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Uber, provider of mobility services, is a threat to the car industry, not the taxi sector

In 2012 Uber had a worldwide workforce of around 70. Within two years this had risen to 2,200, and this innovative mobility and ride-sharing company was arranging more than 140 million journeys in 70 cities around the world (including Singapore, Paris and San Francisco, and after the USA its largest market is in India). The app puts people in contact with one another, those providing transport and those looking for a ride, and it does this more accurately and with a simplified payment system (because it is entirely cashless), as well as being safer for both parties, in the opinion of Pierre-Dimitri Gore-Coty, General Manager Western and Northern Europe, Uber.
Eachg driver and each customer is registered, And both can award ratings, for example to draw attention to risky driving, inappropriate behaviour or safety defects on the vehicle. So far it has tended to be the passengers rather than the drivers who utilize this feature. Drivers who receive several unfavourable ratings are provided with coaching, and attention is focused on two factors in particular: encouraging greater confidence in the service, from all sides, and enabling as many people as possible to enjoy simplified mobility.
“Our biggest problem is one of ignorance”, says Gore-Coty. “Our main task is to explain about Uber. 99 per cent of all debates revolve around claims that we are destroying the taxi market. In fact we represent a threat to another sector altogether: the automobile industry.” Firstly the passenger transportation markets being targeted by Uber are booming (in San Francisco the volume has quadrupled in just 2.5 years from 120 to 500 million US dollars, and over the same period in Paris the number of limousine drivers has increased ten-fold, to a present total of 10,000, all of whom are earning money). Secondly Uber aims at use rather than ownership. Especially in big cities this is leading to a shift away from owning one’s own car to making use of mobility services. This is one area where Gore-Coty believes that growth could be on an exponential scale. “There are one billion cars in the world, but only four per cent are used each day, to transport one individual twice daily. The rest of the time they are just blocking up the streets.” This will not be viable in the long term. He welcomes all the companies currently involved in car-sharing (Car2go, Drive-now etc.) and does not regard them as competitors: “They will help to drive the transition from having one’s own car to the new form of mobility.”
Local legislation presents another challenge: “No market anywhere in the world is as strongly regulated as the taxi market, and often for very good reasons”, says Gore-Coty. One solution is to react sensitively and develop individual solutions together with the authorities. It makes sense if quality can be safeguarded, safety improved and the local economy can be stimulated. It is difficult at present to find drivers in Europe, however, on account of excessive regulation, and because licensing costs, long-drawn out certification processes and other factors still present obstacles to anyone trying to enter the market. “This inhibits growth”, says Gore-Coty. The question is, for how much longer?    Isabel Bommer

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