There is a future for taxis. But what will that future look like.
Filmmaker Max Maddox’s short documentary “Taxi 2.0” takes his camera along for rides in San Francisco’s taxis, and ride-sharing competitors. From the taxi drivers, ride-sharing competitors are competing unfairly and are unsafe because they lack the regulation taxicab companies must abide by.
One view of the future sees cab drivers servicing the poor and TNCs catering to the rich.
Another player is the driverless car. What will be the impact of Uber and Google’s driverless cars be? Will there be driverless taxis?
We all have been reading about Google’s drive to create the driverless car, but just recently Uber announced a partnership with Carnegie-Mellon University to open a research center to develop “autonomy technology.”
Israel is also leading the charge for a new version of mass transit with the buddy system. Called SkyTran, these two-people transit pods would travel on elevated tracks around the city. Just like with Uber, you could use your smartphone to book a pod to pick you up at a specific station. These pods could reach unimpeded speeds of 45 MPH. Part of its appeal is its use of the urban environment that is not being used right now — just look up 20 feet.
What is laying the groundwork for these changes are the Transportation Network Companies, such as Uber and Lyft. Battles between traditional taxi companies and these TNCs are being waged not only across the country, but around the world. It is being felt strongly in New York City, perhaps the official home of the taxi industry. TNCs have taken a bite of the taxi industry’s big apple because some people find making reservations for a ride using a smartphone app a breeze. You also have, in some cases, lower prices, and what some people call an employee-friendly workplace, although these latter views are being challenged.
TNCs in New York have had adverse impact on the value of taxi medallions, which has been the city’s way to limit the number of cabs on the road. These medallions used to sell for a million dollars, but now that price has been plummeting. All the TNCs cars on the road are affecting the need for all the cabs that currently are in use.
You can understand why NY city cab drivers are upset. You would be too if you had spent $1 million for the right to drive in the five boroughs and that license is now worth only $400,000. The medallion system, which is a government controlled monopoly, wasn’t supposed to let this type of upstart into the game.
It will be interesting to see how the taxicab industry reacts to the TNCs. Will they come out with their own apps? Will cabs start looking like your car or mine?
TNCs are also facing uncertain futures. They have been banned in many cities, and are constantly fighting or negotiating with local governments over liability insurance claims and other regulatory requirements.
What will the future hold?