New Yorkers are famously and deeply entrenched in their opinions, but one thing everyone seems to be able to agree on is that Uber is pretty great — well, almost everyone.
When people think of New York City, one of the first images that comes to mind is the iconic yellow cab. But in 2011, a startup called Uber brought its tiny organization and big idea to the streets of NYC, and almost immediately redefined the city’s entire transportation infrastructure.
According to Business Insider, in less than four years, Uber has expanded its fleet to over 14,000 cars, surpassing medallion cabs as the city’s preferred mode of above-ground transportation. The business’s rapid and widespread acceptance can largely be attributed to Uber’s forward-thinking, frictionless user experience.
New Yorkers are always on the lookout for the next big thing, and an overhaul of the city’s cab and towncar services has long been overdue.
But to the surprise of many NYC residents and experts alike, New York City’s Taxi & Limousine Commission recently proposed a new set of rules and regulations that could have a hugely negative impact on the very services that Uber’s success was built upon.
The proposal would prevent Uber drivers from using mobile-based navigation services while driving, and only drivers in vehicles that are standing or stopped could receive a passenger’s ride request.
Additionally, Mayor de Blasio reportedly supports a bill that would require app-based services like Uber to attain approval from his administration and pay a fee before updating the actual app’s user interface.
These moves are classic examples of government overreach: lawmakers regulating a disruptor business in order to save the entrenched, traditional business model. But this kind of systematic favoritism is bad for everybody.
Protecting a dying asset like taxi medallions at the expense of business model innovation only stands to hurt the city and its reputation as a center for innovation and forward-thinking commerce.
If You Can’t Beat ’Em, Join ’Em
If the government’s argument is there isn’t enough oversight of these private transportation services, a more logical approach would be for medallion taxis to adopt and utilize these new technologies to their advantage. But instead, the city is hindering progress and swimming against the current when it comes to the natural evolution of industry.
An app for medallion taxis that would allow users to not only hail a cab and pay in advance, but also rate driver safety and attitude and vehicle cleanliness, and provide adequate channels to resolve disputes over improper fares and routes taken, is really the only viable way for yellow cabs to stay afloat in an increasingly competitive marketplace.
Today, the public is becoming a real-time influencer, and smart businesses are capitalizing on as much by building highly reactive and maneuverable business models that can adapt quickly to remain in-step with popular demand.
The people have spoken, and it’s clear that the companies willing to embrace and develop new technologies are the ones that are going to be around tomorrow. Those unwilling to change will likely be lost in the pages of history — regardless of how entrenched or iconic they are.