As app-based ridesharing services like Uber and Lyft make their way into more and more cities around the US, these officially-named transportation network companies are carving out a significant place in the metropolitan transportation industry. With hefty investments from major companies like Apple and General Motors, ridesharing apps are on the cusp of becoming as universal as the smartphones they rely on.
So could ridesharing be the future of all city transportation? It’s hard to see Uber or Lyft completely ending the taxi industry, and people will likely never fully give up the low cost and high convenience of trains and buses. But ridesharing is undeniably here to stay as a cheap and easy option for people looking to get around cities, a fact that has not gone unnoticed by taxi unions—or local governments.
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Withstanding the Backlash
Throughout their rapid growth, ridesharing companies have faced fierce opposition from city taxi unions. Not only are ridesharing services a threat to the taxi industry, but their drivers in most cases aren’t subject to some of the laws and regulations that taxi drivers are, such as requiring special licenses or going through extensive background checks. Ridesharing companies argue that regulations like these would discourage casual drivers, around which the services are based, from driving for them.
Local governments have the same concerns as taxi drivers, and recently many have been moving to regulate ridesharing services in the name of safety. The city of Austin, TX became one of the first to pass regulations when it began requiring stricter background checks and fingerprinting for all drivers. But even as Uber and Lyft chose to end service in Austin rather than comply with the regulations, many alternative companies, including locally run non-profit RideAustin, moved in to fill the void and give riders even more options for sharing rides. It’s safe to say that the concept of ridesharing apps is popular enough that there isn’t much governments can do—besides outright banning it—to change its status as the fastest-growing transportation alternative.
Ridesharing is Here to Stay
The reason ridesharing is safe, despite opposition and regulations, is because we love it so much. Uber didn’t invent the concept of sharing rides, they just made it easy and convenient to modern city-dwellers by turning it into an app. People love the simplicity of pulling out their iPhones, opening up an app and simply hitting a button, knowing exactly when their transportation will alive and even being able to track the driver in real time.
It’s not just about the convenience and the integration of technology, though. A large part of the appeal of ridesharing services is the cost. Going to the airport for a long trip can be a transportation nightmare; taxis and shuttle services can get expensive or uncomfortable and parking your own car there for several days is even more expensive. Uber, Lyft and other app-based services provide a cheaper and more reliable option for getting to the airport and anywhere else they need to go.
And it’s not just staking its claim in the US. Uber recently received a $3.5 billion investment from Saudi Arabia’s sovereign wealth fund, and Chinese startup Didi Chuxing is closing on a round of fundraising that would raise $3.5 billion. As technology creates more convenience around the world, it’s easy to see why ridesharing continues to grow—and why it’s already becoming the transportation of the future.