This week in Vancouver, Uber, the American-based technology company and ride hailing service, is presenting (alongside the B.C. Taxi Association) their plans for the future of ride hailing in B.C. to a committee of selected MLAs from all parties. The B.C. Taxi Association proposed an app called Kater, in association with tech company Monark, as a solution for B.C. riders who often face long wait times in getting a taxi, saying that by connecting taxi services throughout B.C. with this platform, the entrance of Uber would be unnecessary in B.C. MLA and B.C. Green Party leader Andrew Weaver objected to this solution, stating that it would remove the competition that is so vital for creating a market that will naturally offer consumers the best price and choice.
I can understand the resistance that taxi drivers have towards Uber; it looks as though they will become obsolete. As a consumer, why should I dial the phone, or use the app of a local taxi service, and risk a long wait due to a shortage, or the relatively small amount of current drivers, when I could enjoy the luxury that Uber likely offers me: a larger pool of available drivers, bug-free software, and easy payment options. This technological age is launching us into a new era of efficiency and connectivity, and organizations must be prepared to stay on the cutting edge, or risk being left behind.
Technology and innovation always have, and will continue to move humanity forward, allowing us to enjoy a greater quality of living and levels of productivity not previously known. However, innovation is disruptive, and one needs to be prepared to act when the status quo is being challenged. So yes, Uber is going to change the taxi and ride hailing industry, and the question is if taxi companies will change with the times, or like Sears, be left behind by more technologically savvy companies, like Amazon.
As much as the status quo is familiar and comfortable, it seems wasteful to stay that way when a better alternative is available. Rather than see Uber as a threat, the taxi industry ought to see it as an opportunity to change their own model of doing business to embrace the future. As dangerous as Uber seems to be to B.C.’s taxi economy, self-driving cars are likely to bring an even greater transfer of jobs yet.
I’m sure people balked at the thought of gas-powered engines in an age when horses took you around town, and provided the power for large scale agriculture, yet here we are. Horses had to take new jobs and roles in society, yet I think we can all safely say replacing horses with the combustion engine has propelled mankind forward. Why not give Uber the same chance?