Thursday, August 7, 2014

City Over-Lords say Nyet to Uber; But Change is Coming

Legal weed and the autonomous google car are coming down the turnpike, and there's a good bit of change in the wind right now. Most of the regulatory environments are decades-old and law-makers and policy-makers aren't really prepared for these changes.

Nyet: Uber needs Licenses
A week ago the City decided that Uber was a taxi service and needed taxi licensing.

The move isn't that surprising and it's hard to imagine that the actual demand for the service in Salem is more than a novelty. And maybe there are real issues to work out.

But it's also a reminder than technology and custom are changing. Uber is also beginning to facilitate carpools, and it's likely that its service and app is a lot more sophisticated and convenient than our current "ride matching" software offered through Cherriots. If it's meaningfully better, it will trump the current arrangements.

The wire services are also picking up a story about the "internet of things" and how hackable are new cars.

Your car could be hacked!
The next five, ten, 25 years are going to bring a lot of change in transportation, some of it change we can anticipate, and some of it will surprise us.

1937 propaganda - via NYRB
Mid-century assumptions about travel started breaking down about a decade ago, and they're only going to be less and less accurate.

Trend-line mania:  61 out of 61 projections were too high.
Also, the same slope on the trend line always!
Since 1999, in 61 out of 61 projections of vehicle miles traveled sent to Congress by the US Department of Transportation, the actual miles traveled came in way under the projections.

Planning for 2050 like it's 1950 is Uber-dumb.


Brian Hines said...

"Planning for 2050 like it's 1950 is Uber-dumb."

Excellent one-line summary of what drives me nuts (assuming I can become nuttier than I already am) about the City of Salem these days.

I feel like City officials -- Mayor and City Manager on down -- are trapped in a Way Back Machine that's programmed to accomplish an impossible goal:

Stop the course of change. Keep Salem mired in the past.

Except when it comes to destroying historic buildings and beautiful old downtown trees, of course.

Which makes the Wayback Machine even more annoying.

Some glitch in the backward-facing programming of City officials makes them want to discard the best of the past while also discarding the best of the future.

Leaving us with social and economic policy crap, by and large.

Anonymous said...

Vox has a story on this today -

"these services will only get better as more people start using them. The more customers there are in a particular area, the easier it will be to match customers who are riding in the same direction at the same time. That will allow further price cuts, and it will also encourage drivers to get larger vehicles so they can offer rides to more customers at once. We'll start to see ride-sharing options that look less like large taxis than like small buses.

Self-driving cars plus ride-sharing will make buses obsolete"

Laurie Dougherty said...

I don't have a fully formed take on Uber, and I'm by no means technophobic, but any outfit that screams bloody murder about regulation and touts its own ability to provide perfect benefits and perfect security for everyone raises red flags as far as I'm concerned.

Portland is evidently as benighted as Salem where Uber is concerned; this article provides some reasons why:

It's ironic that Uber, valued at around $18 billion, is now an icon of the "sharing economy." Silly me, I thought sharing was about generosity, about making this vastly unequal world a little bit more fair and equitable. But Uber is all about the app and the linked credit card and being tech savvy enough to use them and having the wherewithal to withstand price surges at times of high demand - like say a natural disaster. It took action by the New York State Attorney General, after outright price gouging by Uber in the aftermath of Hurricane Sandy, to get Uber to cap (not eliminate) price surging during emergencies.

Uber (the name is telling) is turning a public service into a private club. So when the buses become obsolete, what happens to those who don't belong?

Jeff Schumacher said...

@ Laurie Dougherty: Uber is turning a public service into a private club? That is an interesting conclusion, but I don't agree with it. Uber seems to bring an efficiency to the business model typically practiced by taxi cabs, not public transit. I imagine Uber could bring more efficiency to some ride-share platforms, but I'm not sure where Uber will replace public transit.

As someone who has used Uber and used taxis, I would choose Uber if only for the convenience of doing it all from my phone (including coordinating payment). I've yet to experience that type of hassle-free convenience when I need a taxi.

Asking Uber to conform to the rules and regs governing taxis generally makes sense to me, and for now that is where I see the competition: Uber vs. taxis.

Susann Kaltwasser said...

The founder of Airbnb was on Colbert Show the other day. It is clear that this is the wave of the future rent out cars or living space. The City is way behind the times on this and perhaps so many more things!