Photo Credit: Elvert Barnes
Ever since Uber’s inception in 2009, the world of urban transportation has been in a state of unending flux thanks to ‘Ridesharing’. When traveling abroad, this has been especially noticeable, often times changing the way that we as travelers approach the exploration of a new city, allowing us to skip the time-consuming process of learning bus schedules and the interwoven web of metro lines. But what are the repercussions of the widespread use of this technology, and how can we be more aware of them?
For Better, or For Worse?
Conversations around Ridesharing have always been more or less controversial, and there have been many longstanding arguments made against it surrounding topics like safety and regulations. Though there are some serious considerations to take into account, there are many benefits as well, ranging from worker autonomy to user protection, demonstrating that the topic is rather complex and not as black-and-white as previously believed. Here are some of the main points to consider, for better and for worse.
There are some undeniable benefits to ridesharing, which include:
Self-Employment and Worker Opportunity
Ridesharing applications such as Uber, Lyft and Grab have provided an easy entry point to a previously inaccessible field. By removing the need for a taxi medallion, Ridesharing companies have created an opportunity for drivers to decide their own hours and reclaim some autonomy in their work.
Ridesharing apps have also ensured a new level of user protection when it comes to scamming and discrimination. Though these apps have price gauged on occasion and use methods like ‘surge-pricing’ to charge more, for the most part they set a standard price (decided by the app) that cannot be altered by the driver. This effectively solves the problem of travelers and foreigners being charged more for their rides because of their nationality or ethnicity.
On top of this, there are online services like RideGuru that allow users to compare prices around the world, which also serve to protect the user from exploitation.
Accessibility is another huge plus for Ridesharing, for both user and driver. On the user side, it makes urban exploration a breeze and provides the platform to easily communicate directions with your driver. Pick-ups can be called from almost anywhere, and can helpfully transport users to their destination in a relatively safe manner. On the driver side, only access to a car and a smartphone connection are necessary, (as well as meeting the Ridesharing service’s qualifications and requirements) allowing drivers to tap into an extra stream of income.
On the other hand, there definitely are some serious drawbacks that we should consider when using ridesharing apps, such as:
Though Rideshare drivers must meet the requirements of the service, many critics believe that the background checks on drivers are not thorough enough, and there have been a number of stories of Ridesharing related crime in recent years, focused on both the passengers and drivers. In 2015 there were widespread conflicts all across Mexico between taxi and Uber drivers which resulted in assault on a number of occasions, and just earlier this year there was an Uber related shooting in the United States.
There has also been some problems raised surrounding the friction between Ridesharing services and local governments when it comes to things like airport pickups and the funding of public transportation. Many governments have made it illegal for drivers to pick up people at airports as it results in increased traffic and less funds for previously established airport transportation services. Many opponents of Ridesharing also criticize it for taking away government incentives to maintain and improve public transport in urban cities.
Exploitation of workers
As the number of workers speaking out against the exploitation of Ridesharing drivers grows, worker’s rights have also been a growing point of contention in conversations around Uber, Lyft, and other services. Over the last few years there have been many studies and articles on the topic.
From an article in the Guardian titled ‘Uber is Treating its Drivers as Sweated Labor, Report Says’:
“Although Uber classifies its drivers as self-employed, which puts them outside minimum wage legislation, Field said that in reality they had almost no independence – Uber dictates their working patterns once they have logged on, has raised its commission while cutting the rates they can charge, and imposes lockouts from its system if drivers turn down too many jobs. This, combined with the cost of the vehicles needed to meet Uber’s requirements, is creating “chronically low pay” and insecurity, the report says.”
The Gray Area
And finally, there are some Ridesharing aspects that have both positive and negative effects. For example:
Uber, being the first ridesharing app to take off, has had an unprecedented effect on the transport sector thanks to its unprecedented technology. This has resulted in a colossal shakeup of the taxi business, a business that has historically never had any competition. On one hand, this has provided more opportunities for a wider amount of people, but on the other one can argue that it punishes people within those sectors, and not the establishment itself.
At the end of the day, Ridesharing isn’t going anywhere anytime soon. All we can do is be aware of the shadow that this tech casts, and focus on brightening it’s light instead.