TOM HALLIGAN: Uber seems follows me where ever I go. During a two-day road trip this week to attend the New England Livery Association (NELA) quarterly meeting in Boston on Tuesday night, and then back on the road Wednesday to attend the monthly meeting of the Philadelphia Regional Limousine Association (PRLA) on Wednesday, Uber is top-of-mind with association members that are trying to wrap their collective heads around this new wave of competitive mobile app transportation competitors.
Concerns are genuine—especially from small operators who see the low-priced Uber muscling in on their retail business. On the other hand, large operators who serve corporate clients may not have been initially threatened when Uber launched, but I sense that mood changing. With 2.3-billion behind Uber why would they not target the corporate world as an extension to their retail foothold? You can see signs of that with Uber’s black-car service.
What I hear repeated consistently from operators is that they want a level-playing field with Uber and its competitors—and that means they want regulatory agencies to enforce existing rules and regulations that taxi, black car and limousine/livery companies have to comply with. Seems fair? But so far that has not been the case. However, as mobile app companies grow and set up shop in more cities, regulators are taking notice and beginning to crack down.
One operator said at Wednesday PRLA meeting that incidents such as the 6-year-old girl killed by a Uber driver New Year’s Eve in San Francisco as a wake-up call for regulators because of the insurance liability questions as to who is responsible for liability? The driver or Uber?
We know from industry buzz that Uber-type apps for the private ground transportation industry are in the works (I actually just met another startup company this week that is focusing on the industry …) so there could be a mobile app that caters to retail and corporate customers who prefer luxury transportation that is safe, secure, service-driven, plays by the rules, and doesn’t deal in surge pricing, and other gouging tactics. But like I said, with $2 billion and change in its pocket, Uber is to be taken seriously.
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