Taxi drivers across the world went on strike last week to protest the growth of Uber, a car-ride-share service based on smartphone apps. The result? Customers, already frustrated with problems in the taxi industry became even more upset with the licensed taxis, and many of them switched to Uber. It strikes me as unusual, to say the least, that a business providing customer service would shut itself down to protest the inroads into their business by upstart innovators.
It was as if they were saying,
We're angry about the increased competition, so we are going to force you to try using the services of our competitors just to see how much they can improve the product we have been providing under the protection of entry regulation and licensing.
Uber has been a game changer...[A]t the end of the day, the story is rather simple and similar everywhere. The number of taxiS allowed to operate has been limited over time. Black cars were forbidden to pick up passengers on the street. Now technology makes that available, but also allows for simple citizens to attempt to provide a similar service, if they want to (UberPop). In the world of GoogleMaps and GPS, you don't need to paint your car white (as in Milan) or black (as in London) to signal that you'd be happy to transport people if they're to be charged. ...
Is Uber the taxi of the future?
We don't know, but certainly the company is pretty smart in managing the protest. Instead of building bridges with taxi drivers, Uber used the strike as a marketing device, offering big discounts to clients and attracting new ones. So theWashington Post reports that "Uber's British ridership went up 850 percent yesterday thanks to black cab protests that left Londoners snarled in traffic".
Look for increased sabotage, violence, and many more legal challenges.
Addendum: Interestingly, there is no mention of Uber in the Wikipaedia entry for "Taxicabs of the United Kingdom"; at least there was no mention as of last weekend.