Is Uber dehumanizing? I’ve been thinking a lot about the ride sharing apps lately. I’ve never taken one, but from what I understand people ‘take an uber’ like they’d ‘take a cab’ and, maybe I’m crazy, but it seems weird to me.
Maybe it isn’t, I’m probably overthinking it.
It’s just that with a cab there’s a certain fairness to linking the driver with the car, it’s his profession (or her, though I don’t think I’ve ever been in a cab where it wasn’t a guy driving), it’s bright yellow, it’s a whole thing. With an Uber it’s a regular person, it’s generally not their full-time job (I think), and it’s their own car. But what else would you say besides ‘take an uber’? I don’t know.
My beef with the company (and Lyft too, I guess?) is that it feels like a new form of subjugation. I like ride sharing, and I think that allowing anyone to give rides and be compensated for it is a great idea, but I don’t like the idea of an American company just making money hand over fist on the backs of local drivers, while at the same time threatening the livelihoods of all the cab drivers.
Is our taxi-system shitty? Yeah, I’d say. It’s too expensive, there was that issue where cabs were refusing to go to North Van from downtown for a while (maybe still?), whenever you need one it feels like there aren’t enough, and I imagine that’s just the beginning. Honestly, the whole taxi industry has done a great job of making itself incredibly unlikable, and without government protection they’d be really hurting right now.
There must be a solution in the middle, something to phase out taxi drivers, compensating them for the amount they may have invested in their licenses, and installing a ride sharing system that benefits everyone. Taxis are the only ones equipped to take wheelchairs, for example. Some guy’s 2015 civic probably doesn’t have a lift. We’ll still need a service that caters to people with mobility issues. Also taxi drivers, though it may not seem like it, are more accountable. There’s more than just a rating system and a powerpoint presentation behind their jobs.
All the companies do is link drivers with people who need rides. They don’t support the drivers at all, and while people seem to like it as a part time thing, it doesn’t work out full time (from some articles I’ve read, hardly a reasonable sample size). Uber takes 20% of the fare, and your driver pays for gas, repairs, and other incidentals (like cleaning). I guess my question would be, is 20% a reasonable amount for them to take? If other apps joined the market and started undercutting Uber and Lyft would that help? Or would the money just come from the drivers at the end of the day?
Anyway, the point I’m trying to make is that I think we can be a little quick to embrace new technologies like Uber without thinking of the real costs. Letting ride sharing entrench itself in Vancouver without seriously considering the ramifications (the 20% of every ride heading straight to Silicon-freaking-Valley or wherever Uber is headquartered for instance) would be irresponsible. It’s clear we need a better system than the taxi-reliant one we have, but I don’t think it’s as easy as opening the gates to an American app. It’s just zeroes and ones!