Monday 15 May 2017

Uber Me

Morgan Tait has a great writeup at Newsroom on Uber's third (NZ) birthday. She includes a couple of bits from me.
Dr Crampton said Uber was ultimately an example of how new technology and business models could very quickly show gaps between the intent of a law and its seemingly outdated execution.

“They want a level playing field, the taxi industry is saying everyone should have the same rules but we need to step back and look at what the purpose of those rules are.

“The existing sets of taxicab regulations, the point of them is to make sure people are comfortable and safe getting from A to B.

“A lot of the things that the regulations are trying to achieve are already being achieved by the Uber app.

“So you have to think, should a level playing field be in terms of regulation or be a standard that the regulation should bring everyone up to?”
I'd hit on a couple of related themes over in our Insights newsletter recently:
I’m a fan of classic episodes of The Simpsons. In Cape Feare, Sideshow Bob sneaks a ride under the Simpsons’ car, with murderous intent. After an unpleasant ride, he steps out from under the car, and onto a rake. And onto another. Every time a rake hit him in the face, it got just a little bit funnier.

Watching the Transport Select Committee’s handling of Uber is funny too, but not ha-ha funny.

Back in November, Uber faced the Transport Select Committee. They should have had a lot to talk about. A lot of the rules around taxis are there to solve problems that really do not come up with app-based systems – and impose a lot of costs at the same time. Working through those details would have been a pretty worthwhile use of the Committee’s time.

Instead, the Committee seemed baffled by even the simplest details of how Uber works. They wanted assurances that Uber would not be picking up passengers trying to hail cabs at taxi stands. Uber’s Richard Menzies had to explain, over and over again, that their cars can only be booked through their app.

The government took some well-deserved rakes to the face from the press after that debacle, with the Transport Minister having to defend his “clueless” committee.

Maybe you’re an optimist and thought they’d have learned from that. And maybe you’d have thought Sideshow Bob would have stopped at just one rake.

Last week, the Committee released its report on the Land Transport Amendment Bill. The Report promised to update the rules to respond to emerging technology. But they kept the rule requiring drivers to keep paper logbooks. That’s Sideshow Bob’s second rake to the face. And keeping the rule that would require multinational Uber to be based here in New Zealand if it wants to operate here – that’s the third rake.

Sideshow Bob stepped on nine rakes before he was done. I wonder what the Transport Select Committee might think of next. Requiring Uber hire people to walk in front of their cars with a red flag? Mandatory “I am not a taxi” signs on the roof? Making Uber legal, but only if you book using a Blackberry? Maybe Ubers could be forced to carry printers to provide hardcopy of the emailed receipts.

There are a lot of rakes yet out there. Get your popcorn. 
They could at least change the rule requiring Uber's CEO to move to New Zealand. 

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