Few technology start-ups have had the pervasive, international impact that Uber has. Timed perfectly, Uber filled a hole left by the disparity between the price of public and traditional private transportation. It is also far easier to use than either one. Like so many other world-changing ideas, Uber seems obvious in hindsight. According to Wikipedia.com, the Uber mobile app, “allows consumers with smartphones to submit a trip request which is then routed to Uber drivers who use their own cars.” Its disruption of the transportation industry, however, affirms that its utility is far more widespread than its wiki definition suggests.
The ingenious sharing concept behind Uber has permeated into other major industries and is a driving force behind the maturation of the “sharing economy.” Uber has gained the generic trademark recognition so that it is used to describe other business ideas which implement the sharing concept. People say that Airbnb is, “like Uber for hotels.” Although Uber began in the USA, its operations continue spreading throughout the developed world and its effect on transportation, business and on society cannot be overstated. Prior to 2015, Uber established stable operations in non-USA cities after enduring a recognizable pattern of resistance from locals who were clinging to the status quo. In Mexico City, for example, two taxis sandwiched a new Uber driver’s car when he was dropping off a customer . Now, Uber continues adding to its 100,000 drivers in Mexico City.
Earlier this year in Amsterdam, an Uber driver was restrained while men threatened him with brass knuckles and soaked his engine in gasoline . His tires were slashed as well. Now, Amsterdam is home to Uber’s international headquarters. Neither the resistance in Mexico City nor in Amsterdam has been able to hinder its growth. Any remaining resistance in those places will soon prove to be futile.
San Jose, Costa Rica is one of Uber’s newest markets. Before Uber drove into town, a market gap existed leaving ample room for Uber to develop there. Previously, people in San Jose could choose from inexpensive, but crowded and inefficient buses, or the overpriced-monopoly of red taxicabs for public transportation. While private, “pirate” cabs were a third option, they were no less expensive than the government subsidized red ones.
Uber’s San Jose operation, although in its infancy, appears to be on the path to success. If history is any indication, the staunch opposition to Uber by the San Jose taxicab cartels shows that Uber is on the path to success there. Even before Uber’s official launch date in San Jose, there was a movement against it there. According to a Tico Times Article published on August 3rd, “there’s enough discontent already that a war has been declared, even though the service is not even available here yet .”
After Uber’s launch date, stories of violent opposition surfaced. I learned from second-hand accounts that one of the first Uber drivers in San Jose had his car vandalized by taxicab drivers while giving an Uber user a ride. Other accounts exist telling about Uber drivers having their cars towed after being corned by police and forced to stop. Importantly, the staunch resistance in cities, such as San Jose indicates that those opposed to Uber receive it as a threat to their antiquated public transportation model. The resistance may hurt the individual new Uber driver, but serves as a ringing endorsement of Uber’s functionality. In most cities that Uber now flourishes, there was once similar resistance and opposition to it. The opposition is another part of the same Uber Cycle that occurs in every market the company enters and is successful.