Uber is in luck. The assessment that Bloomberg made in late May that the company is worth $18 billion could have fallen short. Its business could now grow more quickly than anticipated due to the taxi strike in several European cities. If someone thought that it would take time for Uber to gain a foothold in an already saturated market of P2P applications, they could not have chosen a worse time: taxi drivers around the world have joined to publicize Uber.
The taxi collective was already taking time to demonstrate their slyness, but no one can stop the P2P phenomenon, despite what taxi drivers, coach tour operators, hoteliers, travel agents, publishers or musicians insist. That’s not to mention what is coming for merchants, where Amazon is king; the telcos, towards which Google is moving with its balloon satellite connectivity project; the entire industrial sector, which some naively seek to revive in Spain with the rise of 3D printing; physicians, whom will be recycled into health programmers in the face of the development of nanotechnology; and politicians themselves, who not only suffer the from the boredom of the citizen, but are ultimately overwhelmed by an intrusive system organized in social networks.
Is this the tourism we need, ask the aforementioned groups? Certainly yes, and more in Spain than anywhere else. Many tourists find it more comfortable and convenient to travel in a vehicle than on a shared bus. Not all buses are equal, of course, but whoever has traveled by bus knows that besides Alsa and a few other enterprises, comfort and safety are not the strengths of most. Those who have retained the services of a travel agency are just as likely to have been served by brilliant people as by trained amateurs ready to press the button of a booking or arrange a tour from an agency online, accessible to all citizens without the need to go to a physical branch. What guarantees do young people that are used to sharing their experience with other young people in any given city hostel need? The tour packages automatically assembled on the Internet without wholesalers, provide greater value to the citizens than revenues to the pockets of some. And in regards to the hotel sector, the serialization of the offer has ended up causing boredom in travelers, whom have now found an outlet, local drive and set prices in the rental of private homes, which also has caused animosity in the tourism establishment.
There is no deception. Tourism requires a new mood, a new vision, new business models and, above all, losing the dandruff on the shirt of the so-called collaborative economy. Deafness to the advent of the digital society leads to a drift, professional or of the sector, as the above groups have shown. Taxi drivers were added to the deafness of those who today call for a more open, transparent and efficient economy. Professional intrusion can only be sustained from the sect, from those who defend privileges before services, who dig into the past before hearing the arguments for building the future.
It is true that taxi drivers have faced sudden competition from private drivers, as journalists were with bloggers and hotels by common citizens’ comments posted on social networks and review websites. But the way to face the future is not necessarily to blackmail citizens through a strike or lockout, simply because time is lost before the arguments for negotiation.
The group argues that the taxi license ensures the safety and comfort of passengers. This is false. I am a regular user of Uber and I can assure you that the black cars are more comfortable, newer and safer than most vehicles used as taxis, both in Madrid and New York. In the latter city, where taxi drivers also have spoken out against Uber, the drivers, with scary yellow rickety vehicles, are usually quite unpleasant and the atmosphere inside the taxi becomes unbearable sometimes. The city, which awards them their licenses, does not select them or dismantle their internal mafias. This is quite the opposite of Uber, which instructs its drivers to introduce themselves and be clean and well uniformed, with sleek vehicles and excellent punctuality. What’s more, the color chosen for their corporate vehicles is black, the epitome of luxury and exclusivity.
Another argument put forward by the group above is the meter, which the Uber car saves on when they must pass various reviews and technical approvals. And why have a meter when Uber offers rates agreed upon and known in advance by the user? The case is different when you do not know where to go, and then you use a meter limitlessly.
Pay taxes like everyone else. This has been said of Uber, Cabify, Blablacar, Airbnb and many other companies that have landed in the economy thanks to the Internet. The argument is impeccable, but it misses a more accurate assessment of our tax system. What kind of tax? Who, where, and when? What is the cost of collecting the required processing prerogative? Because if equality is pursued, then you have to want the same taxes for all, without falling into a contradiction or unambiguously positive discrimination. In the end, it’s all discrimination. A separate issue is that there are drivers that are scammers. There are also political that are scammers, scammers in the hotel industry, taxi drivers that are scammers, musicians that are scammers, politicians that are scammers, and so on.
Let’s say that granting a license to drive taxis is the power of the state. Let’s say that the state is the guarantor of protecting consumers. Let’s also concede that the state gives the rules of use, taxi technology, knowledge of driving and even determines the color of the vehicle for this activity. Is it not unreasonable to think that states, formed when humanity was not connected or possessed the current technological assets, will continue to function in the digital age with the same rules, powers, privileges and centralizing role they play today? That’s the key to understanding the problem of the taxi, home exchange, pirated music and collaborative consumption in general. The Internet has changed our lives, although we many not want to admit it. We are already changing our way of thinking, to organize our lives.
More than ever, P2P is a state problem, otherwise conceived by our state.
Fernando Gallardo |