Great ideas are born like this: some people need something that is not available yet, and instead of surrendering to the situation, they turn it upside down and make it possible, and available to others. These are the innovators.
Über is an innovative idea and it was born like that. Some people needed a car but they didn’t have one, and wondered: what if we could pay someone to give us a ride, as if they were our private driver just for a bit? Now there is an app that allows you to do the same: you ask for a driver, specify a destination, see the estimated cost, and can watch on the map where your car is, how long it will take to pick you up, and even the driver’s profile.
Über is a good opportunity for people that have a car but don’t have a job, as they can use the system to supplement their earnings. It’s similar to AirBnb in that you can extract some value out of your unused properties.
This service is disruptive. Taxi drivers don’t like it because suddenly they can have competition from everyone, and so far the taxi service was restricted to someone with a license, and the number of licenses issued by the authorities is limited. Über might turn the system upside down. In Spain, for instance, the protests from the taxi drivers were loud. And they helped a lot in making Über know to the wide public (Taxi drivers, please say hello to Barbra Streisand!).
There are some aspects where I think Über should improve. I would like the system to pay taxes, maybe to have passenger insurance, and to guarantee the best possible customer service in case some car doesn’t show up. Although some STIB buses never show up, I’m completely defenceless about it, and I still support public transport. However, the questions that Über raises are the kind of questions that our modern society should be making, and answering. The kind of economy that is put forward, detached from governments and big enterprises, is the new economy based on the interaction between individuals that will take us away from the crisis.
Not everyone understands it in this way. Today we have waken up to the Regional Ministry of Mobility in Brussels wanting to shut down this mobility tool. Pascal Smet is taking Über to court and wants to shut down the app. Remember the name of this guy Smet, that’s the name you don’t want in charge of mobility, as he wants to shut down one of the biggest innovations about mobility that exist today.
Smet should be taking care of the citizens by answering those questions outlined here: how can the win-win-win be achieved, by having Über offering new services, having the opportunity to have more jobs for drivers, and implementing a tax system? That’s Smet’s job, although he doesn’t seem to know. Instead, he’s defending the status quo, and the status quo regarding mobility in Brussels is «needs improvement«.
Actually, Smet is going to join in court the legal claim of a taxi driver organisation, «Taxis Verts». My last experience with Taxis Verts was calling a van for a removal, agreeing on a price over the phone, and when the taxi arrived he bargained for a higher price than agreed (taxes? where?). Unrelated to this company, taxi drivers lost me the moment I had to pay 45€ for a ride home from the airport late at night because my plane had arrived late and there were no more buses nor trains. Hey, Regional Minister of Mobility, is anybody home?
I welcome the economy based on interaction between individuals, and I welcome the disruptive competition in a system that is currently abusing the customers. I support Über.