The Taxicab, Limousine & Paratransit Association, a global trade group that represents more than 1,000 taxicab companies, limo and car services, airport shuttle fleets, and other transportation services, just issued a strong warning against apps like Uber that let customers order a cab from their phones. Apps like Uber, GroundLink, and Get Taxi are "rogue services" that are a danger to public safety and equal access transportation, the group said in a statement released today.
No service is licensed or regulated as a taxicab or limousine company with the exception of Uber’s operation in New York City, according to the association. That means cars aren't required to be insured, drivers aren't required to pass a criminal background check, and fares aren't regulated either. "The passenger is placed at-risk for personal safety, uninsured accident claims, fare gouging and other illegal activity," the association said.
"The passenger is placed at-risk for personal safety, uninsured accident claims, fare gouging and other illegal activity."
"This is propaganda generated by an entrenched incumbent adverse to technology, innovation and progress as it negatively affects the value of their business in favor of drivers and riders," Uber CEO Travis Kalanick said in an email. "Uber operates in 17 cities across the country with a few jurisdictions challenging us legally along some of the lines below. Each of those jurisdictions has ultimately lost in their efforts to prevent Uber from operating in those cities." That's because Uber is operating legally, he said, and because the service is better for drivers and passengers.
Over the past few years, Uber and other car-ordering apps have enjoyed a warm reception from investors, the media, and customers (with the exception of a few variable pricing catastrophes). Uber has raised $44.5 million total from investors and competitor Get Taxi recently raised $20 million, even though the legal issues are still murky.
Uber does not own cars or employ drivers. The service merely connects passengers with legal, licensed, insured taxis and limo companies. Still, it hasn't been a smooth ride. The company was hit with cease and desist orders over compliance issues in both San Francisco and Boston, although both were later resolved. The company won a political fight in Washington D.C., but legislation that makes the service legal will run out at the end of the year and have to be revisited.
The statement is pretty strongly-worded, suggesting that Uber uses "dangerous business practices" that could lead to criminals behind the wheel and other risky repercussions. "One of the most heinous and potentially discriminatory practices includes an Uber feature that allows drivers to rate passengers. This feature enables drivers to easily identify and discriminate against individuals who may require significant additional assistance, such as wheelchair users," the statement continues.
"This is propaganda generated by an entrenched incumbent."
Of course, Uber and other similar apps represent real competition to professional car services entrenched in cities like New York. Hence, today's statement from the TLPA, which has had its eye on Uber for a while. The association did not universally condemn car-ordering apps, giving a shoutout to "responsible companies" including Taxi Magic, GoFastCab, and Cabulous, which have worked with the association to integrate their technology into fleets. "Technology is embraced by our industry, as are responsible regulations," the TLPA said.
Repeatedly, the association emphasized that services like Uber should be subject to the same regulations as traditional taxi and limo services. To do otherwise would just be unfair to passengers, the association says — and, of course, unfair to its members. But if the association wants to turn the public against Uber and its brethren, hysterical rhetoric is probably counter-productive.
Update: The TLPA's statement comes at the same time as Uber has run into another regulatory thicket. The company just launched its service for yellow street cabs in New York, but has been challenged by the local Taxi and Limousine Commission. Uber already works with private black cars in New York.