Getting Over Taxis
Tim O'Reilly

Hi, Tim!

It’s pretty clear we agree that taxis should be better. That’s a constructive direction.

It’s also clear you think that competition, by itself, will protect consumers when it comes to the basic service of getting people from point A to point B in a safe, cheap fashion.

What I’m worried about when it comes to basic car transportation (not luxury rides, but the basic level of service) in cities is this scenario: taxis don’t get better and gradually disappear; Uber merges with any competitive systems that still exist (where consolidation is possible, competition is impossible, and Uber will have substantial scale advantages in the form of data and, soon, investments in driverless cars that will act as formidable barriers to entry); and Uber continues to squeeze everyone else — drivers and passengers.

The result, absent substantial public-interest-regulation intervention, is a world of cities in which well-off people have rides, less-well-off neighborhoods aren’t served with basic taxis or are served only by expensive services, and the idea of high quality basic public transportation begins to feel like an anachronism.

But we can agree that taxis should be better — I certainly agree that the geographic limitations imposed on taxis are often very harsh, they can be unavailable when you most need them, and Brad is right that it would be soothing to know on an electronic screen when they’re about to arrive…

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