If you happen to live in a major city like San Francisco, Chicago, or DC, have a smartphone, and you’ve never tried out Uber cab for your taxi-hailing needs — it is fantastic and I freely recommend it. Instead of having to go out on a potentially cold and/or sketchy street to search for a roving cab for who knows how long, you only need to take to your phone and wait to be notified of when a nearby driver arrives at your location. The cars are clean, the employees are courteous, and you don’t need to mess with cash or hand over your credit card to pay. In a nutshell, it started as a great idea to cater to people willing to pay a little bit more for convenience in big cities using readily available technology, and it quickly became a successful business — which might be even more successful if certain local regulations didn’t allow entrenched interests the recourse to thwart competition that happens to threaten some of their market share and old-and-tired business models.
Like in, say, New York City, for example. Uber has been fighting to be allowed to do business there, but the existing taxi and limo drivers are all too aware that the efficiency and convenience of Uber cab will appeal to at least a portion of their consumers. Last week, Uber finally got the city to approve their taxi-hailing app, if only on a sort of probationary basis:
Looks like New York City isn’t going to hold a grudge against Uber for attempting to launch its taxi-hailing service without permission last summer. The San Francisco startup just became the first company to be approved under New York’s new pilot program, which will allow selected companies to offer smartphone apps that let customers hail a cab from their phones. …
The pilot program was just cleared earlier this week when a judge ruled against a group of traditional taxi companies that had accused the new smartphone startups of violating city regulations. The 12-month program starts today, so New Yorkers in need of a ride may be able to drop the rigorous arm-waving this weekend — as long as there are enough Uber cabs on the street, that is.
Now, hold on just a dang minute: A tough legal battle that’s been in the works since “last summer” for “violating city regulations” has finally been “approved under New York’s pilot program”? …Really? As Tim Worstall put it at Forbes, that right there is a pretty disgracefully apt demonstration of a lot of what’s wrong with the U.S. economy:
Uber, or at least this part of Uber, is simply a method of hailing a cab. This is not a complicated task: it’s not rocket science and it’s not deciding where to put a nuclear power station. It’s an electronic version of standing in the street and waving your arms around.
Yet, despite this simplicity, the Taxi and Limousine Commission has taken nearly a year to even allow a pilot program to start. With only selected companies allowed to do so. … There are too many gatekeepers making it difficult to apply the new technologies to those real world problems. This limits growth simply because, at heart, growth is applying new technologies to real world problems.
Or, if you want to put it in the words about capitalism, we’ve plenty of creation going on but just too many people not allowing the concomitant destruction.
The economy tries to present practical, efficient solutions and improvements; big government allows people to protest on no other basis than their inability to compete and continue attracting consumers. Unbelievable.
Update: I spoke too soon. Shaking my head, friends.
An appellate court judge is slamming the brakes on the city’s controversial e-hail pilot program that allows New Yorkers to request yellow cabs using their smartphones.
State Supreme Court Justice Helen Freedman issued an emergency injunction Wednesday, blocking the one-year pilot program that launched Tuesday night with a yellow cab option on the Uber smartphone app.