On May 15, the Georgia Supreme Court unanimously rejected an appeal from Atlanta taxi drivers seeking recovery funds from the state for “deregulatory takings.” The taxi cartel had argued that the deregulation of ride-sharing services such as Uber and Lyft had decreased the value of taxi medallions to such an extent that the taxi industry had become entitled to compensation by the state.
The court not only wholly rejected the argument, but also declared that taxi operators have no right to an “unalterable monopoly.” Simply put, purchasing the medallions from a government agency does not entitle the buyer to lost market value caused by new entrants. Taxi operators can compete and innovate, but they cannot fall back on the support of the state. In coming to this decision, the court relied on similar decisions in Chicago and Minneapolis, where other states dealt with similar arguments.
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It’s no secret that taxi unions and Uber have been in competition with each other since Uber’s inception in 2009, but the battle has reached new and increasingly petty heights. New York City taxi drivers went on strike in solidarity with those affected by Trump’s new immigration policy at John F. Kennedy International Airport while Uber continued serving the airport and surrounding areas. Uber even turned off surge pricing (an element of their pricing system that often comes under fire during crises) as they carried protesters, attorneys, and the press back and forth from JFK late Friday evening.
Uber was accused of ruining the strike by continuing to run routes to JFK and the #DeleteUber social media campaign was started on Twitter. Why? To lambast the company for making the decision to increase human mobility and choice by providing uninterrupted service. The irony is clear, given that this was all a response to an immigration policy crisis that restricts human mobility and freedom of choice.
Although the intentions of the striking taxi drivers were undoubtedly good, it’s unreasonable to demonize Uber or to assume that the company was focused only on profiting during a time of humanitarian crisis.
Continue reading at FEE.
Last Wednesday, Uber announced that residents of San Francisco could call rides in autonomous vehicles. In response, the CaliforniaDepartment of Motor Vehicles issued a cease-and-desist letter to Uber saying that their testing of autonomous vehicles was illegal. This display of the “precautionary principle,” though well-intentioned, hurts entrepreneurship. To foster innovation and growth of self-driving vehicles, California should allow Uber to test its cars and rely on the legal system to provide redress for any harms.
In their letter to Uber, the California DMV said:
“California Vehicle Code Section 38750 and California Code of Regulations Article 3.7 clearly establish that an autonomous vehicle may be tested on public roads only if the vehicle manufacturer, including anyone that installs autonomous technology on a vehicle, has obtained a permit to test such vehicles from the DMV.”
However, Uber’s vehicles are not considered autonomous vehicles under the laws referenced in the letter. California Vehicle Code Section 38750 defines an autonomous vehicle as “any vehicle equipped with autonomous technology that has been integrated into that vehicle.” And it defines autonomous technology as “technology that has the capability to drive a vehicle without the active physical control or monitoring by a human operator.” The code also defines an operator as “the person who is seated in the driver’s seat.”
Continue reading at San Francisco Examiner.
The U.S. economy is becoming more and more freelance. With companies like Uber, Airbnb, and TaskRabbit, the supply within the marketplace transformed from being filled by corporations to being filled by freelanced individuals. The ability for individuals to bring their skills to market skyrocketed with the rise of service-sharing platforms. In 2015, 34% of Americans in the workforce were freelance workers. This turn in the economy has given the individual more control over their economic activity, especially when it comes to work.
These businesses are creating platforms and services that connect suppliers and consumers. With the unparalleled success of Uber, many other companies attempted to be the “Uber for X” or “Uber for Y”. Many businesses realized, however, that they may be able to create the personalized service, but certain tasks require more care than what on-demand service provides.
Even the growing demand for Uber created RallyBus: on-demand, crowd-powered bus transportation to and from large events.
The great thing about freelanced work through sharing and on-demand services is that everyone can maximize their economic activity to whatever level they wish. These services allow workers to pick their own hours, make their own schedules, and determine for themselves how often they’d like to work, while consumers benefit from convenience.
The fact that businesses are being spurred on by competition, and a ride-sharing service can spark the idea for so many other applications, is the epitome of free markets and the flow of ideas. Some claim that on-demand, specialized services are only for the worker who is remarkably skilled, but the expansion of such services do allow those with limited skills and resources to earn a living through freelance work.
Two days have passed with no Uber or Lyft service in Austin, Texas. Local policymakers blame Uber and Lyft for pausing their operations in the city, but the Austin City Council pushed ridesharing out by regulating in search of a problem.
In December 2015, the Austin City Council approved an ordinance that would require ridesharing drivers to go through fingerprint background checks. The ordinance also included restrictions on picking up and dropping off passengers and requirements on maintaining a physical presence in the city, fee payments and proprietary data sharing.
Though the ordinance went into effect on February 1, 2016, the fingerprint requirements were given steadily increasing compliance rates, which had to reach 99% by February 1, 2017. Rather than altering their business models, Uber and Lyft took their protests to the voters by setting up a challenge to the ordinance called Proposition 1. Their efforts were rejected by voters last weekend, and the companies pulled out of Austin on Monday.
Read the full article at Forbes.