Chaos is raining down in Europe as taxi drivers take to the streets to set into motion a massive protest. This protest is against the Uber app, which allows commuters to summon a taxi by using their smartphone. Is it a fight against technology, or a fight for equal rights in a market where Uber is slowly growing in popularity?
From what we've come to understand, the taxi drivers are angry at several things. One in particular is Uber's ability to allow commuters to summon a taxi by smartphone, and from there, Uber will locate the potential passenger by GPS and go pick them up. By doing this, Uber is slowly making it irrelevant for commuters to go out on the street to stop a taxi passing by, or even calling a taxi service.
It is the traditional way of doing things, and these taxi drivers are witnessing their downfall if the status quo should somehow bend to modern technology. Bear in mind that these taxi drivers do not have the resources to compete with Uber on the same level, and there is no way for Uber to hire every single protesting taxi driver.
The other problem taxi drivers are complaining about has much to do with rights and laws. The laws state that only licensed cabs can run meters, but this is being ignored in favor of Uber. Let's try and break it down for everyone to understand what is truly going on here.
The law states that taxi drivers can't set their own rate, the government does this. However, taxi drivers can use a taximeter to charge according to time and distance. Minicab firms have the ability to set their own rates, but are unable to use a taximeter.
Uber, on the other hand, can set its own rate and use the taximeter. It means that Uber has a greater control over its income, while normal taxi drivers have to abide by the law where they are unable to take advantage of both setting their own rate and using the taximeter.
"This about an all-out assault on our profession, our livelihoods," said Max Small, a London taxi driver for 34 years. "These big companies are coming in, not playing by the rules."
Uber didn't take the criticism sitting down, as the company said this is happening due to Europe's taxi market feeling the pinch of true competition for the first time.
"What you are seeing today is an industry that has not faced competition for decades," said Pierre-Dimitri Gore-Coty, Uber's Regional General Manager for Europe.
"Now finally we are seeing competition from companies such as Uber which is bringing choice to customers," he said, adding the taxi industry in most countries was "highly regulated" and "not pro-consumer".
Uber says it is adapt or die, but we don't believe the taxi operators will view this sentiment in the same light.