Symposium 2016: There is an ongoing controversy raging as to whether Uber is an internet transportation connection as opposed to a full transportation provider. In reality, is Uber a full transportation provider due to the services it offers?

Gastonia, NC Correspondent- The radical within me cheers services like Uber and Lyft for the way they are overturning the applecart and making the ossified taxi system in most cities scramble to compete.  On a recent visit to St. Paul, Minn., I took three cab rides and four Uber rides.  All three cabs were in dire need of maintenance, and the first one reeked of burger grease so strongly that my fiancee’s coat had to go to the cleaners.  Three of the four Uber drivers were highly professional, driving very comfortable newer-model vehicles and charging about half what the cab would have. The fourth was a very odd woman who played a radio evangelist on the radio while keeping a top speed of 45 on the busy freeway, but at least the car was clean.  The fact, however, is that Uber is a full transportation provider.  The last Uber driver told me that Uber had helped her get the car she was driving, and if that’s not akin to Yellow Cab providing the battered old Dodge van in which we were picked up at the airport, I’m not sure what is.  I hate the idea that changing its status will make Uber a less attractive option, but I can’t deny the facts.

Owatonna, MN Correspondent- To paraphrase an old saying: “If it walks like a full transportation provider and talks like a full transportation provider, it probably is a full transportation provider.” While it is true that the business model of Uber is the app it developed, which allows willing passengers to contract with willing drivers for rides, Uber’s unspoken goal, perhaps its hidden agenda, is to disrupt and revolutionize the traditional taxi cab business.

Even though there are usually multiple companies in the major cities competing for riders, taxi companies are essentially a monopoly business since the number of licenses, fare rates, and driver requirements are tightly controlled by local governing authorities. Uber has changed the discussion to one of challenging business as usual and proposing a method of local transportation that allows market forces to dictate fares and develop effective regulations.

The biggest problems with Uber, according to established taxi companies, are the vetting and licensing of drivers. Traditional cab companies are more regulated and must adhere to stricter standards than Uber sets for its drivers. But since Uber claims to merely provide the connection via the internet for drivers and passengers, the company doesn’t view the licensing and vetting of its drivers in the same way. Uber forms its policies only to compete better in the marketplace. Riders want safe passage? Uber gives their own assurances of safety, and the customers can choose to deal with Uber or not.

As long as Uber fully discloses that is merely a go-between for riders and drivers, and doesn’t claim to offer exactly the same service and guarantees of licensing and safety that traditional cab companies are required to offer by law, Uber shouldn’t be forced to become just another cab company in direct competition with those already in place. Let the buyer beware.

Prescott Valley, AZ Correspondent- Uber has been in and out of the courtroom more often than not attempting to prove themselves as anything but a full blown transportation provider.

Critics say that Uber is a transportation company, and Uber has faced continual action from governments and other transportation companies around the world to prove that they are just that.  After seven years of existence and a value of 70 billion dollars, they have yet to be firmly defined and would like it to remain that way, but growing pressure has mounted and the determination of their real platform of operation is being forced on Uber.

Uber insists they are nothing more than a platform for their independent drivers, which continues to be questionable. Others are of the mindset that Uber should be regulated in the same way as any other transportation company. Uber does operate through the internet and drivers have access to Uber’s app to utilize through their own cell phone device.  Once the app has been installed, the driver is ready to receive notification for pickups.

Without determination of Uber’s true identity, traditional drivers for taxi companies are in a position of not being able to compete with Uber’s way of assigning and paying drivers, which leaves traditional drivers to follow specific company rules and regulations with lesser pay than their independent Uber driver counterparts.

Many Uber drivers would rather be treated like a regular employee with benefits that include pensions, paid vacations and other perks. Unfortunately for them, Uber likes the way things are. They prefer independent status and rely on their drivers as independent contractors.

In the UK, a United Kingdom court ruled that Uber drivers are indeed employees of the company and should be paid wages. As expected, Uber is appealing the decision.  If they lose their appeal, over forty thousand Uber drivers may soon be entitled to pension s and paid vacations, much to the possible disappointment of Uber.

Uber obviously wants their platform to remain the same as money is to be made when independent contractors carry out Uber pick up requests and provide their own newer or leased vehicle to transport riders.  Costs are minimal to Uber with independent contractors utilizing their own vehicles and downloading the Uber app to an iphone provided by Uber. The app assigns a rider to the contractor with a pick up location. Payment for the ride is made before the pickup so Uber drivers do not have money with them, so ride prices are set and depending on location, drivers can do well.

When costs to a transportation provider are minimal, revenues rise, and Uber would like to keep it that way but presenting themselves as an internet based ride connection through a dispatch and iphone app continues to be questioned by those contesting their authenticity. Uber will most likely continue   their services as a ride connection and will utilize independent contractors until such time that the courts decide otherwise.  In the meantime, Uber continues to thrive, its drivers stay busy and other taxi companies would like to have a place in the competition and hope to do so through final court findings and decisions that determine Uber’s true operating procedure.  It’s a driving force to be reckoned with and Uber hopes to remain lucrative in spite of any major changes.

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