This past year one of the fastest growing companies that has been making a lot of waves in the transportation industry launched in Columbia. Uber, and the service known as UberX, is a ride sharing company designed to improve the experience for customers of the mobile-app-based transportation network. Rumors have swirled around the company and their legality, but that has not stopped the company’s growth. Uber was recently valued at $40 Billion. They are easily the largest player in this new ride-sharing industry that they pioneered.
The concept behind Uber is ride sharing. Anyone can sign up to be a driver, and work their own hours. It allows significantly cheaper rides for consumers, and is a much more pleasant experience. It is driving many established taxi services out of business. The issue that has arisen is corruption. Governments make a large amount off of taxing taxi companies. Uber is technically a ride sharing company, and not a registered taxi service, and therefore doesn’t have to pay the same taxes. Because of this they are dragging their feet as much as possible to allow ride share companies to function legally. On June 11, 2014, European taxi drivers intentionally gridlocked major streets in protest of the “unregulated” taxi app.
The newest development against Uber is the largest. According to Fox Business News, Melrose Credit Union, the city’s biggest financier of taxi licenses, has threatened New York Mayor Bill de Blasio with a multi-billion dollar lawsuit unless the ride-sharing company begins to comply with the city’s taxi laws. Melrose claims that according to the law, only licensed taxis can pick up street hails, and that Uber vehicles routinely violate this law. If successful the city could be on the hook for $15 billion in damages, Melrose said in its letter to de Blasio. An Uber spokesman weighed in on the suit, saying that “Big taxi should spend more time focusing on improving service quality and expanding options for New Yorkers rather than protecting the status quo and stifling competition,”
Uber may have much larger plans than simple ridesharing though. Many large automotive companies, as well as Uber, have been clamoring for the chance to get their hands on Nokia’s HERE mapping unit. Uber offered as much as $3 billion for the unit. This is reportedly to help as the company moves to stop being dependent on Google Maps, and enter the logistics business themselves. The reason other automotive makers are interested in the program as well is very foreword thinking. Upscale companies such as BMW and Mercedes are in the process of engineering self-driving cars. This type of product would require extremely accurate maps, such as HERE. Acquiring HERE would allow Uber to transport much more than just people.
Here’s to hoping Uber can navigate through all the politics, to continue providing a great product to consumers.