I love Über…I LOVE IT!!!! It’s affordable, it’s convenient, it’s safe, it has a two-way feedback mechanism for quality assurance, and I think it will make drunk-driving a thing of the past, likely saving 10,000 American lives a year–maybe more! And I think it’s great the way it is wiping out government-enforced transportation oligopolies across the country…but how is it managing to do that? The nature of government privilege is that government enforces it on the crony’s behalf.
When I lived in New York and San Francisco, it was pretty clear that the taxi industry and the government were in bed together in both places–very cozy. There were strict rules about the who, when, where and how of getting cabs, and the artificial limitations on how many cabs there were made you darn glad to get one even if you paid through the nose–and you’d get into it no matter how sketchy the vehicle or the driver.
Stories of million dollar medallions in New York abounded when I lived there (no one who actually drove a cab could ever afford to own one!) and when someone tried to sneak a fare without a medallion they were punished hard. A driver unlicensed to pick up a fare could be fined up to $1,000! So how did Über sweep New York and San Francisco, the two most politicized taxi towns I know? That’s a real question…How??
The official story is that authorities simply couldn’t keep up with Über. Given that Bloomberg has bragged about having his own army in the New York City Police Department, I sincerely doubt they couldn’t figure out how to stop this. But why on earth would they want to let us have Über? It erodes their power and a major source of revenue for the City. Sensing a hidden hand, I let my mind wander down the rabbit hole…
As this country gets more and more controlled and cronyized, I begin to think that very little of significance or major monetary value happens without the consent of the governing, whether pols, oligarchs or megacorps. So, cui bono? Who benefits?
Only after Über had become a clearly unstoppable force did California start messing with it, ruling that drivers were employees, for example, which would greatly raise the cost of the service and undermine the model. Then I started seeing articles in The Wall Street Journal about Über drivers committing crimes or hurting passengers. This seemed for sure planted because cabbies and cab passengers are much, much more likely to commit crimes and be the victims of them from each other because of the anonymity of the interaction and the cash on hand, yet such incidents never make the national news. With Über, the driver and passenger are known–not just to each other but to Über and anyone with access to the phones or emails of these people, and no cash changes hands. Über incidents are likely to be much rarer and much more quickly addressed. (That’s one of the reasons I love Über!)
I had already begun to notice the pattern of bad press against Über drivers, when I read yesterday a story with very weird details of an alleged shooter named Jason Dalton in Kalamazoo, Michigan, (who had no motive, of course) revealed as an Über driver, a fact which has become the focus of the coverage. Yesterday’s Journal carried an article, Uber Driver Held in Deaths, in which a passenger is quoted as saying Dalton “said that he had just started [with Uber] and that he had already gotten some bad reviews.” This report struck me as odd because I knew that drivers with even a few bad reviews are suspended, especially ones without a long track record of good reviews to offset them; similarly, low-rated passengers can be passed over or even banned. Today’s Journal carries a more plausible story titled, Uber Says Suspect Had Good Reviews, crediting him with over 100 rides and a 4.73 out of 5 star rating; also in today’s Journal was another story about the case, Uber Driver Charged in Michigan Shootings. So why drive home the point that the shooter was an Über driver?
I realized awhile back that only one big power would want Über but not the drivers….Google. What better way to get driverless cars to catch on than by getting us all hooked on Über (millenials aren’t even buying cars anymore!) and switching it over lock, stock & barrel to driverless. I even noticed Über was starting a food-delivery service (Atlanta is one of ten launch cities :)…That would be a great entrée for driverless vehicles–driverless AND passengerless rides to ease us into it. But the pièce-de-résistance of this transition is that it is a fantastic way for the powers-that-be to move us one giant step away from the universal automobile ownership that so epitomizes American independence and one giant step closer to Brzezinski’s promised “highly controlled society.” To further this worthy cause, according to the WSJ, Obama Proposes Spending $4 Billion to Encourage Driverless Cars. (As if Big Tech cronies need taxpayer money to establish a hyper-lucrative oligopoly! Not to mention, what wage-earning taxpayer wants our government spending billions to replace humans with machines?)
I had made the inevitable connection between Über and Google myself, but upon a little digging, I found that I’m not the first one to have that idea: a Google-Über match-up is viewed a natural in Silicon Valley, and here’s the kicker: Google Ventures’ largest investment to date was an under-publicized $258 million invested in Über in 2013–before Über drivers appeared in the crosshairs.
Tech pundits might think it’s a natural–I think it’s a set-up.
Update (8/18/2016): That was fast.
Uber to Put 100 Autonomous Volvo SUVs on Road in Pittsburgh
Uber Technologies this month will let customers in Pittsburgh summon rides from autonomous taxis
See also, The Übermorphosis Is Nigh…