Uber seeks deal with governments on ride sharing

By Leith van Onselen

It seems ridesharing provider, Uber-X, has grown tired of constant legal battles with Australia’s state governments, and has sent its senior vice- president of policy and strategy, David Plouffe, to meet political and business leaders in Melbourne and Sydney to find a way pass the regulatory impasse that prohibits the company from operating legally throughout Australia. From The Australian:

…with the right regulatory settings Uber could help drive economic activity by creating jobs, break the monopoly of the taxi industry and relieve traffic on congested city roads…

“We believe in partnering with government”…

[Uber] has been trying to negotiate agreements that bring the company into compliance with existing laws…

Uber has been paying the cost of… fines on behalf of its drivers while it nuts out the specifics of new regulatory settings to formalise their employment…

A failure to come to an agreement with state governments over the legality of its UberX service could see the company leave Australian shores for good.

Uber-X is a classic case of a new technology challenging the status quo, causing resistance from the incumbent industry – i.e. taxi drivers and its regulator.

The world witnessed such dynamics when the invention of the personal motor car won the battle against the horse-and-cart and railway industries, which also lobbied governments to erect all kinds of barriers aimed at preventing their operation. And we are seeing such a battle play-out again with Uber.

Uber-X has become popular amongst both drivers and passengers for a number of reasons.

For drivers, Uber-X provides the opportunity to earn good incomes without paying exorbitant rents to monopoly taxi plate owners. Some of the benefits are also passed on to consumers, who enjoy typically lower fares than traditional taxis, and generally a better, cleaner, service.

Uber-X’s built-in feedback system is also a big bonus for customers, since it allows them to read reviews about their driver before they book, as well as provide feedback on their experience afterwards, which obviously incentivises drivers to provide good service. This system compare favourably to taxis, where there is no feedback mechanism and it is pot luck who your driver is.

Hopefully, Uber and the state governments can come to a sensible agreement about ride sharing’s place in the transport landscape.

The net result from allowing Uber-X (and ridesharing services more generally) to operate should be more reliable and more affordable transport options for consumers, a more efficient utilisation of the transport fleet, and better pay for drivers currently caught in taxi licence holders’ monopolist net.

It would be a crying shame if Uber decided that it was all too hard, and packed-up and left Australia. While Australia’s rent-seeking taxi plate owners would love such an outcome, consumers, drivers, and the broader economy would be the obvious losers.

Taxi licence restrictions are a hangover from Australia’s protectionist past and have no justification in a modern economy. It is time to let the market for transport sort itself out, free from draconian government regulations.

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Comments

  1. Honestly Uber it’s the government. Just bribe them more then the taxi industry. Problem solved.

    Also offer a few high level positions to the government members that will get the flick next election.

    • Exactly what I was thinking. These guys are multinationals. Surely they could double whatever the taxi industry is paying as their “donation”.

  2. I don’t really like the term ‘ride sharing’ for Uber. There is no ‘ride’ being shared. They’re a taxi service that you happen to need a smartphone for.

    I’m hugely in favour of the concept, just not Uber’s management, who are known for being complete douches.

    In the Bay Area, I use Lyft: similar to Uber X, without the (obvious) bad business tactics.

    Having said that, I’d still rather Uber than the useless, evil, stupid Taxi incumbents. Artificially restricted taxi supply has been a disaster: deaths from more drink drivers, more expensive, and terrible levels of service and cleanliness.

    • I don’t really like the term ‘ride sharing’ for Uber. There is no ‘ride’ being shared. They’re a taxi service that you happen to need a smartphone for.

      Yes, the term “ridesharing” is bollocks. It’s just a cynical attempt to try and present it as something other than a paid-for arrangement.

      Uber is a private hire car service. Nothing fancier (or more innovative) than that.

      Taxis are allowed to trawl the streets for rides and (ostensibly at least) *must* pickup anyone who hails/books them.

      I’m hugely in favour of the concept, just not Uber’s management, who are known for being complete douches.

      Indeed.

      The sheer dishonesty on display with this statement:

      “We believe in partnering with government”…

      Is astounding, though not surprising.

    • “cleanliness” is more due to the fact all uber drivers has only being operating their vehicle commercially for approx one year. Run the vehicle commercially for five years and it will look like a taxi. Especially if the uber vehicle used fabric seat covers… Yuck. Taxis mandate leather covers.

  3. Don’t forget your Coase.

    The issue here is not that there is (apparently) value to be gained in a re-distribution of rights.

    The question that needs to be answered is: “To whom should that value flow? Who is the ‘initial-state’ owner of the rights?”

    The taxi licencing problem could be solved overnight simply by buying back all the licences. The value would then flow to the licence-holders.

    Or it could be solved overnight simply by cancelling all the licences. The value would then flow to the travellers.

    Neither one nor the other of these solutions is dictated by positive economics (notwithstanding the attempts by some conceited economists to suggest that their positive economics somehow privileges their normative views).

    Remember also that the real beneficiaries of the licencing scheme have long since “cashed in their chips”. Those holding licences today will have bought them at full value on the basis of a longstanding regulatory regime. Often they are mum-and-dad owners whose life savings are tied up in those licences.

    Are these people to be bankrupted?

    This is not a question of positive economics. It is a normative question.

    p.s. I have no taxi licences and no no-one who does.

    • Would a middle of the road solution be more optimal? Enforced taxi license laws, requiring Uber drivers to hold a license. Subdivide the license. For example, for each license you currently hold, you get four more, which you can then make use of (operate four more taxies), rent out (to uber drivers), or sell (to uber drivers).

      As the number of licenses have increased by a factor of four, each license should cost 1/5 of the price before.

      • Uber cars are not taxis, they are hire cars. Really, no different from a limo.

        The quickest and easiest solution is to require Uber cars to have private hire care plates like limos do (ca. $40k each).

        With that said, there’s no real justification for the supply of taxi permits to be artificially constrained. They should cover the administrative costs involved in setting, monitoring and enforcing taxi standards, but really nothing more.

      • @drsmithy
        Correction, uber black is a hire car service, and no one is complaining about them, and almost all drivers have hire car license. Uber black also costs 60% more than taxis.

        It’s the uberX that this whole discussion is about. They are approx a little less than cost of taxis. And they are not licensed. You can’t use a hire car license because that license require vehicles of a certain ‘prestige’.

      • It’s the uberX that this whole discussion is about. They are approx a little less than cost of taxis. And they are not licensed. You can’t use a hire car license because that license require vehicles of a certain ‘prestige’.

        I was speaking in high level terms – conceptually there is no difference between Uber and UberX – they are both private car for hire services, like limos, not taxi services.

        It sounds like there’s a good argument for a less strict hire car license for services with less “prestige”, like UberX. This is actually something Uber could facilitate to show a desire to “work with regulators”.

      • @drsmithy
        Maybe, but if that’s the case, why would anyone use taxi licenses, all taxi operators would just get themselves hire car licenses and run their taxis that way. Please note I said taxis operators, not taxis licensees. Taxi operates don’t necessarily have a license, they hire their license from licensees. Taxi licensees would be royally screwed in that scenario.

      • What is this prestige requirement for hire cars?

        That sounds unlikely, just because some current hire cars may be a bit flash – like Silver Service cabs (which just a regular cab plate) – it doesn’t mean it is a requirement of the plate regulation.

        Those stretch Hummers are not exactly prestige – hysterical yes!

        Drop the price of the Hire Plates to something that reflects the basic cost of regulation and refund to any plate holders any amounts they actually paid to the government for a higher Hire Car Plate fee.

        As far as I know there is nothing stopping Uber-X using the Hire Car Plates and that is what Samuels down in Victoria was telling them to do.

        Sure the price of the Hire Car plate $30K approx is too high but Uber would have been on better ground whinging about the fee than the idea that they should be allowed to operate completely unregulated.

        Of course it is debateable whether any sort of regulation is required but from a political point of view the first phase would be to keep the Hire Car regime and lower the plate costs.

        If having any regulation proves unnecessary they can drop that requirement in due course.

        As for taxis the only people who should be compensated are those that actually paid a fee to the government to acquire the plate and then the refund should be the amount that was paid for the plate plus interest at the usual rate used for such situations.

        Paying a price above the fee paid to the government for a plate when the government always had the power to increase supply or reduce the price asked was always a risk.

        Some risks taken do not pay off.

        Footnote:

        I invoke my personal charter from heaven to the extent required by the above comment. If a majority agrees with me it becomes holy writ.

      • @drsmithy
        Also,
        Why would anyone continue to operate hailed taxi service anymore? The cost would be just to high.

      • I correct myself on the issue of Hire Cars being ‘prestige’.

        In NSW the regs do require cars of a certain value to be used or in some instances of at least a certain age (for the vintage weddings no doubt)

        http://www.transport.nsw.gov.au/sites/default/files/b2b/hirecar/facts-sheet-1-private-hire-vehicle-criteria.pdf

        Clearly those regulations should be relaxed as they serve no practical purpose other than to force up the cost of hire car hiriing. Modern inexpensive cars should be able to be used as Hire Cars.

        That probably explains why Uber could not use Hire Car Plates.

        Probably should cut to the chase and make some fat donations to the political parties like the rent seekers they are trying to disrupt.

        Political parties in Australia are very responsive to those that buy $1000 plates at their meet and greets.

      • @Pfh007

        See my comment above.

        If they relax license conditions for hire cars, all taxi operators would just get themselves hire car licenses and run their taxis that way. Please note I said taxis operators, not taxis licensees. Taxi operates don’t necessarily have a license, they hire their license from licensees. Taxi licensees would be royally screwed in that scenario.

      • Kevintxu,

        I seen some reports that taxi drivers have been using their vehicles (they may not actually own them) for Uber fares during their taxi shift.

        Taxi plate owners and their drivers can take Ubers right now.

        The only issue is that the owners of taxi plates will be unhappy that uber essentially allows a hire car to work like a taxi albeit only to people with a smart phone and an uber account.

        But apart from any fees that they paid to govt, which should be refunded, that is just business risk.

        No one suggesting bailing out video shop owners for the rise of streaming.

      • @Pfh007
        Taxi licensees won’t be happy with that, they forked out the license, vehicle and maintenance cost, and the driver and uber pocket the income.

        “any fees that they paid to govt, which should be refunded, that is just business risk.”
        Except the fees they paid to the government is probably around $200,000 in today’s money. And there are maybe 2500 licenses in Victoria. So that comes to maybe half a billion dollars. Also bear in mind it’s not like they had a choice buying the license, you had to if you want to operate in this industry.

      • Maybe, but if that’s the case, why would anyone use taxi licenses, all taxi operators would just get themselves hire car licenses and run their taxis that way.

        Yes ?

        With that said, taxis have certain privileges, constraints and obligations that Uber vehicles do not. For example, taxis can pickup hails from the street, taxis have to pickup a passenger who hails them and taxis have to take a passenger where they want to go.

        Please note I said taxis operators, not taxis licensees. Taxi operates don’t necessarily have a license, they hire their license from licensees.

        I used to drive cabs. I have a reasonable understanding how the system works.

        Taxi licensees would be royally screwed in that scenario.

        Some certainly would be, yes.

        Drivers would likely be better off.

        Why would anyone continue to operate hailed taxi service anymore? The cost would be just to high.

        People who have lived in, or visited, the UK, will know the idea of a “minicab”. Uber vehicles are really nothing more than that with a fancier booking system, yet traditional taxis still exist in the UK.

        Also bear in mind it’s not like they had a choice buying the license, you had to if you want to operate in this industry.

        Not sure if serious.

    • This is not a question of positive economics. It is a normative question.

      I don’t fully understand your statement, but I suspect I disagree with it.

      The best solution of the two you offered is to cancel all the licences. People who buy licences must learn the lesson that government is not a trustworthy entity to deal with. People who buy licences must learn that present government may not honour harmful deals offered by previous governments.

      I believe that it is a matter of positive economics. Voters and citizens who understand that harmful licensing must not be bought into or supported in any way will create a better, and more economical society.

      • Again, it’s not like they had a choice in trusting the government. If they don’t pay for the license they get fined and maybe incarcerated.

      • The best solution of the two you offered is to cancel all the licences.

        Normative statement. Depends on subjective criteria for assessing “best”.

        People who buy licences must learn the lesson that government is not a trustworthy entity to deal with.

        Normative statement. Statement of what “ought” to be done.

        People who buy licences must learn that present government may not honour harmful deals offered by previous governments.

        Normative statement. Statement of what “ought” to be done. Depends on subjective criteria for assessing “harmful”.

        Voters and citizens who understand that harmful licensing must not be bought into or supported in any way will create a better, and more economical society.

        Normative statement. Depends on subjective criteria for assessing “better”.

        The mere fact that one holds a belief very strongly doesn’t mean that it isn’t normative.

      • Right. So it is both normative and a question of positive economics. I vote for the positive economics. I feel strongly about that too.

  4. Uber’s business modus operandi is more about creating a dominate market share or seen to be aggressively seeking dominate market share, which then translates into stock price which then is used to fill the right peoples pockets.

    All the rest of it is just clever marketing.

    Skippy…. It desperately wants to lay the ground work to pop a huge IPO which will make some insanely rich instantly. After that who knows.

  5. The success of Uber is in part due to the ‘invisible handers’ wetting themselves with the example of Uber.

    Uber is just another monopoly. Instead of monopolising the licences, it is just monopolising the access system and shafting drivers by convincing everyone they are ‘contractors’ not ’employees’.

    You’re kidding yourself that an Uber driver will earn more.

    http://pando.com/2015/01/26/dear-travis-a-miami-uber-driver-takes-exception-to-the-companys-rate-cuts/

    I’m not in favour of the current taxi system. But Uber isn’t the answer.

    There is no way around some kind of government regulation for something like this – Uber assault accusations:

    http://pando.com/2015/02/03/off-duty-uber-driver-accused-of-sexual-assault-in-la-continuing-a-troubling-pattern/

    • Once ride sharing is allowed, there is nothing to stop Lyft or any other business from starting. So Uber’s chance of creating a dominant monopoly is negligible. It’s not about taxis vs Uber, but taxis versus ridesharing.

      Freeing-up the market is the answer, alongside minimum performance/safety/insurance standards.

      • I think you’ve also got to look longer term. Uber starts to compete with car ownership (and therefore car companies). When riders can use UberPOOL (sharing with other riders), the cost of the fare is significantly reduced.

        Once you compete with car ownership, you reduce traffic, reduce pollution, etc.

        Uber is also planning to create 20,000 jobs this year in Australia. A decent feat.

      • Dont know exactly. Maybe:
        Reduce the licence fee ($5000?)
        Keep regulations on drivers (background checks, knowledge, accreditation etc)
        Use a request and ranking service such as ‘go catch’

        Uber aren’t a monopoly yet – but of course that is their goal – along with IPO – they go hand in hand. Removing a licence requirement and or creating market entry to close to nothing hands all the power to Uber.

        The app is just a glorified dispatch centre, just because you have a smart phone doesn’t mean you can be a taxi driver.

        Like another said – its not ride sharing, its a taxi service trying to pass itself off as something else to avoid regulations/costs.

        Yeah the taxi industry isn’t perfect – but they certainly cop more than their fair share from the market fundamentalists – easy target, I guess.

      • @lachlan

        Ultimately, they cop it because the people who work in it are low paid, and are migrants.

        One of the biggest complaints is that the drivers are Indians. They throw around the word Indian like it’s an insult.

      • 5 paragraphs and the best you can do is “reduce the licence fee”?

        How about you and your scare-mongering rent-seeking mates go and ride your filthy taxis to your hearts content and leave the rest of us to choose whether we want to use your filthy taxis or gocatch or Uber or lyft or Haxi or carshare or limos or a bicycle built for two or what ever else suits the circumstances we find ourselves in.

    • Uber is not a monopoly in places where other businesses have opened up.

      Furthermore, the barriers to entry are absurdly low for a competitor to Uber if the local legislation is reasonable (nominal cost for criminality and driving history check). All you need to do is write an app that matches people up, tracks location and handles payment – it wouldn’t be particularly hard.

      Uber’s biggest advantage is its brand and fast-expansion. They (rightly so) recognise the value in ‘being first’ and so they push on into new areas even without the legislature in favour of it. This has allowed their brand to become a verb in those areas, in the same way that Google has.

      • It’s more like opening up a bar without a liquor license and beating the competition with that competitive advantage (the money saved goes to higher staff wages, better decor, and cheaper prices). If the government doesn’t crack it down then sweet.

  6. After looking at Uber’s business model, I have came up with this list of Uber’s competitive advantages:
    1. Drivers and assets are completely disposable. There are no shortage of drivers yet, so they have no need to try to hold on to anyone. Unlike taxi companies, if a driver quits or get fired, there is no idle car sitting there costing them license money or other expenses. Likewise, if a car is broken or wrecked, there is no lost time income because that will be the driver’s responsibility. Pretty much all of the risk it’s assumed by the driver, the Uber would simply cut ties of there are any issues at no cost to uber.

    2. Operating a taxi service without paying for taxi license. This automatically puts them $22,000 ahead each year (cost of yearly taxi license in Victoria or an IO business loan @ 10% on a $300,000 license would have a yearly expense of $30,000). However, this may be emulated by the taxi industry as well. If the government does not crack down on this practice, taxi industry would realize that their license is not worth the paper it’s printed on and shift to uber’s model as well. The only thing that’s stopping taxi industry now is they thought this practice is illegal. Nothing to stop the taxi industry from emulating it if the government doesn’t enforced it.

    3. Driver ratings. Users get to rate their drivers. However, you can’t pick drivers with good ratings. GoCatch have driver ratings too, and you can see all the driver ratings around you and pick your driver based on the ratings.

    4. Cheaper background checks. Background checks cost anywhere between $5 and $1000 even from the same provider. Uber may or may not use a level of check that’s appropriate.

    5. Insurance. This is a gray area. Uber offers insurance to US drivers. They offer implicit guarantee to Australian drivers. However they don’t offer a certification of insurance, so their insurance pay out is completely at their discretion, and it would be harder to sue them if they refuse to pay. Personal car insurance is many times cheaper than commercial insurance, but wouldn’t cover you if you driver for purpose of earning an income. Also, even if uber pays for an accident, if your insurance company found out (multiple of ways, TAC, police report etc), they would cancel your existing insurance. And you cannot drive for uber without a valid insurance (also relates to point 1 above). Also the driver wears the lost income during this period.

    6. Newer cars. Many people like uber because the vehicles are nicer. That’s because all uber vehicles have only being operating commercially for approx a year or less. This advantage will diminish over time. Uber also disposes vehicles older than a certain age at no cost to them, (is just dispose of the driver until he/she buys a new car). See point 1.

    7. Drop price for market share at little cost to themselves. Uber is is dropping prices to capture more rides, because they take a percentage cut, it doesn’t affect them as much. Drivers wear the thinner margins and operating costs. Drivers are definitely feeling the squeeze, see uberdriverdiaeies.com and uberdrivermiami.wordpress.com .

    From these points, I believe uber’s ultimate goal is capture market share, then go IPO.

    • Uber’s ultimate goal (espoused by their founder) is to eliminate drivers altogether and operate a fleet of autonomous vehicles. They want to make Car-as-a-Service the default model for personal transportation.

      • If they use automated vehicles, they lose competitive advantage number 1, the drivers and assets are disposable. It would mean they have to purchase and maintain a fleet of vehicles rather than the drivers operate and maintain the vehicles.

      • If they use automated vehicles, they lose competitive advantage number 1, the drivers and assets are disposable. It would mean they have to purchase and maintain a fleet of vehicles rather than the drivers operate and maintain the vehicles.

        The automated vehicles belong to other people (today’s drivers), not Uber, just like they do in the existing model.

        Uber’s business is not transporting people, it is arranging bookings. Automated vehicles change nothing about this. Their competitive advantages are the quality of their booking tool and the size of their userbase.

      • Then they don’t have an competitive advantage to justify their valuations.

        In fact, wouldn’t having today’s drivers as a middle man reduce efficiency? They don’t add value, and they increase costs because they can’t negotiate bulk discount.

      • Then they don’t have an competitive advantage to justify their valuations.

        Well, they do at the moment – first mover advantage and marketshare. 🙂

        The latter should not be discounted, either – same principle as Facebook.

        In fact, wouldn’t having today’s drivers as a middle man reduce efficiency? They don’t add value, and they increase costs because they can’t negotiate bulk discount.

        Sorry, I’m not sure what you’re trying to say.

      • “The automated vehicles belong to other people (today’s drivers), not Uber, just like they do in the existing model.”

        It sound like an unnecessary extra step. Unless the owners of the vehicles is bad at math and hires out their automated vehicle too cheaply. Because individual vehicle owners cannot aquire and maintain vehicles cheaper than large operators.

        Also uber is not like facebook. Facebook, it would take a month just to port over my content to a competitor like Google. And after all that effort, another year trying to convince my friends to change, and they may not do so.

        With uber, I could switch to the competition with a download of another app, or just hail a taxi. No need to convince my friends to switch with me like changing from facebook.

      • It sound like an unnecessary extra step. Unless the owners of the vehicles is bad at math and hires out their automated vehicle too cheaply. Because individual vehicle owners cannot aquire and maintain vehicles cheaper than large operators.

        As you said above, a large operator with a fleet of cars has the problem of their investment in vehicles sitting idle during times of low demand.

        Someone who only sends their remote vehicle out doing Uber jobs some of the time and uses it themselves the rest of the time, is just skimming cream off the top.

        With uber, I could switch to the competition with a download of another app, […]

        What do you do if that app doesn’t have enough marketshare to have attracted drivers in your area ?

        […] or just hail a taxi.

        That’s true regardless.

        Uber is just like facebook. Unless lots of people are using it (people = drivers, Uber’s actual customers), it’s value proposition is nil.

    • Excellent analysis kevintxu.

      Interesting article in today’s SMH on Uber:
      http://www.smh.com.au/nsw/uber-drawing-drivers-from-the-ranks-of-unemployed-in-sydney-20150211-13bli3.html

      I found this comment from the company particularly interesting:

      “When comparing the areas Uber partner drivers live and the unemployment rate in certain regions, it is clear they come from those areas where unemployment and underemployment are high,” the company said.

      This made me wonder what would be found it the ATO looked at the Uber drivers to see how many were registered for GST (and were paying it) and how many were drawing government benefits at the same time.

      I am on the fence on this one. I think it is great to have greater competition in the provision of public transport. However for all their faults the taxi industry are working within the law – Uber clearly is not as kevintxxu says.

      The answer is quite simple”
      1. An immediate ban on the transfer of taxi licenses for consideration. The fact is that a taxi license has no real value as it is cancellable at will by the government. The only reason they change hands for hundreds of thousands of dollars is that the government allow them to do so. This is rent-seeking at its absolute worst.
      2. Force Uber to insure all its drivers properly so that they and their passengers are protected to the same standard as taxis.
      3. Force Uber to employ/contract only drivers who have qualified for a taxi license.

      Simples!


      • An immediate ban on the transfer of taxi licenses for consideration.

        Never quite understood how a taxi licence became an asset rather than a piece of paper temporarily granting certain rights in exchange for meeting certain obligations and paying an admin fee, like, for example any driver’s licence – and therefore in no way transferable.

      • @mander
        For point one, Victoria already taken steps to cap the value of taxi licenses. The yearly $22,000 means license is worth no more than $220,000 if we assume IO business loan of 10% interest. Or no more than $150,000 if we assume IO business loan of 15% interest.

      • There was a period in many cities there there was no taxi licenses. It caused several problems:
        1. To much competition. Esp during the depression.
        2. Uneven servicing. All drivers would prefer to service rich and _safe_ areas.
        3. Safety and regulated charges. Customers are scared of getting into a car opted by someone dodgy.

        Then they introduced license and went to other way.

      • @ kevintxu,

        I wonder if Uber has look at the unregulated taxi industry in south Africa.

        Skippy…. Since deregulation worked great with capital flows and banking why not transportation…. eh.

      • kevin

        How long ago are you talking in relation to taxi licenses?

        I was working in finance in the early 80s and we were financing taxi licenses back then. As I recall we would lend $55k against the market value of a license of around $90k. Even then everyone understood that there was no real asset, just a license cancelable at will.

      • @mander
        I’m using the assumption you can get 100% loan and working backwards. Currently there are $22k yearly licenses in Victoria. I’m trying to work out how much how much normal licenses would be to make renting a license from the government more withheld worthwhile compared to owning your own license. Obviously not taking into consideration licenses being cancelable or banks may only lend up to 50% of license value etc. Also as discussed on this site, license often sells for around 300k – 400k.

        If you can rent license from government for $22k a year, how much do you think license have to be to make it more worthwhile buying the license rather than renting.

  7. Uber are great at the spin.

    Never used Uber X

    Used standard Uber and found them not dissimilar to taxis in some respects (eg one confirmed me than dropped me 5 mins later, several others accepted while finishing another job which delayed their arrival by ~10 mins).

    Used Uber black once and found my ride in a Audi SUV grossly overpriced (maybe I expected too much).

    Not convinced of the merits of surge pricing.

    Used GoCatch and found them pretty satisfactory overall.

    • Uber black is a hire car service. Most of them have hire car licenses, which require them to have a vehicle of certain ‘prestige’. Of course they would need to recover the cost via higher fees. Over 60% more than taxis because their vehicles cost almost 100% more than taxis.

    • So you’ve never used the service that’s being discussed here and yet feel qualified to comment?

      I used to use GoCatch. Worked maybe 50% of the time, I have had cabbies who accept my fare but then just don’t show up (they turned the phone off or something probably when they saw a better offer). Almost missed a couple of flights that way. The app was poorly written and it was clear that they weren’t putting much emphasis on its development. And then even when you did get a cab, it’s still a shitty cab driven by someone with headphones on talking on the phone for the entire ride who will slug you with a 10% credit card surcharge at the end (Cabcharge are the king of rorts).

      Compared to GoCatch, Uber’s app and service has been flawless. Never had a bad experience, never been dropped or left hanging, the drivers are generally friendly and happy to talk (or not if you’re feeling anti-social), and often have bribes for you (lollies, water, etc.) to encourage you to give them five stars.

      As for being great at the spin, well I can’t say I have actually seen much Uber advertising around. Maybe a couple of Facebook ads when they first came out in my city, but for the most part I think they let the service do the talking. The fact that most people who catch Ubers will advocate on their behalf should say something.

      • @Jason

        I can’t use uberX go travel between the airport and my house.

        In the early morning there is no guarantee there are any uberX in my area, and there is no way to pre book. At least with cab charge I have some degree of confidence a cab will turn up. In the afternoon, I would have taken the train and sky bus.

        Coming back there are no uberX at Melbourne airport, only uber black. And the quote they gave was over $160, taxi typically cost less than $100 paying by credit card, or less than $90 by cash.

  8. I am utterly against Uber because I know what it is really about. Anyone in tech knew it was obvious from 2008 at least, after the Google team won the urban DARPA challenge, that self driving cars would inevitably replace taxis and probably private cars too. I could not see a way to position myself to clean up, but the guys at Uber have. They are playing a long game. Their systems are built to replace existing taxi systems through cheap mobile phone tech with a view to become the go-to provider of booking services for the self-driving taxis of the future. Perhaps they will own the vehicles as well. It’s the only explanation for why they are willing to confront the law in so many cities around the world, and I bet it’s a big part of why they’ve been able to raise so much money. The taxi business of today is small beer for them. It’s a way to extract more of our money which should stay in Australia. The governments should deregulate taxis, but it should not be a gift to uber. I don’t want a Google of personal transportation to exist anywhere.