Fare game - Uber's not going anywhere

Everyone has an opinion about Uber but good, bad, or illegal, the ride sharing app's challenge to the taxi industry is welcome.

Uber is running hot in the media right now, albeit for all the wrong reasons, and everyone has an opinion about the service – whether it’s good, bad, illegal, or a god send. What is undeniable is that apps like Uber and GoCatch have changed our taxi user experience for the better, and you can now stand on a street corner and see in real time how many cabs are in your area.

With a click of a button you can book a cab, and know immediately how long it will take to be picked up.

In many locations in Australia you can’t simply walk on to the street and hail a cab. The birthplace of Uber, San Francisco, has a similar problem. With a gap in the market, the app exploded and now Uber has cars driving around 204 cities in 45 countries. Valued at $48 billion Uber proves there is a real dissatisfaction with the ‘call and dispatch’ model so many taxi companies still employ.

The debate between the traditional taxi industry, the government and companies like Uber is complex, but one thing is clear - taxi companies need to up their game. Of the two booking options available, it easier for consumers to opt for the more convenient, mobile and reactive solution.

It's fair to say we are living in exciting times, when tried and true business models can be turned on their head if they fail to deliver what customers want. When Uber popped up, it shook up a billion dollar industry that was no longer working for its customers. The joy of mobile solutions lies in the fact there is always the opportunity to create a superior solution, wherever improvement is needed.

We are seeing the middleman being cut out of the picture and direct service to customer communication flourishing, encouraging survival of the fittest. While some may argue this will lead to chaos, and a lack of quality control, a company that provides a bad product or service won’t last for long. Like the way Google search provides you with only the most relevant search results, user reviews and online feedback will ensure the junk is weeded out.

One of the best things about Uber for myself, is that drivers have a greater incentive to do a good job, whether that is taking the shortest route to a destination, or providing friendly and professional service. If I have a terrible cab ride and have booked through dispatch, I'm at the mercy of my driver. The reality is - the complaint process is long winded and hardly worth my time, because who will hear my negative review, apart from the manager at the company?

I would argue that ultimately Uber is a good thing. Certainly, there a kinks to be ironed out, but its popularity confirms there is something wrong with the current taxi industry. The question must be asked - will it kill the older taxi model or encourage innovation? 

Many taxi companies have the advantage of a branded fleet of cars, years of service and a large community of drivers that they can utilise. They, like so many large companies, need to stop resting on their current business models, hoping for the best. They need to embrace change, because it's coming, whether they like it or not.

Innovators of new technology are not out to ruin established business. Mobile technology simply provides an even playing field. What happens next will be the interesting part. 

Paul Lin is the CEO of the app strategy and development agency Buuna.