Two European cities have reacted quite differently to inroads by ride-sharing service Uber.
The $40 billion San Francisco-based startup has eased its way into Stockholm, Scandinavia’s biggest city, with next to no friction. Even the city’s biggest taxi company says Uber represents an opportunity to improve its industry, Bloomberg said.
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“Uber is giving the taxi market a chance to develop by coming at it from a lifestyle point of view, ” said Carina Herly, head of marketing at Taxi Stockholm, which has 1, 600 cars in Sweden’s capital. “Uber is good for the market by pushing the industry to use a different technique, a new platform.”
The Swedish government isn’t planning to block Uber and wants to invite all forms of “healthy competition, ” so long as existing laws and regulations are upheld, Infrastructure Minister Anna Johansson said in an email, the report said.
Any other response would be hard to defend in a modern economy, said Robin Teigland, an associate professor and researcher at the Stockholm School of Economics. “It’s short-sighted to resist innovation, ” she told Bloomberg. “Countries and companies that embrace this will clearly benefit over time, with more jobs and economic growth.”
At Taxi Stockholm, the view is to adapt or fall behind. “Change is good, ” Herly told Bloomberg. “We want the market to grow.”
Paris, however, is a different story.
Renowned for a scarcity of taxis and grumpy drivers, Paris is fertile ground for new transport apps such as Uber, but traditional cabbies are not giving up without a fight, AFP said
Taxi drivers have staged anti-Uber protests from Madrid to London to Berlin, but Paris, with its tradition of protectionism, has always been the most combative, the report said.
Indeed, Uber’s American founder Travis Kalanick says he got the idea for his company while struggling to hail a cab in Paris. In 2010, a poll by Hotels.com put Paris dead last among the world’s tourist hotspots for the quality of its taxis, the main complaint being the rudeness of drivers, AFP said.
The same year, a French think tank found that its rigid regulations meant Paris had only 2.6 taxi drivers per 1, 000 people, compared with 8.6 in London and 17.2 in Dublin, according to the report.
Rides in Uber’s “UberPOP” service, which uses drivers without any kind of professional license, cost around half an ordinary taxi ride, AFP said.
A taxi driver interviewed by AFP said that traditional taxi drivers face far stricter regulations, including annual inspections of cars and medical visits, and must pay for an expensive license which is not required for many Uber drivers.
UberPOP is technically illegal in France, but the company has ignored the rules and appealed a 100, 000 euro ($113, 000) fine it received last year, the report said.
Uber’s Kalanick told a technology conference in Munich this month that the laws only “exist because the taxi industry is trying to protect itself through regulatory capture.” He said Uber would create 50, 000 new jobs in Europe this year, and help take 400, 000 cars off the road by encouraging drivers to use taxis instead of their own vehicle, AFP said.
That is unlikely to convince Paris cabbies. Alain Griset, head of the National Union of Taxis, says Uber only works because it forces down wages, according to AFP. “If politicians had any courage, they would ban this business that takes advantage of people who use it to scrape together a few measly euros, ” he said.