Why I hate taking taxis and love my Uber!

Written by on July 3, 2015 in Opinion with 7 Comments

Angry taxi driverIt never ceases to amaze me how emotive people become when they realise that change for the better, in a community sense, may not be better for them. I can also understand that anyone whose job is threatened by technology would become a little jaded.

But what I don’t understand is why, in this day and age, any person should think they are one of a protected species because they paid for the privilege or believe that their old methods of survival should be maintained even when something a hundred times better comes along.

Let’s take the ‘humble’ taxi driver as an example. Depending on which country you are in it’s a fair bet that a taxi driver has to pass a special test for the privilege of driving you around, leases a taxi for each shift or has paid big money for a special vehicle licence plate giving him the right to carry people around for a fee.

Taxi or cab drivers have provided a special service since the horse and cart days, but their modus operandi, and attitude in many cases, has changed little. They range from being polite, humble and informative to being aggressive thug-like characters that are threatening and utilise not-so-legal practices to get the most money out of you.

I have had the pleasure, but mainly displeasure, of having to catch taxis in at least 30 countries over the years and it is still the one form of transport I dislike most. Every trip is taken up with concerns on whether I am being taken on the shortest, quickest route; that the meter rate is correct; that I am not going to be stung with ‘extras’ that I don’t expect and that I am not being driven to a location to be mugged and robbed (as happened to a good friend of mine).

I’ve had one driver in Madrid stop on a motorway and eject me and my luggage onto the roadside because I questioned why the meter was on the wrong rate and had the audacity to call the local taxi authority. In another instance I was reported to police in Nice after I questioned the honesty of one of its finest ‘drivers’. Four hours later I was given the option of filing charges against him because of a number of his infractions the police had found after hearing both sides.

You can imagine my joy when Uber came along, riding the smartphone and digital age, with a system that not only made getting transported easy and safe, it took away everything I despised about protective taxi industry that lives on its archaic laurels.

Why would I be worried if a driver doesn’t have the ‘knowledge’, today we have GPS. I can book a car on my smartphone (the app works exactly the same in every country), I get a response from the closest Uber car in seconds complete with details of the car, the driver and a price for the trip and his location on a map, right up until the pick-up.

I don’t have to pay in person, I get to rate the driver and the condition if the vehicle, and he or she gets to rate me as a customer. So the system is self-regulating, if the driver or car don’t maintain a good rating they go. Compare that to the majority of dirty, rundown, noisy, smelly experiences you have had over the years in taxis – not to mention the vehicles themselves.

But the power of the old rules and regulations is putting Uber under pressure in many countries. Despite it surpassing the service of almost every taxi company worldwide Uber is being subjected to persecution by taxi drivers and regulators to the point where its drivers are being physically threatened and officials jailed.

Instead of embracing or emulating Uber’s rich features taxi drivers seem hell bent on shutting out what they see as unfair competition and yes, they have probably invested in special licences and cars and have hefty insurance premiums but they have done nothing to change their lot for years.

This is the digital age. Everything we have been used to for years is changing – the way we bank, shop, book travel, meet friends but until we can be ‘beamed up’ we will need ground transportation. If taxis can’t match what Uber has achieved then why should we, and Uber, be penalised and held to ransom?

Yes, I understand all the arguments about people’s livelihoods being threatened but there is nothing stopping taxi drivers from becoming Uber drivers or, as in one case I experienced in Australia, be both! The same can be said about retail staff losing jobs because of online shopping, and car plant staff being replaced by robots, and banks closing down branches. The digital evolution is well under way and any attempts to stop it now are futile.

The same applies to the taxi industry. Attempts to stop the evolution by revolution (as in the case of the latest French blockades) will only serve to aggravate customers further. They are, after all, the final arbiters of what they want – unless governments and regulators step in and force them to think otherwise.

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About the Author

About the Author: Tony is a freelance writer, regular speaker, MC and chairman for the telecoms and digital services industries worldwide. He has founded and managed software and services companies, acts a market strategist and is now Editor of DisruptiveViews. In June 2011, Tony was recognized as one of the 25 most influential people in telecom software worldwide. .

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  1. Andrew Doyle says:

    Great article and very good points. I have recently met and travelled with several taxi drivers who have a dual existence i.e. both as an Uber driver and as a standard taxi driver. The real opposition to the advance of Uber will probably be found most from those who control and benefit from the Oligopolistic market of taxi companies. Until they are exposed it is unlikely that opposition to something as liberating as Uber will overcome. The inequities of the licensing and control of taxis in most countries (and the rampant corruption that exists around it) creates the opportunity for a small coterie to benefit hugely while the vast majority of taxi drivers live on a pittance. The sooner these oligopolies are broken the better for the travelling public.

  2. Mary L says:

    I for one am looking forward to the arrival of robot journalists. Just think of the time we would save!

    • Eric Priezkalns says:

      Tony Poulos is a robot journalist. No human being could cope with his workload. Also, I have sworn affidavits saying he’s been sighted on three different continents at the same time.

      • Tony Poulos says:

        It’s true Eric, I have been cloned not ‘roboted.’ How did you find out? That’s how I manage to catch so many taxis around the globe, simultaneously!

        • John Tanner says:

          I KNEW IT!

        • rob rich says:

          Multiple Tony Ps around the world? What do you suppose will be the impact on climate change of all those emissions?!!?
          The mind boggles!

          Seriously though, great perspective; as difficult as many individuals find in disruptive change, established bureaucracies struggle even more

  3. Scott says:

    I know for sure that Tony is not a robot since I know him for many years :). Now, here in Greece, We have an even better company IMHO which is known as Greek owned Taxi Beat. Taxi Beat goes one better than UBER because you can pick by categories such as the driver (photo included on the App), the car he drives (I favor Mercedes E class), Languages spoken, distance from you when ordering, and of course rating. So, I have not taken a cab other than a top rated, Mercedes E class, English speaking driver for over a year since Taxi Beat became my app!! And the best part is that unlike Uber, the price is the same whether Mercedes or Yugo!!! The driver pays a small surcharge to Taxi Beat but not the customer….

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