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Uber emerged into the market as a disruptor in the absolute worst sense of the world - it was challenging an entrenched industry with low efficiency (cab companies make ungodly amounts of money in some markets) but it did so by playing by a different set of rules - skirting both the disingenuous regulations put in to protect cab companies' profit and those in place for the safety of the general public. Even disregarding all of the legion HR issues at that company their business model depended on not playing fair and they're paying for it.

I like to compare them to the car sharing companies (like zipcar/car2go etc...) which managed to de-throne the entrenched rental agencies without going out of their way to break laws.




You are missing the part where Uber let you get a cab through an app rather than hoping a taxi was driving by and waving your hands at them. It really is a far, far better product when you can get a cab wherever you want, instead of just in a few areas.


Did you know that in most places where cab are operating, you could order a cab to pick you up at your house by calling a cab company and talking to the operator? Flagging down a cab as it drives by is a New York City thing.


I recently spent a weekend in a major city without Uber/Lyft. Trying to call a cab company was terrible, relative to the user experience of Uber or Lyft.

After making my request, a few cab companies simply answered "Ok" before hanging up. I called them back to get an ETA, and their dispatchers would give me answers like "30 to 40 minutes" or "I don't know".

I wasn't out in the boonies or anything. I was downtown.


Many major cities have a universal dispatch number you can call and you get the next available cab from any available company.

Chicago did not have this, and when Uber offered UberTaxi it really was the best of both worlds, for a small surcharge on the normal cab fare.


Sure, and it might arrive in 10 minutes, 30 minutes, an hour, or never. It's an awful experience.


Eh there have been plenty of times where requesting an Uber took one of those amounts of times too.


I live in downtown Toronto so it's rarely more than 2 minutes. But even when travelling it's a rare day when it hits 10 minutes.


That's not better. An app is a superior interface to a phone call.

Cab companies refusal to acknowledge this means they deserve to die. The economics are there, an app is undeniably cheaper, at some point, than a call center, and fundamentally whatever prices Americans pay to cab companies is clearly enough to sustain them, so it should in theory be enough to sustain an Uber-like company.

And let's not even get into the conversation about servicing more rural areas, where ZERO cab companies exist, but Uber drivers do. That is a net value add to those communities, no denying.


That absolutely did not work. I recall having to calling cab companies at night and the operator would estimate 30-40 minutes for a 20 minute ride. Spoilers: they would never show up


Calling is also archaic. Manually tell them my location and wait to hear a price? I'm on the go, I don't want to deal with that crap.


That system was incredibly awful.I don't believe there is a single person who used that system and was happy with it.


Right. Typical experience would be, call number, if you're lucky, someone picks up. If you're lucky, they can understand enough for you to order a cab. And then, if you're lucky the cab will actually wait for you rather than pick up some other random fare instead


I just I want to say, I was super happy with that system, much happier than with Uber.

I used a small family taxi company. I had to book in advance, or be prepared for a short wait, but they understood my father in law needed some extra time and understood his requirements. Ubers on the other hand are awful with disabled people in my experience.


In 3 cities where I have lived, calling cabs only works stochastically. Nothing to be relied upon. Uber/Lyft were a huge upgrade over that.


Oh you could order the cab. That you could do. Whether you'd get a cab, now that's a different thing.


You've clearly never missed a flight due to said cab not showing up. Never again.


Must be a US thing - in Scandinavia you always call the taxi company, and they'll send you a taxi - with time and price estimate. It's been like that since forever.


In Scandinavia though (at least in the big cities), you'll be picked up in an unnecessarily top-of-the-line Mercedes Sedan and expected to pay $75 for a 20 minute ride. Also be sure to call the night before if you're trying to catch a flight in the morning! Otherwise you might find yourself on hold.

Luckily the excellent public transport makes up for it. But there are still many scenarios where Uber is a welcome addition.


This is true. Cabs can be _very_ expensive here.

A 10 min drive can easily cost you $40 - and lots of people do take the taxi when going out / downtown during weekends. Even more so when they're heading back home.

We do have public transportation, like night busses that drive every 30 / 60 mins, and through the most populated routes.

But still, we do have pirate / illegal taxis. Basically young adults that will drive you wherever for half the price what a taxi would take.

But yeah, it feels that we simply use taxis a lot less over here. It's mostly traveling people, older folks that aren't mobile enough, and similar.. and of course the hordes of people going to and from downtown during weekends.

People are very good at using public transportation.


I had some car trouble this week so I was ubering to work. 20 minute ride was usually about $13.

The drivers were always nice and friendly. Their vehicles were clean. They arrived on time and got me to work when otherwise I would have been biking or walking for hours.

Those guys earn their money. I tipped them well. I wouldn't Uber to work forever because it is costly, but I absolutely loved ubering while my car was in the shop.


This is possible in the US as well, but depending on where you live this might take a long time, be expensive, or both. Plus, you get no sense of where the cab is. And sometimes cab drivers refuse to go to your neighborhood.

Uber solves that.


Does Uber really solve the bad neighborhood problem?


Maybe not fully, but cabs refused to go to good neighborhoods, let alone bad ones.

I live in Queens in a great neighborhood and cabs have "forgot" how to get here more than once. They don't like it because they have a lower chance of a return fare.


From my experience, US taxi companies are terrible with responding to calls. Their time estimates are so inaccurate that they are useless.


Is that really the case in the US?

At least in Germany, my standard way of getting a cab (wherever I want) was calling one of the dispatch centres.

Taxi-hailing apps made this slightly more convenient, and displaying the cab's route to you removed some stress, but it didn't fundamentally alter the service.

And Uber really doesn't add any value except for undercutting prices by subsidising the rides via investors and shovelling risk etc. onto the drivers.


In my area of the US, calling dispatch would get you a ride only when things are not busy whatsoever. Once there is any level of demand, the service will send the call to the fleet but no one is required to fulfill it.


Wow! That makes Taxis largely useless, IMHO.

I think about 99.9% of my taxi use has been call-ahead, often a day before ("I need a cab to the airport at 9am tomorrow").


The app is a good idea. But not a $UBER_MKT_CAP idea.


The regulated taxi medallion system wasn't good for drivers either. It was good for medallion owners.

Before Uber, taxi medallions in New York were selling for around $1 million. These pricey medallions tended to get bought up by large companies that could afford the investment. Your driver likely couldn't afford one, so instead, drivers would rent a cab and medallion for about $100 per 12-hour shift, on top of the dispatcher fees.

This system was supposed to restrict the supply of cabs to ensure drivers earned a decent wage. Instead, all the value is extracted by the medallion holders.


Oh yea, it was a terrible system - even the concept of limiting the number of cabs is sort of silly - but if the medallions get as expensive as they did then I think it's a clear indication that something in the market is broken.

Still, that doesn't mean rainbows come out of Uber's bum - it was absolutely a market ripe for new competition, Uber just added that competition in a terrible manner.


> and those in place for the safety of the general public.

What regulations are these? Is there any case where taking taxis was or is safer for an average customer than Uber?


In many places around the world, commercial or taxi driver's licenses require additional medical and background checks compared to a regular license, plus taxis require additional insurance.

E.g., UK https://www.gov.uk/taxi-driver-licence/outside-london; Germany https://de.wikipedia.org/wiki/F%C3%BChrerschein_zur_Fahrgast...


Taxi drivers had background checks,


Uber and Lyft have background checks across the board. They also had a higher insurance policy ($1M standard) than most cab companies ever did...


They also carry appropriate insurance and have stricter punishments over traffic violations including DUIs.


> have stricter punishments over traffic violations

That certainly doesn't stop them from speeding, cutting you off, going straight from right turn lanes and generally driving very aggresively. Cab drivers are really one of the worst when it comes to following traffic rules, second only to urban bicyclists.


Soo... because they aren't being punished after registering with law enforcement, I shouldn't have to register at all?


No, what I’m saying is if law is not being enforced, it’s useless, and so pointing at it as some kind of advantage of taxis over Uber is severely misguided.


Individual taxi companies are in charge of doing background checks on their drivers, same as Uber & Lyft


>I like to compare them to the car sharing companies (like zipcar/car2go etc...) which managed to de-throne the entrenched rental agencies without going out of their way to break laws.

Except for the fact that Avis bought Zipcar. So not sure about the dethroning part.

I know some folks who really depend on short-term rentals to support being carless but it's a relatively niche service--especially with current Uber/Lyft pricing.




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