Uber is somewhat threatened in NYC
There have been a couple of moves recently that make Uber slightly more threatened in NYC than I had thought would be possible.
First, last week de Blasio made Uber and other “hail a ride” companies very annoyed when he suggested a plan that would require them to get city approval and pay $1000 every time they want to change their app’s user interface.
If you know anything at all about how tech companies work, you know this would be a serious friction if it goes through; user interfaces are changed on a weekly basis, to add features or even just test them. In response, an angry letter was sent to de Blasio from Twitter, Facebook, Google, Yahoo, and a bunch of other tech companies. Kind of a tech posse wielding its power.
In a different story, Uber has been attacked by four credit unions who loan money to taxi medallion purchasers. They argue that taxi medallions come with contracts that promise the owners exclusive rights over hailing, but that Uber, with its hailing app, has taken over their business. In particular, the definition of “hail” is coming under scrutiny.
On the one hand, it does seem to be a different act to raise your hands on Broadway versus using an app on your phone. But by the time we have chips implanted into our heads, just thinking the words “hail a taxi” might do the trick, and that’s where the grey area lives. Or, put it another way, yellow taxis might also want to have hailing apps, and in fact they really should.
What do you think? Is de Blasio simply a pawn of the taxi commission? Should we feel sorry for tech companies? I’m conflicted myself, especially because I still don’t understand the way insurance works with these things.