealthier. Not just google either. When tractors began to be used, field hands did not go hungry because their jobs were gone. Their was, almost immediately, an increase in food production, with a complementary reduction in prices. everyone was wealthier almost immediately.
Only force makes people poorer, especially when it is applied by government with “good intentions.”
I’m just saying that government interference created a dysfunctional transportation market leaving it ripe for a new crony to dominate; now the government wants to spend billions to promote the interests of those cronyists again at the expense of the free market actor. Unfettered competition means a race to the bottom – more employment, lower prices (relative to wages!), less wealth inequality
As for my comment on technology taking jobs, I’m not a Luddite–I welcome technological change, when it’s organic, ie, if it is not subsidized by direct government investment or by government policy that favors capital investment or research over labor. In a free market, prices continuously adjust to give feedback to industry where the trade-off is between capital and labor-even if a technology is possible, it won’t be developed or adopted if labor can fill the need more cheaply. Cashiers at McDonald’s could be replaced by iPads but that’s only happened where the government puts in wage floors which drive the general price level up and creates systemic unemployment among less-skilled workers (disproportionately minorities).
you have a point about a government driverless cabs. If you want to destroy an industry, just let government run it. lol.
As a kid growing up in the New York City area and Detroit area, I learned the most important job of industry was job creation. Jobs that payed well, thus complimenting the social and economic foundation and viability of the USA. If a company could not compete within the constructs of society, and adhere to the most fundamental of American requirements, that of paying a living wage, it was not capable of employing. Then I moved to the South and learned that jobs were simply a means to the ends of the employer. A cloaked version of the British Plantation economic model the USA fought agaisnt in the Revolution and Civil War. The British Slave State. That’s where we are. Unions were destroyed by the corporate corruption and government refusal to uphold the law in this regard. As went the Unions, so went the USA. Its time that the workers took back America. Trump or Sanders. Both say the same thing. Different solutions. Its about the American Worker. No more no less. Vote accordingly. “Borders Language Culture”
Perhaps that’s why Detroit is a wasteland now. They thought that making union members wealthy was the point of being in business. Or perhaps unions believed that if they greased the politicians enough, then it wouldn’t matter if the manufacturer made a profit. I wonder if,( when the cost of paying a union member 5 times what his work is worth becomes so burdensome to a company that they move away,) the union man ever really realizes that he priced himself out of a job.