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Transportation Technology

The Great Taxi Upheaval 218

Posted by Soulskill
from the point-A-to-point-B dept.
An anonymous reader writes: Uber, Lyft, and a variety of competitors are becoming ubiquitous. Their presence is jarring not because of how different they are from conventional taxis, but simply because they're different at all. Taxis really haven't changed much over the years. Watch a movie from the '90s and you can't help but chuckle at the giant, clunky mobile phones they use. But you can go all the way back to movies from '30s and scenes with taxis won't be unfamiliar. New York Magazine has a series of articles about the taxi revolution currently underway. "So far, Uber appears to be pinching traditional car services—Carmel, Dial 7, and the like—hardest. (They have apps, too, but Uber's is the one you've heard of.) The big question is about the prices for medallions, because so much of the yellow-cab business depends on their future value. ... [I]t's hard to see how those prices won't slip. Medallions, after all, are part of a top-down system formed to fight the abuses and dangers of the old crooked New York: rattletrap cars, overclocked meters, bribed inspectors. Its heavy regulation in turn empowered the taxi lobby and (somewhat) the drivers union. That system may be a pain to deal with, but in its defense, it provided predictability and security. The loosey-goosey libertarian alternative, conceived in the clean Northern California air, calls upon the market to provide checks and balances. A poorly served passenger can, instead of turning to a city agency for recourse, switch allegiances or sue."
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The Great Taxi Upheaval

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  • What was previously missing from the free market was perfect information. We live in an age where perfect information can be possible. Over regulation is now a hindrance to society.
    • Re: (Score:2, Interesting)

      by Anonymous Coward

      Really? Perfect information? You trust an app from one vendor to give you a fair pricing vs. another vendor?

      • by Imrik (148191) on Saturday August 02, 2014 @11:51AM (#47588971) Homepage

        You don't have to get all your information from one source.

      • by Noah Haders (3621429) on Saturday August 02, 2014 @01:22PM (#47589381)
        I hate all the FUD about uber/lyft drivers ripping you off. here's how it works: when you end your uber ride they email you a receipt. it shows the route taken (on a map image), total distance, total duration, cost per mile, cost per min, and total price. that's perfect information. you can validate the route taken using your smart phone (either a route tracking app or by looking at your position during the ride), the distance traveled using google maps, and the total duration by looking at your watch. it doesn't get any more transparent than that.

        and if you didn't like your ride, give them a low rating. any one or two star review, you'll never see that driver again. if a driver's rating gets low they'll fire him. it's really really simple.
        • Great. At the end of the ride, you have "perfect" information, just like EVERY other form of travel. Except at that point, all you get to do is go "next time, I'll make a different choice" and fork over whatever amount the app says is owed.

          • The uber app can give you an expected price range before the trip. What are you ball bing on about? It's all transparent.
      • by jcr (53032)

        Define "fair pricing".

        If Uber offers me a service I want at a price I agree to pay, that's as fair as it needs to be.

        -jcr

    • by MightyMartian (840721) on Saturday August 02, 2014 @11:49AM (#47588957) Journal

      A look at how other online rating systems have been rigged suggests you're being hopelessly naive.

      • by Kjella (173770)

        Not to mention "perfect information" as used in theory basically means "everything communicated via instant telepathy", in practice nobody has the time for that. At best you sample just a little bit and hope it's representative for the rest.

    • by TWX (665546) on Saturday August 02, 2014 @11:56AM (#47588985)
      And yet we all hate massive, faceless corporations that abuse us as customers but those are the most successful corporations, and often when dealing with companies we're stuck with either a premium price or dealing with the lesser-of-evils.

      The "Free Market" is a myth. Suing to recover one's losses is a myth, at least as far as getting the defendant to actually respond to suits in small-claims is concerned. One can win by default judgement and then what? Good luck collecting.

      There's a reason for taxi medallions, registrars of contractors, business licenses, landlord-tenant laws, and other regulation services, and it's to keep those that run those businesses honest and to protect the consumer. A bad-apple can operate for YEARS when new customers in a market don't know to avoid them, even if existing customers have reviewed them as bad. After all, when you're new to a market you don't necessarily even know how to find the reviews for that market, and a private service like Uber, while interested in providing reviews, won't go out of their way to disrespect their drivers as it in turn disrespects their very service. They have to tread a fine line as their service is dependent on their service providers, so they literally can't afford to be free-market in this sense.

      I practice caveat emptor. Something that seems too good to be true often is. Something that starts out cheap and good probably won't be cheap and good for very long once its inertia sets in. Think about radio stations, when a station has a complete format change, the new station is often great, few ads, very short self-promotion clips, lots of music, DJs that don't talk that much. But that's when they're in the initial attract-listener phase. Once they've got a listener base they can sell ads. They need to bring the cost of the music down so they make longer self-promotion clips, and they have their DJs talk more since DJ airtime doesn't really cost anything, and soon they're no different that their competitors.
      • Medallions (Score:3, Insightful)

        by Anonymous Coward

        The reason for taxi medallions is to prevent competition, end of story. $1M in NYC, $800K in Chicago, yet DC has none and are DC cab known for being horrible?

        Talking to a Chicago cab driver of 28 years, what happened was a Russian bought 80% of all cabs in the city. He talked to the mayor and a year later there was a medallion law in Chicago costing $800k to operate a new cab. Guess what? All existing cabs were grandfathered in and got their medallions free. So anyone who operated a cab on the day that

        • by pepty (1976012)
          Corrupt, yes. But if politicians honest or otherwise managed to get rid of the medallions or even just change the law so that the medallions were significantly less valuable the municipality would be on the hook for a huge liability lawsuit from the medallion owners.
        • by jbengt (874751)

          Talking to a Chicago cab driver of 28 years, what happened was a Russian bought 80% of all cabs in the city. He talked to the mayor and a year later there was a medallion law in Chicago costing $800k to operate a new cab.

          I believe you have been misinformed. Chicago licenses cabs for a normal fee, not hundreds of thousands of dollars, but they have limited the number available (on some theory/excuse like that can drivers can't make a living if there are too many of them). Anyway, Many years ago, when Yell

      • by matbury (3458347)

        Couldn't agree more. It's not in the public's or consumers' interests to turn taxi driving into one of those "Work for yourself and earn $10,000 a month!" scams that we get in our junk mail. Worse than turning your livingroom into a mini one-person sweatshop with no health a safety, it unleashes tired, stressed, desperate, overworked drivers on the public at large and it's the public who have to pick up the bill for the legal costs and deal with the traffic carnage, bodily harm, and loss of life after them.

        • by TWX (665546)
          It's not impossible to run a small business successfully, even a home-based one, but it can be a lot of work. I know one woman that runs an embroidery business for putting logos on polo shirts and hats and the like from her home, she has the contract for one of the major local utilities for workers' uniform shirts, hats, and cloth tool bags, and runs sixteen or so embroidery heads across three machines, so she can do a batch of something like eight identical at a time, or six identical at a time, or two id
    • by Anonymous Coward on Saturday August 02, 2014 @12:00PM (#47589019)

      > What was previously missing from the free market was perfect information

      Oh, thank you! I have to put that one up as my new "stupidest claim of the week" motto!

      My dear boy, welcome to Heisenberg. The energy exerted to collect that "perfect information" would itself involve so much energy, money, effort, and overload of information that it would itself profoundly distort the situation. And let's be frank, people *lie*. They lie about ignoring fares they don't feel like picking up because the passenger is black or hispanic, they lie about insurance and training and what happened to the wallet left in the car, and they lie to the cabbies about how much cash they've got.

      Your under-experienced college kid scoring a few bucks for pizza money and using mom's credit card to pay for insurance and gas bills is *not* usually going to be able to handle the cab pick up of the drunk at the party who wants to go to the last open bar, the confused diabetic, or the carsick toddler.

      Well, I could, I worked ambulance when I was 20. But I'm weird.

    • by nickmalthus (972450) on Saturday August 02, 2014 @12:11PM (#47589083)

      I would presume perfect information means complete information. If that is the case then why would any business be compelled to release information that could be perceived as critical to their operations without regulation or the threat of regulation? As we have seen with the GM case keeping consumers in the dark about safety issues pads the bottom line and they would have gotten away with if it weren't for those pesky NHTSA regulators. I always find it amusing when the captains of industry get on television and berate government regulation and accountability their first line of defense for impropriety is always the mantra "it may be unethical but it is not illegal".

      I do think that the goals regulation should be to enforce transparency, clarity, and legal accountability more than just simply restricting certain types of activities.

    • by fermion (181285)
      Information implies past data and perfect information implies absolute security and verification. This is more possible through the medalian system as carry a large cost and can be removed if people are very unreliable or dangerous. Of course the system is not perfect, but utilizes the time tested method of excessive punishment for certain acts, as well as background checks. Look at it like cleaning staff in a hotel. They have oppotunity to steal, but there is likely no due process if an accusation aris
    • how you feel about that hindrance the first time you get hit by an uninsured Uber driver...
  • by west (39918) on Saturday August 02, 2014 @11:57AM (#47588997)

    When enough consumers have a "bad experience" with anything vaguely taxi-like, there will be demand that anything that looks of feels like a taxi be regulated to ensure minimal levels of safety and service.

    Sure, perfect information is out there, but that takes effort. Measure the cost of regulation vs. the cost of determining reputation and you'll find that the populace goes for regulation every time. They want to be able to call anything cab-like and be safe. They want to eat in anything restaurant-like and be safe.

    Even if it doesn't significantly increase safety, it doesn't really matter. The feeling of being protected by government regulation increases happiness significantly enough that regulation is pretty much whole-heartedly endorsed by most of the population.

    • by tnk1 (899206) on Saturday August 02, 2014 @12:25PM (#47589143)

      I don't think there is anything wrong with the idea of regulation.

      However, regulation can be turned into a false barrier to entry when the regulatory system becomes a system with its own constituency, such as the labor unions, medallion holders, and bureaucrats. In those cases, where regulation might simply be updated to take into account new technology or ideas, the regulation blocks consideration of new things, and the constituencies have no interest in making any changes because they like their safe and familiar modes of operation.

      Not to mention scenarios where members end up investing in regulatory artifacts like medallions, which have value due only to artificial scarcity and then something comes along and makes those less valuable. They're going to want to protect those investments, even if the underlying system they represent is outdated and less efficient.

      The real problem isn't regulation, it is the effect that regulation can have, if allowed to harden into a particular structure that does not respond to outside forces adequately.

      • by west (39918)

        I completely agree with everything you say. My point is that for relatively rare, non-costly (i.e. non-headline grabbing) events, the public will demand regulation, even if the only effect is incumbent protection.

        If a bad thing happens, and there is no regulation, then that's negligence in the eyes of the voter. If a bad thing happens and there's regulation that makes sense to the voter (even if it has no effect on safety), then that's simply bad luck.

        The "meta" part, is that like a placebo, ineffective r

  • by dada21 (163177) <adam.dada@gmail.com> on Saturday August 02, 2014 @11:57AM (#47589001) Homepage Journal

    I stopped driving 2 years ago, voluntarily. My SUV cost me around $800 a month in replacement costs. Another $200 in maintenance. I was burning through $12,000 a year in gas. I spent an average of 1000 hours a year in the car, for work, for groceries, for fun. 999 of those hours were spent focused on the road. I hate talking on the phone while driving.

    Consider my annual total: about $25,000 + 1000 hours of my time. For the "privilege" to sit in Chicago traffic.

    I'm a consultant. I now use UberX every day. I also use public transportation when I'm not in a rush or when someone isn't paying me to swing by.

    I spent about $5000 a year on UberX. $100 a week. While I am being driven around, I can respond to emails, make phone calls. I bill for that time. When a customer wants me to visit them, I pass the UberX fee on to them plus 50%. No one scoffs at it. Some customers will realize the cost of me visiting them is more expensive than just consulting over the phone.

    I figure I'm $20,000 ahead in vehicle costs, plus I've literally gained another 600-700 hours of phone and email consulting time a year. Call it $40,000 ahead.

    I don't take cabs, because they don't like to come to where my HQ is (ghetto neighborhood). UberX comes 24/7, within minutes.

    My little sister had an emergency surgery a few months ago. I immediately hired an UberX driver, who took me from the office, to the hospital. He waited. We then took my sister to her apartment to get her cats and clothes, then he took us to the pharmacy. After, he drove us to our dad's house to drop her off, in the suburbs of Chicago. Then he drove me back to work. 3 hours, $90. I can't get a cab to wait even 10 minutes while I drop off a package at UPS. Forget about them taking credit cards.

    UberX charges my Paypal account and they're off. If they're busy, they charge a surcharge. I can pick it or take public transportation.

    I know why the Chicago Taxi authorities want Uber gone. But a guy like me is their best customer. Next year I'll budget $10,000 a year for UberX, and it will make my life so much more enjoyable and profitable.

    Driving yourself around is dead. It's inefficient. Ridesharing is "libertarian" because it is truly freeing.

    • You make a great case for more regulation, we can't have people improving their lives like this! Next thing you know people will be hiring their paperboy to do brain surgery.
    • by Solandri (704621) on Saturday August 02, 2014 @01:24PM (#47589391)

      My SUV cost me around $800 a month in replacement costs. Another $200 in maintenance. I was burning through $12,000 a year in gas.

      Are you sure you calculated your gas costs right? That's a helluva lot of money to be spending on gas, even for an SUV. At $4/gal, that's 3000 gallons/yr. At 14 MPG, that's 42,000 miles/yr.

      The average vehicle is only driven 12,000 miles/yr, the average commute vehicle about 15,000 miles/yr. If your gas cost is accurate, your use case is just so far outside the norm that your anecdote is probably only applicable to about 0.01% of the population. (Your other vehicle costs seem absurdly high too, even if insurance is included in "replacement costs".)

      I spent an average of 1000 hours a year in the car, for work, for groceries, for fun.

      Consider my annual total: about $25,000 + 1000 hours of my time. For the "privilege" to sit in Chicago traffic.

      Which translates into an average speed of 42 MPH, which is unusually high. You must've lived ~70 miles away from your workplace and spent most of your driving on the freeway to (1) rack up that many miles, and (2) have such a high average MPH.

      I spent about $5000 a year on UberX. $100 a week
      [...]
      I figure I'm $20,000 ahead in vehicle costs

      UberX lists their Chicago rates [uber.com] as $2.40 + $0.24/min + $1/mile. There is absolutely no way you're replacing your 42,000 miles/yr commute with fewer than 5000 UberX miles. At 42,000 miles/yr @ 42 MPH and 500 commutes/yr (250 workdays, 2 commutes per day), completely replacing your SUV with UberX would cost you:

      ($2.40)*(500) + [ (1 mile / 42 MPH)*(60 min/hour)*($0.24/min) + $1/mile ] * (42000 miles) =
      $1200 + [ ($0.343/mile) + ($1/mile) ] * (42000 miles) =
      $1200 + $56,406 = $68,406/yr

      I mean think about it. It's effectively a taxi service. There's no way it can be cheaper than driving your own car (unless it's an UberX carpool) because that would mean the UberX driver would be losing money. Any reduction in your commute costs now that you got rid of the SUV is because you're taking public transportation. Any solo rides you're taking on UberX are costing you more than it took you to drive your SUV.

      The IRS places the standard deductible cost for mileage [irs.gov] at $0.56/mile. That's probably a good average to use for a commute vehicle's cost per mile nationwide. UberX costs nearly 3x that.

      • by godrik (1287354)

        I looked at these numbers as well, and they look like BS to me as well. But anyway comparing the cost of Uber to the cost of an SUV seems unreasonnable to begin with. If you are driving so much over the course of years AND your can deal with not having a car at all. Then why the hell are you driving an SUV to begin with?
        Switching to a compact would probably cut gas expenses by 2 and the car is likely to be much cheaper as well, which means less investment and replacement and lower insurance.

        The story from G

      • by evilviper (135110)

        At 14 MPG, that's 42,000 miles/yr.

        The average vehicle is only driven 12,000 miles/yr, the average commute vehicle about 15,000 miles/yr. If your gas cost is accurate, your use case is just so far outside the norm that your anecdote is probably only applicable to about 0.01% of the population.

        Nobody drives an "average" vehicle. Either you pay a ton of money (often over 1mil) for housing in high-demand areas and barely need to drive, or you drive yourself a hell of a long way from your nice cheap home with

    • I stopped driving 2 years ago, voluntarily. My SUV cost me around $800 a month in replacement costs. Another $200 in maintenance. I was burning through $12,000 a year in gas.

      Can you clarify those numbers a little? What parts have to be replaced or maintained so often? And why have an gas guzzler of an SUV if it's going to cost $1000 a month for fuel?

    • Driving yourself around is dead. It's inefficient. Ridesharing is "libertarian" because it is truly freeing.

      That's great, for your situation.

      Getting my four kids where they need to go, day in and day out, bringing home huge loads of groceries (and smaller ones in between), etc., however, just isn't served well by anything other than having and using my own vehicle.

    • by antdude (79039)

      How safe and good are the drivers?

    • If you're solo-driving an SUV around to commute you're doing it wrong. If you're sitting in that SUV in stalled commuter traffic in Chicago, you're doing it way wrong. There are many lower-cost personal vehicle choices. It doesn't even have to be something 'weird' like a Toyota 'Preach-at-us' to be a better alternative.

      So your cost figures are so screwed up right away up front that it's hard to want to dig further into anything else you wrote.

  • by bogaboga (793279) on Saturday August 02, 2014 @12:04PM (#47589041)

    That system may be a pain to deal with, but in its defense, it provided predictability and security.

    Well, I agree about that predictability in the fact that in New York, black patrons would hardly be able to [successfully] hail a taxi after 8 PM. I am sure our black friends are happy about the change in the taxi business that's well underway.

    • by kervin (64171) on Saturday August 02, 2014 @12:56PM (#47589277) Homepage

      Well, I agree about that predictability in the fact that in New York, black patrons would hardly be able to [successfully] hail a taxi after 8 PM.

      That's definitely not true. It's more likely black patrons will not be able to hail a cab in any rush hour period. E.g. 5pm, 2am ( many clubs and bars close ). It's not that the drivers are afraid, it's greed more than anything else.

      The cab drivers know that statistically black patrons are more likely to take them to the outer reaches of the boroughs. The fair to these areas is ok, but coming back there is no fair. So it's worse than someone who stays in Manhattan and then the cab driver gets fairs every direction every time.

      But it has nothing to do with the time of day, it's really about how busy they would be. At 4AM in the morning, when everything is quiet cab drivers will tell you they are happy to pick up anybody.

  • by jfruh (300774) on Saturday August 02, 2014 @12:17PM (#47589111)

    The meters on traditional cabs may sometimes be tinkered with, but that's illegal, and in the vast majority of cases they're accurate and legally binding. Whereas with the new wave of rideshare apps there's no indication of what charges you're reacking up until you arrive. You can get an estimate to start with on at least some of the apps but it's not binding, and especially when surge pricing is in effect you can end up with large and unexpected charges that are difficult to predict.

    I use Uber and Lyft a lot, and I'm the first to admit that traditional taxis brought this on themselves, by often refusing to take credit cards and by never adopting a convenient method of hailing a cab for the increasing pool of people who use smartphones. But traditional rules around taxis were put in place for a reason, and meters in particular were created and regulated to protect consumers against arbitrary price-gouging.

    • I thought the big thing is that they have some great app on some smartphone display or something in their cars.
    • How does a meter provide an expected charge? I guess you can get out if it is getting too high, but an accurate estimate for the whole trip is what is missing. The "legally binding" meter binds you just as much, while I imagine with these services with flexible pricing you could dispute the charges to get your money back, though they'd ban you.
    • by bmo (77928)

      The meters on traditional cabs may sometimes be tinkered with, but that's illegal

      Like that stops anyone.

      I knew it took 11 bux to get me home after a night of being out, no matter what cab I took from Downtown Providence.

      Enter the guy with license plate #1 on his taxi. Someone who I had ridden with for years and thought was straight. Suddenly instead of 11 dollars, it was 15. "I'm paying you today, but don't expect to ever see me in your cab again."

      He drove around for a few years after that still jacking

    • by Solandri (704621)

      The meters on traditional cabs may sometimes be tinkered with, but that's illegal, and in the vast majority of cases they're accurate and legally binding. Whereas with the new wave of rideshare apps there's no indication of what charges you're reacking up until you arrive.

      There's another way to tinker with meters besides hacking them - drive a different route. My first taxi ride from Boston Logan to MIT took what seemed like an unusually winding route through downtown Boston. A year later when I got a c

      • by bmo (77928)

        >My first taxi ride from Boston Logan to MIT

        >taxi

        Wut.

        Logan -> Blue line -> Orange or Green Line -> Red line -> Kendall/MIT

        How hard is that?

        >3 years

        Oh man...

        --
        BMO

        • by Solandri (704621)

          Logan -> Blue line -> Orange or Green Line -> Red line -> Kendall/MIT

          How hard is that?

          Three transfers on the T (there's also a bus you have to take from the Logan T station to your airline terminal) is hardly ideal when you're hauling around luggage with kids in tow and on a schedule. When I was traveling by myself with a single suitcase I'd do the three transfers. But outside that case, a taxi is just easier and quicker.

          • It happens that I was just there last month. From Logan, you and the kids and the load of luggage just take the Massport Shuttle. It's wicked easy.

    • The meters on traditional cabs may sometimes be tinkered with, but that's illegal, and in the vast majority of cases they're accurate and legally binding. Whereas with the new wave of rideshare apps there's no indication of what charges you're racking up until you arrive. You can get an estimate to start with on at least some of the apps but it's not binding, and especially when surge pricing is in effect you can end up with large and unexpected charges that are difficult to predict.

      And if people don't like that, they can hail a cab instead. I've never had a problem when I call for a cab ride. "Hey, I need to go to the airport tomorrow afternoon.... What's the general price? (So I will be sure to have the correct amount of cash onhand.).... Great, I'll be ready at 2pm." Getting out at the airport, I paid the $20 charge, and gave another $10 because he was friendly and helpful with the luggage.

      If these new guys are cheaper and easier than that, they will have customers. If not, the taxi

    • Why can't the customer side Uber app be upgraded to give a running total, based on GPS positions enroute, of what the fare should be during your ride? The driver's calculation of the charge would of course override yours, but you would know if there was a significant discrepancy. You should also be able to have the app estimate the cost of a trip before you actually tap the button to reserve a car. During the actual trip the driver might have to divert around construction, but you would be aware of exactly

    • by Tom (822)

      and by never adopting a convenient method of hailing a cab for the increasing pool of people who use smartphones.

      Where do you live? Here in Germany, we have MyTaxi and a couple others where you basically press a button on your smartphone, it hails a cab for you (it knows your position, if you've allowed it, so really you just press a button) and it even shows you where the taxi is, how far it's away and when it will arrive.

  • by Burz (138833) on Saturday August 02, 2014 @12:21PM (#47589133) Journal

    Here is a 2006 article [worldchanging.com] about the IGT Taxibus concept. It definitely wasn't conceived in Northern California air, but in the UK (circa 2001 IIRC).

    The problem was they approached municipalities with the idea and no large cities climbed on board. So now the cities have to face the likes of Uber and Lyft who, I predict, will not collectively reach the scale needed to apreciably reduce traffic congestion (one of the aims of IGT). Combine that with no regulation and a consumer protection model that amounts to Yelp.com, and I'll guess that Uber and Lyft will in 7 years be less of a joke and more of a way to elict negative reactions from people (assuming you momentarily lack the gas to fart).

  • by Applehu Akbar (2968043) on Saturday August 02, 2014 @12:26PM (#47589151)

    I was talking with a former cabdriver just the other day, and the major reason he left the field was because of the danger. In his urban taxi career he had eleven "runners", or people who dash without paying, but it was the one robbery that unnerved him to the extent he left the field. Although Phoenix is one of the most gun-friendly cities in the nation, management forbade him to carry, a rule typically enforced by insurance companies who care more about their liability exposure than employee safety.

    The great advantage of Uber is that because everyone has to sign up as a member of the system before getting rides, the company knows who the customers are, and who is riding with whom at a given time. The increased driver safety, not any abstract political philosophy, is why services like this will replace traditional cabs.

    • Everyone must be signed up? Isn't it big big business to take people just off planes or long range busses? Isn't the out of towner/tourist like 50% of the reason taxis exist? how is that supposed to work?
      • I guess they sign up before they go on a trip. Once they arrive, they just log in and find someone who is available at the airport. But the driver and rider each knows the other person is verified by the company, and the ride is recorded.

        • I guess the question must be, how much data do they require.
          I guess if they only require a working unique email address that would work.
          • I don't use the services myself, but I saw a poster here say it comes out of his Paypal account. I do use Paypal for Ebay, so I know how much info they can get from that. Much more than just email address anyway.

    • What's the big deal with a few dead cabbies when the City has millions of dollars of medallion sales at stake?

      DoL puts a human life at about $8M in value. A medallion commonly costs a quarter million. So, 8*4 = 32. Do one in 32 cabbies die? No, so "society" comes out ahead (while netting the City a nice kitty).

      You gotta learn to think like a psychopath!

    • Yes, records of the customers should make drivers safer. That knowledge also works in the other direction:

      Last night I got a safety alert message from my university in DC saying that a female student had hailed a cab, and the driver had tried to sexually assault her. She escaped, and the driver took off and has not been found. The only description of the cab was a "silver van".

      I've heard lots of worries that with Uber, "you don't know who's driving you" - but that's even more true with a regular cab. If thi

    • by sl149q (1537343)

      Well until somebody uses a stolen phone to use the uber app..

      A little higher bar than just flagging a cab down.. so undoubtedly fewer incidences.

    • by Tom (822)

      The great advantage of Uber is that because everyone has to sign up as a member of the system before getting rides, the company knows who the customers are,

      ...and thanks to their intense, careful background checking, it is guaranteed that nobody will ever sign up with a fake name.

  • by minstrelmike (1602771) on Saturday August 02, 2014 @12:34PM (#47589193)
    Over regulation is bad, just as bad as under-regulation.
    One problem is that complete anarchy means no protection for anybody which is one reason pure Libertarianism failed (buy insurance from Joe's Pizza Palace) and is why all those classic Western towns you see in John Wayne movies hired sheriffs and were trying to become more civilized.
    Over-regulation happens mostly because of regulatory "capture." After the initial public wave of disgust forces a new bureaucracy in place, it becomes beholden to the industry it regulates because no one else really cares to put in the work defining terms and setting up precise rules (precision is another problem in and of itself).

    It's a conundrum-type problem, trying to find the sweet spot. You basically need to decide if the over-burden of regulation is going to cost more than what you are preventing. And that's if you're a corporation. If you're a government trying to please the public, you have a mess of moralists who don't care about economics and demand 100% perfection which requires a lot of rules and almost always costs more than accepting 5% graft.

    In the taxi market, one trade-off is between having standard prices or having a boatload of vehicles charging different prices all the time. I remember reading about soda pop machines wired to change prices depending on the outside temperature. Seems like slashdotters hated that but I can't see why it's any different from Uber.

    If you want a steady price or a steady supply, you need different kinds of regulations than if you want perfect supply for every demand.
  • Without any sort of commercial license to drive other people around, why don't the drivers run afoul of laws that prohibit pickup of hitchhikers?
  • There has to be a middle ground between the super-heavy regulation the taxi industry gets in most cities and the zero regulation that entities like Uber and such are currently subject to.

    Bring in regulations that require:
    All drivers driving for these companies must pass a background/driving history check (to make sure you dont have criminals driving for these companies or people with too many bad marks against their driving records).
    All cars being used must pass a comprehensive safety inspection and roadwor

  • ...or rather, the lack of it. Right now, everything I hear about Uber and such is that it's so much cheaper.

    Like in security, for example, you don't see where a lot of the money goes - until you have an emergency. Then suddenly, you know what it's for. Of course, the taxi business isn't perfect, and you can easily have a crappy cab driver one day and a great Uber driver the next.

    But don't forget that once something is profitable and easy, the scumbags will come in, looking for a quick buck. Once that happen

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