Uber Could Finally Help Us Ditch Our Cars
Farhad Manjoo on the ride-sharing service's significance
By Kate Seamons, Newser Staff
Posted Jun 12, 2014 1:37 PM CDT
In this April 3, 2014, photo, a smartphone is mounted on the glass of an Uber car.   (AP Photo/Rafiq Maqbool)

(Newser) – After its latest round of funding, ride-sharing service Uber has been valued at $17 billion. That's certainly gotten plenty of pens wagging, with some arguing that rather than being the world's most valuable tech start-up, Uber is problem-dogged, the scourge of cabbies, and insignificant. In Farhad Manjoo's view, it's anything but the latter. He sees it as potentially being to transportation what Amazon has been to shopping: something that could reshape the space, and to the extreme. "It has the potential to decrease private car ownership," argues Manjoo in the New York Times. He explains that in markets such as San Francisco, where Uber has a strong foothold, using the service daily is "already arguably cheaper than owning a private car," and competition among it and similar services will serve to drive prices down even more.

Studies have found that taxi services actually prod people to use more public transportation, as having varied means to get one's self around leads people to consider ditching a car. One problem, per one study, is that regulation caps the number of taxis in most cities. Uber essentially sidesteps those regulations while, bonus, using technology to "smartly" centralize cars where demand is high and making the payment process effortless. All this could have a wide-reaching effect for urbanites: More Uber could ultimately mean a lower cost of living, less pollution, and a reduced need for so much parking. And in Manjoo's view, "It wouldn't be a stretch to see many small and midsize cities become transportation nirvanas on the order of Manhattan—places where forgoing car ownership isn’t just an outré lifestyle choice, but the preferred way to live." Click for his full column.

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Showing 3 of 17 comments
Ezekiel 25:17
Jun 13, 2014 12:37 PM CDT
As is the case in a lot of cities, Yellow Cab is the major operator. Yellow has no standard in my state for service. So you can get a cab that's new or 20 years old. Most likely, the a/c wont work and its July. There is a good chance your cab is a retired Custer County sheriff cruiser with 350,000 miles. When it turns, the tie rod ends knock. The brakes squeak, the doors rattle, and the whole thing smells like a Turkish prison. So Uber has high standards for the vehicle. It must be a new model and meet minimum standards such as safety, heat, and air in full functioning condition. Then you have Vegas, where running up the meter is standard. Back in April, the cabbie drove around Terminal 3, three times and got the meter up to $14 before we even left the airport property. Uber doesn't use that kind of metering, its based on linear distance between sites using a calculated route. If the Uber driver wants to circle the airport 10 times, it won't run up the fare.
Jaye
Jun 12, 2014 10:30 PM CDT
After logging in, I couldn't get a quote. So far, not good.
Capsized
Jun 12, 2014 2:58 PM CDT
When I lived in Chicago I didn't need a car. The L was great. In Texas there's crappy public transportation infrastructure so you do need one here.