CLARITY NEEDED: The Uber app no doubt provides a competitive, technology-based convenience for ground transportation users that matches the 24/7-connected smartphone world we live in. Uber works fine for on-demand services, such as taxi-cabs; just as you call for or hail a cab, you can text or signal for a cab via a smartphone. But how does Uber affect the pre-arranged, reservation-based business model that defines luxury chauffeured transportation? What lead time is needed to qualify as a reservation -- 5 min.? 10 min.? 1 hr.? 2 hrs? And who will decide?
As a recent exchange in the Wall Street Journal shows, there are many questions and issues to be resolved. Editorial supporting Uber here. And a letter to the editor from the TLPA here questioning the wisdom of Uber. What can be said with certainty is that any driver instantly providing luxury sedan service curbside in response to a smartphone tap is an unregulated, illegal limo operator. Traditional chauffeured clients understand this distinction and will continue to use chauffeured services as before.
However, beyond them, three things must happen: 1) The vast smartphone carrying public will need some education on the difference between a cab and a limo sedan in an Uber-ready market; 2) Regulators and transportation operators will have to agree on a standard for cab apps vs. limo apps that each accurately matches the respective transportation business models; 3) Law enforcement against illegal Uber-limo operators or just "a dude driving around with a Town Car" will be needed more than ever, with Uber being allowed to only connect customers to legally licensed, registered, and verified taxi cabs. -- Martin Romjue, LCT editor
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