Private Apps in the Public Sphere

In an article from CNET, “New York City Puts the Brakes on New Uber Cab-Hailing App”, author Steven Musil discusses the expansion of Uber, a company that creates “private car-summoning” apps. In particular, Uber is working to create smartphone apps that would allow people to not just see where taxis are in relation to themselves but allow them to hail said cabs from the app itself. I have to say that the idea behind the app is rather creative; it’s a service that seems to be rather obvious on the face of it, just a means to efficiently hail a taxi using modern technology. The difficulty of implementation seems to come in at the contractual level, though.

Specifically, it seems as though Uber has come up against quite a lot of bureaucratic red tape while trying to expand into viable markets. In particular, they are having issues expanding into cities which may already have their own cab-hailing apps in the works; in New York City, for example, Uber has been possibly prevented from operating because the Taxi & Limousine Commission prefers to meet and “work collaboratively with the livery, black car, and taxi industries to address their concerns about the impact of apps on existing business models”. Uber has had similar difficulties in other cities such as Boston and Washington D.C., but said difficulties were ultimately resolved. I can understand the need for limitations as new companies extend into new territories, but the fact that a “lack of national guidelines” resulted in a cease and desist letter, I have to wonder if there aren’t opposing factors or special interests involved. However, progress is being made toward balancing municipal and private interests.