The feisty former Hewlett Packard CEO Carly Fiorina had some pretty good things to say about Uber and Lyft recently, but she chided big businesses for conspiring against disruptive companies like Uber.
At a women’s conference in Washington, D.C., Fiorina praised companies like Uber and Airbnb for creating the disruption by innovation that we need in the marketplace. She noted that big businesses are threatened and are getting together to make entrance into the marketplace harder for upstarts emerging from Silicon Valley. Their tool of choice? Government. They collude with local and state officials to block and shut down operations of upstarts while cementing their own advantages.
Fiorna’s remarks come at an important time for Uber, which continues to struggle with local governments which have blocked, shutdown, or tried to curtail operations in countless states and cities in the U.S. – not to mention abroad.
However, Seattle, Washington presents a potential bright, new spot in the battle against ridesharing.
Under a new pilot program, ride-sharing companies Uber and Lyft can operate in the city limits provided they meet a bevy of regulations, including that they have liability insurance and background checks that meet or exceed city requirements, direct people with mobility issues to city-approved companies if they can’t provide an ADA-accessible rides, and don’t sit in taxi lines or respond to being hailed in the street. Uber can also retain their price structure which includes fare spikes during peak usage times except during emergency situations.
Uber began operating in Portland December 6, and for two weeks provided rides to more than 10,000 people. Then the city placed fines on Uber for operating illegally. Fortunately for Uber, the mayor agreed to revisit transportation rules if Uber halted service temporarily. Uber complied. Since then, Uber has updated its safety guidelines, insurance policies and said it will consider ADA access requests in order to re-enter the Portland market.
Not surprisingly, taxicabs are hopping mad.
Local NBC affiliate KGW.com reports:
Uber will likely be able to start operating in Portland again following a nearly four-month hiatus, after a task force announced temporary recommendations Monday.
In response, Portland's taxi companies released a 13-page statement, calling the regulations unfair and chastising the city for not issuing stricter requirements for Uber and Lyft.
The city, however, is hopeful that taxi companies and Uber will be able to share the streets.
The compromise in Portland is a far cry from how Uber reacted when nearby cities asked the company to comply with regulations. Uber bowed out of both Boise and Eugene after those cities didn't update their regulations to its liking.
But Uber has worked much harder to become operational in Portland than in those smaller markets. The company was talking with city leaders for a year before it felt that no progress was being made to update regulations, which would force Uber drivers to wait an hour before picking up a rider and charge a premium price.
Uber is currently running in every suburb bordering Portland, making the city proper the only Uber dead zone in the metro area. The company hopes to change that April 15.
Instead of picking and choosing winners and loser in the transportation battle, government’s role should be to stand back and allow businesses to compete, as painful as this competition may be to established businesses. To Carly Fiorina’s point, too often government keeps changing the rules to benefit those companies already in business, making it difficult, if not impossible, for upstarts to get in the game.
When these disruptors offer new, cheaper, better quality services to consumers who tend to skew younger, they don’t deserve to have the government step in to protect old businesses who seek protection rather than adapting and competing in new circumstances.
Young people like to get a ride to work or home from an evening of drinking. We want to rent out our couch for cash providing shelter to travelers for at a lower cost than a traditional hotel. We believe that we can benefit, but so can consumers.
I’ve met many Uber drivers who are supplementing their through Uber. Some are paying for their college tuition by driving for Uber in between classes and during their free time.
Kudos to Seattle for working with innovation instead of snuffing it out altogether. I hope other cities are paying attention.