Uber Technologies, a San Francisco based technology startup, is innovating at the intersection of mobile technology, transportation and logistics. Uber connects people who want a convenient and classy ride with professional sedan car drivers who are available to provide it. Uber allows users to dispatch, track, and pay for rides given by licensed for-hire vehicles in more than 12 cities, from their mobile phone. Our service works with iPhone, Android, via the web and with any SMS capable device.
What impact does Uber have on your community and on the country?
Uber is all about moving people around their cities more efficiently and in style. Uber’s technology makes it easier to live in neighborhoods poorly served by public transportation and taxis. It makes it easier to go to dinner or get to business meetings in hard to reach neighborhoods. Uber also means fewer cars on the road. For every Uber car we add to a city, we’re taking at least 6 cars off the road and out of parking garages. And while prices are more than a taxi, they are significantly less than traditional limousine companies.
We model how many cars need to be on the road, and where they need to be positioned to serve customers most efficiently. For example, the Nationals, events at the Kennedy Center and Fourth of July fireworks all drive significant demand in DC -- we are constantly collecting this information and communicating it out to drivers to ensure that the right number of drivers are in the right places at the right times. We’ve even gotten pretty good at knowing exactly what drop in demand we can expect when Congress is out of session!
Uber also provides a platform for sedan drivers to make an honest living. Before Uber, sedan drivers often worked for large limousine providers (or “hustled” for rides illegally) and their paycheck and schedule was at the mercy of dispatchers. Uber empowers drivers to work when they want and how they want. The increased earnings and predictability of earnings has allowed many drivers to add cars and hire drivers. For the first time their earning potential goes well beyond their hours on the road.
Do you feel that Uber is supported by government, local and federal?
Uber has definitely faced challenges from local regulatory authorities and local government officials in many cities we have entered. When it comes to transportation, cities have done business a certain way for decades, and that means resistance to change, even if that change is good for its citizens. Rather than see how Uber’s technology is improving transportation and life in the city, local regulators don’t take the time to learn about Uber. Many have tried to limit Uber because it doesn’t fit into existing regulatory frameworks or tried to categorize Uber as a taxi or limousine rather than a technology company.
Why are you attending startup day and why do you think it’s important for startups to have a voice in Washington?
Policymakers need to better understand an important engine of economic growth and job creation: entrepreneurs who have an idea, execute on it, and create new markets. Decisions made in Congress or in local governments can either make it easier to start new businesses and create jobs or harder. Uber has created thousands of middle class jobs across the country by empowering licensed drivers to start their own businesses; we have created a great customer experience, and are bringing tax revenue to local and federal governments. Since startups don’t always have resources for big lobbying firms, it’s important for policymakers to create opportunities like this event, to have startups tell their stories and hopefully help lawmakers think differently about the issues they face.
Have you in your business faced any particular challenges related to policy?
Definitely -- we have faced challenges right here in DC. One example is upon arrival in DC we found that the limousine licencing office had not accepted a new application in nearly four years. A moratorium on licences that was only supposed to last for two years had suddenly become nearly four. There was no public documentation on this decision and drivers have been given no information on when it will re-open.
Another example is the pressure we have faced from local regulators who originally declared Uber’s model illegal without having taken the time to understand us. Going forward, I hope that regulators and legislators remain focused on the best outcomes for the citizens of their city rather than on politics or lobbying interests.
Ultimately Uber is all about choice - our goal is to roll out an efficient and reliable transportation alternative to as many people and in as many cities as possible. We are committed to using our technology to empower entrepreneurs and continue to ensure that consumers have access to the best possible transportation service at the best possible prices.