Moments of desperation drive innovation, it seems, as the Los Angeles taxi-driver community is adopting the use of mobile applications in an effort to stave off extinction. The taxi industry across the nation and around the world has found itself under the crushing foot of Uber, an American-based, globally operating corporation which offers taxi services to individuals via their mobile phones. Users simply open their Uber application and press a button. Within minutes an Uber driver contacts you about your needs and their approximate time of arrival. The application even offers free estimates to users before having to place the actual order, giving this service a lovely advantage that similar services have struggled to replicate.
The monster corporation has faced considerable backlash in recent months as taxi drivers around the world have begun protesting and filing lawsuits against the company for their questionable hiring requirements, lack of background checks, and inadequate insurance requirements for their drivers. In November of 2014, Nevada became the first US entity to take limiting action against the now-embattled company, banning all use and operation of the service for one year on the grounds that its hiring and operational practices were neither lawful nor safe. Nevada’s ban was followed closely by bans in India, Spain, China, France, and Thailand. All five countries consider the prerequisites to becoming an Uber driver to be insufficient; however, some of these countries have similar services operating under fewer restrictions and it is believed that Uber, in particular, has been targeted in these countries as a result of its American origin. Other countries where the service is operational but where the company has been faced with lawsuits include Belgium, Germany, and the Netherlands.
Uber CEO, Travis Kalanick, seems to be immune to worldwide scrutiny and insensitive to the causes behind the string of lawsuits that have landed on the company’s doorstep this month. His focus is expansion and anything else is a distraction. This past week, the persistent American mogul pitched Uber’s plan for European operation at the Digital Life Design conference in Germany. Kalanick stunned the crowd with his expectation of Uber adding 50,000 jobs across Europe and taking 400,000 cars off the roads, greatly reducing congestion. The onlookers in Germany seemed optimistic and convinced that Kalanick and Uber will stick to their word despite the company’s current controversial nature in the country.
On the sunny side of this egg, where Travis Kalanick seems to live, the company is thriving in tens of countries with nothing but positive press and supportive legislation. In the countries where it has been banned, Uber and activists alike are working to reintroduce the service now that the company is adopting background checks and better general employee screening. It would appear that the world has taken notice of the revolutionary service and its potential to turn the world of transportation as we know it inside out. Embrace change.