Hailing a cab in a large city can be a little like playing Russian roulette; good cars, excellent drivers VS scary drivers and vehicles that would make a war zone look comfy.
Whilst spotting vehicles that look like they’re past their best is relatively easy, sizing up a driver is less so; you could be five minutes in to a journey before realising that the driver could be Hannibal Lecter’s relative, or at the least, sullen and un-communicative.
Back in 2009, Garrett Camp and Travis Kalanick set about changing that.
UBER intended to revolutionise that market, and they seem to have been successful; now available in 449 worldwide cities and estimated to be worth over $62.5 billion.
So what does the future hold for UBER?
There are legal disputes happening surrounding the use of ‘unlicensed’ drivers, after all, the model is based upon normal people becoming taxi drivers, so long as they fit with UBER’s requirements, but that is a dispute that will be ongoing for years.
UBER’s biggest problem is the future
Autonomous cars are finding their way on to the city streets, it isn’t science-fiction, it is happening.
In any business model that relies on human resource, that resource will always be one of the biggest costs. In the case of UBER, that cost is the driver.
Of course, that cost is passed on to the customer, the customer is paying for their resource, but with the integration of smart self-driving cars, there will be no need for the driver.
It seems that UBER will have to face a choice; invest heavily into autonomous technology or create and follow an exit strategy whilst the going is good.
Admittedly, self-driving technology is still in its infancy; for every fully autonomous car you see driving around the streets, there still has to be a human in the ‘driving’ seat, ready to take control in the event of imminent disaster, but at the rate of progression we see in technology, that will surely be phased out in short order.
Assuming that UBER decided to take that step of investing in the tech, that in itself is problematic; starting from scratch to compete against the tech giants like Google et al who have already made significant progress would be a non-starter, so that leaves buying into the business or licensing the tech.
Both of those options aren’t ideal, aside from the outlay, what sort of return would they get from licensed technology, even more so if they’re competing (which inevitably they will be) against other tech companies that see a market.
Perhaps UBER hit the market at the right time, history is littered with great ideas that took too long to come to fruition, let’s just hope that doesn’t happen with UBER’s next step.
Image Source: http://techstory.in/wp-content/uploads/2016/07/uber.jpg