facebook_ad_large_1On-demand ride-sharing services such as Uber and Lyft are on the rise, allowing smartphone users to request cab drivers with the touch of a button. But though the services are popular with consumers and drivers alike, they’re finding less favor among their taxi-company competitors and the unions and government bureaucrats who protect them.

Calling for increased regulation, entrance fees, and insurance requirements, competitors are grappling to retain their privileged, insulated status. In Miami-Dade County, an area with particularly onerous restrictions and regulations, Diego Feliciano, president of the South Florida Taxicab Association, argues that the change is bound to “ruin the very thing it’s trying to improve,” all because it threatens the fat cats who pay his salary, and who can afford to jump through the regulatory hoops. “When looking at new technologies,” he writes, “we must also be sure people’s basic civil rights and the safety of the riding public are protected.”

Bringing these petty municipal battles into the limelight, actor Ashton Kutcher, an early investor in Uber, recently appeared on Jimmy Kimmel Live, decrying “antiquated legislation,” “old-school monopolies,” and “old-school governments” who continue to stand in the way of innovation and consumer demand. In areas like Miami, Kutcher says, there is a “Mafioso mentality” against letting the “new guys” in.

Indeed, as Miami’s Feliciano aptly demonstrates, the protectionist mindset only sees what is, viewing economic activity in static and self-centered terms, and failing to recognize or value the type of opportunity and possibility that comes with increased freedom and ownership. Feliciano claims that he’s interested in “safety” and “basic civil rights,” but the only folks being protected are those with power and pocketbooks.

Though services like Uber have delivered convenience and cost savings, it’s attitudes like this that make the element of freedom itself ever more noteworthy. Take the following story from the Denver Business Journal, which highlights one driver’s journey from minion to manager (HT):

San Francisco’s taxi and limo companies also have lost a third of their drivers since the arrival of ride-sharing apps, according to research by Forbes magazine. Many are presumed to have gone into business for themselves, using their own cars with Lyft or Uber apps becoming their dispatching service and payment processor.

Ali Vazir, a Denver UberX driver, quit being a cabbie after nearly six years plying streets in Denver for Yellow Cab and Metro. What drew him to UberX was the chance to drop the weekly cab lease payments he made to the cab company, which amounted to $22,000 to $32,000 annually. After other expenses, Vazir said, there were times it was a struggle to make the equivalent of minimum wage.

He, like other UberX drivers, isn’t an Uber employee. Technically, he licenses Uber’s dispatching and payment software, has to insure himself and his car, and bear vehicle maintenance costs personally. But, Vazir says, his cut of UberX fares brings home more money, his schedule is more flexible, and he drives a newer car, he said.

“I feel emancipated. I’m so much happier, and my passengers are happier, too,” Vazir said. (emphasis added)

This is not the only industry where globalization and interconnectedness have, quite paradoxically, brought services closer to consumers, tightening the grid of human relation and interaction, freeing up producers and creatives along the way. Unfortunately, it’s also not the only industry where business interests and political insulators continue to collaborate and conspire to resist and interrupt such trends.

For the cab companies and the cronies who protect them, it’s not about service but self-preservation, despite their claims to the contrary. And though the drivers and riders at the bottom are surely finding new conveniences and cost savings, Vazir offers a good reminder that, at a more fundamental level, such mundane matters begin with liberation.

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  • Clarence789

    Fine, except UberX is not ride-sharing. Ride sharing is when Jack, going downtown, gives Joe, who happens to also want to go downtown, a ride, for pay. Joe’s car is not on the road. Environmentalists applaud. With private car services like UberX, driver Jack wasn’t going downtown until Joe paid him to drive there. Just like a taxi. Jack could easily drive back empty. There’s no reduction of cars on the road. Joe’s trip happened with Jack’s car replacing Joe’s. The term “ride-share” should be used with quotes, or not at all, for private car services.

  • Anne Schnedl

    I drive for Uber – but while they required me to provide proof of insurance my personal insurance does not cover me, or my car, if I have an accident while driving for Uber. Uber has a policy which (I believe) would cover the passenger – I don’t know that it would cover me (ie: any medical expenses), and I doubt it would cover repairs to my car – I suspect I would have to cover all of those expenses on my own.
    Uber does not require Uber drivers to carry commercial insurance (very expensive).

    The flexibility is, indeed, wonderful – and I hear time and again from passengers how much they prefer Uber to taxis, for a variety of reasons.

    I am in the Atlanta area.

    • pitbullstew

      anne? you make the point, but it is not about what uber sez? its about current long stand law, you are operating illegaly and paying 20% to uber. uber who has enough cash reserves to take the hit that you can afford.

    • ClaimsAdjuster

      You are not covered for on-the-job injuries if you are at fault for an accident. For that you woulld have to carry Workmen’s Compensation which some states require for taxi drivers.

      Your car is not covered for collision damage.

      Your personal insurance is invalid for running taxi business. If you have an accident your insurance company will deny any claim and cancel your policy. They could even deny claims that occur when you are not working. What you have done is hand your insurance a nice big fat exclusion that they can use to weasel out of any claim.

      In a big enough accident, the car owner will be sued along with Uber. You will have to pay for your own legal defense. The plaintiff can go after your personal property and garnish wages. If you are married, the plaintiff can go after marital property.

      In an at fault accident, Uber may step up to the plate under certain circumastances such as when you are on route to a fare and while your vehicle is occupied. But Uber will deny coverage for an accident outside those narrow circumstances and hang you out to dry arguing that the entire liability is yours. That is what happened in the San Franscisco fatality accident on New Year’s eve involving an UberX driver.

      http://blogs.kqed.org/newsfix/2014/01/20/ride-sharing-insurance-lyft-uberx-sidecar/

  • pitbullstew

    he’s gonna feel emaciated when regs rules and laws are applied to his lil illegal gypsy pirate indie operation after he smacks up his car hurts some one and loses every thing he ever worked for because he did not have commercial for hire livery insurance, permits, etc.or got sued for non ADA (Americans w Disabilities Act) compliance for Uber and Lyfts intentional omission to comply.
    BTW? There is this lil ditty breaking news today?

    83% think Uber should be required to license their drivers the same as the taxi industry;
    92% want Uber to carry traditional liability insurance like taxis and other transportation providers;
    83% think Uber should serve ALL customers without discrimination;
    69% believe Uber’s fares (what they charge passengers) should be regulated to always be the same instead of the controversial “price surging” that the company employs, charging higher rates during inclement weather or a sporting events;
    89% think Uber drivers should have to go through the same background checks that local taxi drivers must complete; and
    78% of Floridians believe Uber should adhere to the same regulations that taxis must go through on the local level.
    For a copy of the entire poll, click here or visit please visit the Florida Taxicab Association website here: http://www.floridataxicabassociation.com/site/press/

    Read more here: http://www.miamiherald.com/2014/02/25/3958551/statewide-poll-shows-floridians.html#storylink=cpy

  • pitbullstew

    wouldnt it be great if we didnt get run over today? uber n lyft?

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FEJugkWG47g

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  • anne anymous

    Uber is a small step above driving for a taxi company, the reason people drive for them is the weak economy. I have driven for both, currently for Uber, and the main advantage is picking your own hours. I also noticed Uber pilfers money in my statements, they are not an ethical company by any means, and as soon as a slightly better competitor enters the marker, Uber will be toast.