A few weeks ago, Uber came to Edmonton to talk about potentially bring the service to the city, along with Calgary. Uber is a ride sharing service founded in March 2009 and has become one of the darlings of Silicon Valley, having a valuation of 18.2 billion as of June 2014 and one of the more disruptive startups to pop up in the bay area. Other ride sharing apps that have popped up include Lyft, Sidecar, and Haxi. While available in some areas of the east coast of Canada such as Montreal and Toronto, Uber is currently unavailable in western Canada. Vancouver of all places was one of the few cities were Uber was rejected from due to regulations in 2012 (although it is trying again).
What regulations are these? They are part of the old industry that Uber and rides share services is looking to disrupt: The Taxi industry. When the city of London allowed Uber to run its business in July 2014, there were mass protests taxis against the service, which are still happening. In an amusing twist, as a result of the protests, Uber ridership increased 850% shortly after. Taxi companies are looking to protect their industry that they have built for years. A telling sign is the amount of money they are spending on lobbying.
Of course, could you blame them? They’ve had little competition for decades, and within just a few short years, ride share apps like Uber have caused a major disruption in the industry that greatly threatens their business. As a result, they’re doing everything in their power (with assistance from their deep pockets) to keep Uber and other ride share services out of their way so they can continue to earn at the level they’re earning.
This is but just another major disruption that we see technology has caused industries. Napster was able to turn the music industry on its head at the head of the 21st century in an incredibly short period of time. The old guard went down kicking and screaming, suffering huge loses, and the more adaptable ones were able to try something different.What’s happening with ride share services like Uber are similar. We’re watching as the old guard is going down kicking and screaming, delaying the inevitable, refusing to change and spending money to ensure their business is protected.
In regards to Edmonton, don’t be surprised if Taxi companies have their way for now and manage to keep Uber off the streets of Edmonton. Uber will simply continue to look to other cities and grow at their incredible rate, and simply come back later. You can try as much as you can with regulations and money to keep technlogy away, but it’s only a matter of time before the tides wlil turn.
In this writer’s opinion, with some of the taxi experiences here, it’s not a moment too soon.
Banner photograph by Wanderer Online Photography Editor Antony Ta