Being a bit behind on my travel blog posts, I thought it was an opportune time to write about my last trip to Texas (early April) and how it relates to Uber’s recent legal loss in Austin. In short, Uber recently lost a major vote in Austin over fingerprinting drivers as a method of checking their backgrounds. The company plans to leave the city entirely. This example is just one of many regulatory issues that ride sharing companies like Lyft have had.
Conveniently, I found myself in Corpus Christi, Texas in early April for a mini golf trip with my friend Julian (who owns an awesome craft beer company). As with most of my trips, I avoid renting a car and rely solely on Uber for getting around. After all, the local drivers know how to get anywhere much faster than I could, even with GPS. To my dismay, I found out that Uber was not available there as well as in Austin (pending a vote that eventually didn’t pass).
From a regulatory standpoint, this company is clearly fighting battles on all fronts ranging from contractor classification in California to taxi cab authority disputes (Las Vegas). I guess when you are disrupting an industry these things are just going to happen. A similar “thing” happened to Napster, the peer-to-peer file sharing application that was brought down by the music industry for enabling copyright infringement. In that case, the music industry market cap fell significantly but Napster did shut down. I don’t think Uber is going anywhere though.
The truth is that just like the music industry should have predicted a “Spotify” like service, the taxi-cab industry should have considered how software was going to eat their industry. Unfortunately, it’s a bit too late for that.
No Uber in Corpus Christi, Texas either
Now, the golf was great in Corpus (as the locals call it) but the taxi-cab experience was awful. For example, we had to rely on calling the hotel concierge or help service only to be stuck waiting upwards of forty minutes for a ride. This didn’t seem like a big deal until I realized that my friend and I relied on them for over ten trips. While it didn’t ruin the trip, it made it less enjoyable.
Since I had so much free time during the rides I decided to ask the drivers what their thoughts on Uber were. Many of them lamented that while Uber seemed good at the start, the pay was much lower than the current gig they had. That makes a lot of sense. When I asked why Uber was shut down, most of them gave me some version of this answer:
“The taxi companies were going out of business.” - Texas taxi driver
This response really blew me away. It seems as though the cab companies pressured legislators to shut down Uber because the company was offering too much competition. Last year I wrote about the nature of business competition and how the goal of capitalism was to make money. It seems as though Uber invaded the area, made money and then were kicked out for bringing down other businesses in a legitimate way. I think the founding fathers would turn over in their graves if they could see this play out.
Too many cracked windshields
By far, my biggest complaint was that 9/10 of the cab drives I took had near-smashed windshields. I don’t mean slightly cracked, I mean almost smashed. I felt a little bit uncomfortable and asked the drivers how this was possible. They all replied that the city inspector let it slide and didn’t cite them during their inspection period. This was slightly scary. Consider this, what other safety considerations did the inspector “intentionally overlook” during a routine safety inspection.
Alright, it wasn’t destroyed that badly but you get the idea. If the picture above isn’t ugly enough, check out my troubled golf swing. Maybe someone can invent a marketplace app to connect me with a golf coach.