Noah J Nelson on Monday, Jul. 21st
Uber–friend to upwardly mobile technoratti and drunk smartphone owners, mortal enemy of working class taxi drivers and transportation regulators everywhere–has a new arch nemesis: the city of Seoul, South Korea. The city government is looking into banning Uber as they view it as illegal under South Korean law which forbids unregistered private transportation services.
Uber, for its part, has issued a statement that says it’s just a technological platform and not a taxi service.
Here’s the kicker, from The Wall Street Journal:
The city added that it will launch in December an app that will provide similar features to Uber for official taxis, such as geo-location data on cabs nearby, information about them and their drivers, as well as ratings.
Seoul is one of the most technologically connected cities in the world, but will that translate into the city itself being able to provide an app infrastructure for related services like taxis? There’s no question that from an app UI/marketing standpoint that Uber has become the best-in-breed of hailing services. Which makes their unending protestations that they are not a taxi service all the more grating: taxi dispatchers are functionally middle men, and that’s what Uber is.
Going head to head with an app is a new trick in the war between cities and Uber, but the software maker almost certainly has the upper hand when it comes to design. How far will Seoul be willing to go to break the “sharing economy” poster child’s will?