Platforms: iOS, Android
Disruptive technologies challenge existing marketplaces with innovation or new business models. Incumbent industries may seek to entrench themselves to avoid transformative change, but that head in the sand strategy seldom brings long-term success.
Through an innovative use of mobile apps, we are seeing a new way of hailing taxis that doesn’t involve standing in the street whistling at cars. It’s so obvious that it makes you wonder why we haven’t seen it earlier.
Uber in select U.S. cities, and myTaxi in Germany and Austria, both offer its customers the ability to order a taxi with a mobile app. Smartphone GPS localizes this process and supplements, or provides increased demand for, existing transportation services. In Europe, over 7,000 taxicab drivers and 800,000 subscribers use myTaxi to help find, book, rate and estimate fares for taxi rides. The app has proven so successful that Daimler has invested 10 million euros to acquire a 15% stake in the company.
Stateside, Uber provides a more upscale service enabling customers to use their smartphones to order limousine travel. This has proven very popular in New York, San Francisco and Washington, DC. Surprisingly, however, the municipal authorities in the nation’s capital have taken a hard line on the new service. Just recently, the D.C. Taxicab Commission Chairman himself conducted a sting operation on the new service, impounding a driver’s car after enjoying a ride.
In a city where the powerful taxicab lobby provided considerable support to the mayor’s campaign, these recent developments are hugely disappointing to Washington consumers. Most confusing to Uber officials is the lack of communication from the taxicab commission which refused to explain the infraction or respond to emails, using only twitter to express its displeasure. Disruptive change is clearly underway in Washington. Let’s hope city officials recognize sooner than later that this is a positive development for the consumers and drivers, and let innovation take its course.