OPINION: Embrace, don’t Fear, change

Is it time to give Uber a test in London?

 Many have concerns over the ride-sharing mobile app but it’s no surprise to see innovative companies disrupting traditional industries and markets.

 As we have integrated within the digital high-tech economy, the world of entertainment, information, manufacturing, food services, banking and finance have already changed. The taxi industry — of course — is of no exception.

 Public outcry towards this company is pointless. There is a real demand for Uber’s services and a highly regulated taxi industry — such as the one in London — only limits the ability for local residents to expand their consumer choices.

 The biggest benefit it offers to local residents is by offering cut-rate fares that are 30 to 45 percent cheaper than the traditional cab cost. Uber also uses real-time data to make transportation more targeted and efficient.

 These excessive regulations carry with them, unintended consequences.

 Screen Shot 2015-07-06 at 1.08.50 AMCouncil has set a quota on the number of taxi licenses available. They set the cab fares and approve all the bylaws that every cab driver and brokerage abide by.

 Many people complain about the cost of taxis as a mode of transportation. But those are the consequences of excessive regulations. The costs of regulations eventually get passed down unto consumers.

 The set quota of taxi licenses have caused a deadweight loss with the creation of a black market where they are exchanged for upwards of $100,000, significantly more than the city’s original $750 fee.

 Owners see the taxi license as a retirement investment and feel threatened by Uber. Additionally, their jobs are on the line.

 With over 1,000 cab drivers in London — mostly newcomers — it is no surprise to see the taxi industry try to put an immediate stop to Uber’s expansion into the city. Uber would flood the industry with cab drivers, devaluing taxi licences to pennies on the dollar.

 In order to ensure sound public policy, the city must either subject Uber to the same rules and regulations that are faced by the five taxi brokerages or eliminate all regulations within the taxi industry. There must a level playing field.

 Nonetheless, a debate over whether the city should welcome Uber is meaningless because people should start to get used to a new wave of technology that is transforming our lives and accept it with open arms.

 Within five years when companies are going to start selling driverless cars, Uber will be even less expensive because you’re only going to be paying for the ride, not the person driving the vehicle.

 Back in February 2015, Uber announced a partnership with Carnegie Mellon University to build a robotics research lab in Pittsburgh. The goal is to create a fleet of driverless, robot cabs.Senior scientists will perform research and development, primarily in the areas of mapping and vehicle safety and autonomy technology.

 Google is also set to offer its own ride-hailing service, in conjunction with its long-in-development driverless cars, to create the next generation of autonomous cabs.

 We’re being hesitant to welcome a ride-sharing app such as Uber, meanwhile Google and companies alike are releasing automated driverless cars — rendering the technology  that we still cannot lay our hands on obsolete.

 Will our local and upper levels of government take the quantum jump to embrace technology? Will our elected representatives prepare our city — not just for the digital economy but the robo-economy?

Amir Farahi
Amir Farahi

Amir Farahi is the Co-Founder & Executive Director of the London Institute. He is an entrepreneur, columnist, public speaker, and is currently specializing in Economics and Political Science at Western University.

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