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.