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Uber Demonstrations Snarl Traffic In London, Madrid, Berlin 507

Graculus (3653645) writes with news that, as threatened, cab drivers in several European cities mounted a protest against Uber today. From the article: "Uber Technologies Inc., the car-sharing service that's rankling cabbies across the U.S., is fighting its biggest protest yet from European drivers who say the smartphone application threatens their livelihoods. Traffic snarled in parts of Madrid and Paris today, with a total of more than 30,000 taxi and limo drivers from London to Berlin blocking tourist centers and shopping districts. They are asking regulators to apply tougher rules on San Francisco-based Uber, whose software allows customers to order a ride from drivers who don't need licenses that can cost 200,000 euros ($270,000) apiece." The Guardian covered the London protest, which ended peacefully 3 p.m..
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Uber Demonstrations Snarl Traffic In London, Madrid, Berlin

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  • Competition Sucks (Score:1, Insightful)

    by TechyImmigrant ( 175943 ) on Wednesday June 11, 2014 @12:03PM (#47213011) Homepage Journal

    Competition sucks. Gotta keep that privileged access to the market.

  • by Trepidity ( 597 ) <> on Wednesday June 11, 2014 @12:06PM (#47213049)

    If Uber were really offering legitimate competition, I would be more sympathetic. But they're partly undercutting existing taxis through ridiculous things like using drivers who lack commercial vehicle insurance, which is rather irresponsible.

  • by Chris Mattern ( 191822 ) on Wednesday June 11, 2014 @12:06PM (#47213051)

    If it read, "*Anti-*Uber Demonstrations Snarl Traffic..."

  • If not this... (Score:4, Insightful)

    by suman28 ( 558822 ) <> on Wednesday June 11, 2014 @12:08PM (#47213069)
    Something new (i.e driverless Google cars) will come along to threaten their livelyhood. Wouldn't today be the best time to start evaluating a different way to earn a living? How many ways can you possibly protest and keep innovation away from people's daily lives?
  • 200,000 Euros? (Score:4, Insightful)

    by jfbilodeau ( 931293 ) on Wednesday June 11, 2014 @12:10PM (#47213083) Homepage

    Maybe the problem is not with Uber, but with the cost of being licensed. Is ~200,000 Euros really justified?

  • by TechyImmigrant ( 175943 ) on Wednesday June 11, 2014 @12:14PM (#47213119) Homepage Journal

    It appears that Londoners were adopting Uber rapidly when all the taxis went away to protest.

    the reality is that the cat is out of the bag. If Uber stop existing, it won't alter the fact that ad-hoc ride calling schemes will continue to exist legal or not, because the technology exists and is ubiquitous.

    Lawmakers would be wise to work with the real worlds, rather than against it. But they don't generally do that, so it'll be messier than it needs to be.

  • by Firethorn ( 177587 ) on Wednesday June 11, 2014 @12:15PM (#47213127) Homepage Journal

    The required licenses must be expensive for a reason.

    Existing taxi companies lobby for restrictions on the number of cars... No reductions for them, of course. But we have to 'keep the roads clear'.

    A LOT of the taxi requirements in many areas* amount to anti-competitive measures along the lines of the rules that ban Tesla from selling cars in many states due to independent franchise requirements.

    *given that taxi rules will vary down to cities in most cases,

  • by fuzzyfuzzyfungus ( 1223518 ) on Wednesday June 11, 2014 @12:18PM (#47213177) Journal

    Competition sucks. Gotta keep that privileged access to the market.

    I am hardly wholly sympathetic to the taxis; but there is one important aspect that is often elided in the hagiographic "Hail Uber, destroyer of corrupt taxi monopolist cartels!" pieces: In regulated markets, taxi operators are subject to a variety of rules, some of them costly (insurance, metering accuracy consumer protection stuff, getting the much-coveted and supply limited taxi medallion in the first place), that Uber is just too hip and 'disruptive' to bother with.

    If you wish to adopt the 'bring on the competition and let the cards fall as they may" view, it is an imperative that the existing taxi providers be released from the assorted regulatory burdens that Uber just ignores. Failure to do so is, in effect, a substantial subsidy to Uber under the guise of 'competition'.

    If you take the position that taxi regulations exist for good historical reasons, founded on what happened before there were such regulations, it is similarly imperative to keep them from being flouted by assorted twee distinctions-without-difference "Oh, this isn't a taxi, it's an independent entrepreneur(who just happens to be hardwired directly into our business' software systems; but never you mind that, having 'employees' might expose us to obligations) offering social ridesharing!".

    Regardless of whether you prefer the status quo, or would prefer to set the status quo on fire, anyone who does abide by taxi-related regulation and has to compete with people who don't has a very legitimate grievance. Whether that ought to be resolved by eliminating that regulation or extending it is a different matter; but either position still leaves the existing taxi guys getting the short end of the regulatory situation as it is now.

  • by praxis ( 19962 ) on Wednesday June 11, 2014 @12:24PM (#47213257)

    >That privileged access is a requirement from the government itself.

    And they are lobbying their governments to keep that privileged access. Being undercut by a cheaper competitor is certainly competition.

    Party A plays by the rules and therefor has higher costs. Party B does not play by the rules and has lower costs. Party A is angry at the unfairness of this situation. I agree that the rules are dumb, but unfairness rankles me more. Either Uber buys taxi licenses for its drivers or we abolish taxi licenses. Until then, the should both play by the rules.

  • by bigpat ( 158134 ) on Wednesday June 11, 2014 @12:24PM (#47213261)

    Yes, if these are people who's job it is to drive people around in order to make money then that is a limousine or taxi service and it should be regulated the same way.... but $270,000 license fees sound more like glorified bribes to prevent competition than something close to a legitimate license fee.

    If the taxi drivers were protesting the absurd license fees, then I would be more sympathetic.

    On the other hand if part of the uber service is simply a better way of matching people for sharing the costs of carpooling and ride sharing, then that is a service that is sorely needed and really isn't a taxi or limousine service.

  • by Opportunist ( 166417 ) on Wednesday June 11, 2014 @12:45PM (#47213523)

    How the heck does this make the public safer? It makes it more likely to get money from your opponent's insurance if he kills you on the street, but that's about it.

    Insurances never make anything more secure. They make the loss more bearable. At best.

  • Not SHARING (Score:4, Insightful)

    by gerardrj ( 207690 ) on Wednesday June 11, 2014 @01:09PM (#47213811) Journal

    When you share something you don't charge for it. Uber drivers charge so this is a very simple vehicle/driver for hire setup we commonly call a taxi. If they are a taxi then they must abide by the taxi laws: meters inspected by weights and measures, taxes paid, licensing requirements met. (call them a Limo if you want, the term is irrelevant for most all regulation issues)

    To be a "ride share" scenario the driver would have to have already been going to, near to or past the place you want to be. You could pay a little bit of money to cover the cost of fuel for the time the passenger is in the car.

    This is all pretty well spelled out in the aviation laws already and my guess will be those laws/regulations will wind up as precedent against Uber/Lyft. As a commercial pilot you may charge whatever price you can for flying a passenger to a destination. As a private pilot you may only share a minority of expenses with the passenger and not make any profit. Ex: if it costs $50/hr to fly your plane then you can share that cost with the passenger up to $25/hr. The passenger must also have a common destination/purpose. I suppose you could itemize your charges as $25 for flight sharing, $200 for valet service on the airport ramps but due to oversight and licensing I don't know any pilot that would risk that maneuver.

    So let's apply those same tests to the Uber/Lyft services:

    Cost to operate a vehicle: in the range of $.12 to $.25 per mile, Uber rate: ~$1.50 per mile, 6 times the actual operating cost:
          cost share: fail
    Common destination/purpose: The driver's goal is to get the passenger to the destination, the driver has no business at the destination:
          common purpose: fail

  • by jtara ( 133429 ) on Wednesday June 11, 2014 @01:09PM (#47213815)

    While I agree Uber and similar services are skirting and even openly defying regulations, these protests are self-defeating. The public will see the cab drivers as greedy and annoying.

    Uber needs to simply sit back and do nothing about it. The less said the better.

    In the U.S. these protests won't happen, unless the owners pay the drivers to protest. American cab drivers can't afford to take a day off to protest. The cab drivers are probably making less than the Uber drivers..

  • by angel'o'sphere ( 80593 ) on Wednesday June 11, 2014 @01:10PM (#47213835) Journal

    Uber most certainly is, but the drivers driving 'for' Uber most certainly are not.

  • by dj245 ( 732906 ) on Wednesday June 11, 2014 @01:25PM (#47214007) Homepage
    Also, their coverage is considerably higher (in dollar amount) than commercial taxis in major cities. Uber provides this for their drivers.

    $1m isn't enough. Most commercial taxis are run by companies which have other assets besides 1 taxi which might be involved in a major accident. They usually have more taxis, the taxi license (which can be sold for a high price, about $1m each in NYC), an dispatcher office somewhere, etc. They also have other sources of income- if one taxi is destroyed and the driver disabled, the others still generate income. If their insurance only partly covers an accident, they can pay it off using the income from the other taxis, sell some of their (considerable) assets, get a business loan, etc.

    Compare this with Joe Blow with his 1 car, 1 employee (himself), and no other significant assets. Let's assume a very serious accident involving multiple cars with multiple injuries. At best, Joe escaped the accident unharmed, and only has to buy a new car. More likely, Joe himself was probably injured in the serious accident, can't work for several days/weeks/months, and has his own medical bills to pay. His "normal" vehicle insurance won't chip in for Joe's injuries since it doesn't cover commercial use of the vehicle. The passengers' medical bills exceed $1m, which can easily happen in a very serious accident. What recourse does the passenger have? They have huge bills to pay and need to recover damages from someone, but Joe Blow might very well be destitute. Uber keeps their drivers at arms length so recovering from them is unlikely. The passenger gets screwed and has little legal recourse against a destitute Joe. Getting a $20 check from Joe every month for the next 50 years isn't going to pay their huge medical bills.

    Even though the commercial taxi company has less insurance, the passenger is better protected against out of pocket accident costs.
  • by BasilBrush ( 643681 ) on Wednesday June 11, 2014 @01:27PM (#47214041)

    Fortunately, or unfortunately you don't need a 'commercial' insurance. A normal one is just fine, Except for trucks I doubt that there something like an 'commercial insurance' even exists.

    For Britain, you are most certainly wrong. I suspect for most of the rest of the world you are wrong too.

  • by meta-monkey ( 321000 ) on Wednesday June 11, 2014 @01:31PM (#47214087) Journal

    The fascist control of doctors in America comes indirectly via the American Medical Association. They only accredit so many medical schools, and medical schools can only take so many students. But there isn't a hard limiting of doctors like there is taxi cab drivers via the medallion system.

  • by cheesybagel ( 670288 ) on Wednesday June 11, 2014 @02:30PM (#47215023)

    Some professions have a closed number. Think doctors or notaries for instance. Do you find that anticompetitive ?


    Milton Friedman - The Real World Effects Of Unions [].

  • Re:200,000 Euros? (Score:4, Insightful)

    by Firethorn ( 177587 ) on Wednesday June 11, 2014 @02:33PM (#47215071) Homepage Journal

    The fact that medallions trade for that much indicates that taxis are still profitable and new players are willing to pay that much for a medallion in order to enter the market.

    However the medallian trade helps ensure that established players remain established and profitable. Ergo anti-competitive.

    My company has a HUGE advantage if it bought the first 1k or so medallions when they were first issues for $10 or so and has kept them ever since.

  • by jcr ( 53032 ) <> on Wednesday June 11, 2014 @09:28PM (#47218797) Journal

    Uber exists because taxi service in San Francisco sucks, big time. Anywhere Uber is catching on, they're filling a public need. Customers are not property: if your competition does a better job serving them, you SHOULD be out of business.


Happiness is twin floppies.