Über is the only game in town when it comes to ridesharing applications. Hailo left town several weeks ago. Now that the City of Toronto wants to take Über to court over its operation, I wonder if closing its operations based on financial difficulties was the real reason. It seems very timely.
This is not the first time Über run into trouble with other cities. Administrative courts in Hamburg and Berlin decided to uphold the ban on the company because its drivers “lacked commercial licences to charge passengers for rides.” The Toronto court challenge is based on safety concerns, which the German courts also mention. Other cities like Paris, Seattle and Chicago are also taking the taxi app company to court. Also taxi companies are protesting against Uber
We are at a crossroads between innovation and regulations.
I was at an Institute of Public Administration (IPAC) event on Social Innovation with Paul MacMillan presenting points from his book “The Solution Revolution.” In his presentation, a graph was shown where consumer demand was increasing more than government action creating an ever increasing gap. Social enterprise companies like Kiva, Hailo, Über and more recently, Line Six or Bridj in Boston are filling the void. Social enterprise applies commercial strategies to improve the well being of consumers instead of profit maximization.
Ian Black from Über Toronto was at #innov8TO, an event discussion the latest in tech innovation. Black was on CBC’s Metro Morning on November 10 explaining what UberX is and the regulation of ridesharing. Black responded to Toronto’s court injunction last night on CP24:
In this Forbes article from last month, Über might have precedent on its side. Christian Sammito, who teaches legal history at Boston University, referred to a Supreme Court case from 1837 where a private company wanted to build a toll bridge which went against a Charter for another bridge located several hundred metres away. Economic development was the reason the operators of the original toll bridge lost its case. While the Divisional Court may not use this as an example for Uber’s existence, it is relevant. Innovations causes disruptions. Quoting Sammito:
The lawsuits and demonstrations against Uber remind us of the strains innovation can create for some people. The technology that creates a new job opportunity – driving a car through Uber – also challenges the monopoly of taxicab medallions and stands to transform that industry.
We are in a challenging time. Consumers are frustrated at the pace governments are delivering services. All levels of government must look to innovate to drive improvements to our infrastructure, transportation network and other services. Cities are becoming the hubs of innovation and entrepreneurship says Bob Graves from Governing Magazine. These are the creative cities that Richard Florida has spoke of for almost two decades.
Mayor-elect John Tory supports the continued operation of Über. It is a complete waste of time and money to have to go through the court system to regulate the taxi app company. Über has already self regulated itself with personal vehicle owners who use ÜberX. Reading several tweets from some Toronto councillors who don’t support Über are fearful of change and I would go so far as to equate them with climate change deniers. Let’s all think about that for a moment.
Canada used to be at the forefront of innovation and now we have fallen severely behind. These innovators are loudly knocking at the door. Consumers are desperate for change. Let’s settle this debate at Council and set some policy standards as well as be leaders in tech and innovation instead of being the dinosaurs.