The amendment to Article 103-1 of the Transportation Management Regulations (汽車運輸業管理規則) went into effect last week amid protests from vehicle rental companies and Uber drivers, who decried the rule change requiring them to charge customers an hourly rate and drivers to report back to their rental firm after every trip.
Although the ride-hailing company has not yet changed the way it charges customers, it is bound to face heavy losses because of the rule change, which would essentially force Uber out of business.
Technological advancements are a major driving force behind the economy and can greatly improve people’s lives, so innovative services using new technologies should not be snuffed out by legislative restrictions.
For example, facing competition from Uber, Taiwan Taxi last year became the nation’s first taxi company to introduce a feature that allows people to track their route, greatly improving customer safety and helping prevent overcharging.
Taiwan Taxi, along with a few others, have also launched ride-hailing apps — a move that clearly aims to emulate Uber. Would they have made these improvements if not for Uber? Probably not.
Aside from the healthy competition Uber has brought, there are myriad other reasons that it should not be persecuted — reasons that people know all too well:
Taxis in Taiwan have gained notoriety for overcharging people — especially foreigners — often by taking detours, which has harmed the nation’s image. To make matters worse, it is not uncommon for a taxi driver to ask for directions, which somewhat defeats the purpose of requesting their services.
Moreover, drivers often initiate political conversations with passengers. They are known to espouse their views and not stop talking, regardless of the passenger’s response. Stories of taxi drivers becoming aggressive because a rider does not share their political views is a common complaint.
All of these problems can be annoying, especially when people are pressed for time and just want to get to their destination.
Furthermore, taxi drivers often cut across lanes when they see a potential customer, which is dangerous and adds to their notoriety among pedestrians and other drivers.
Add occasional poor manners and sketchy backgrounds to the list and there is a sizeable group of people who have second thoughts about using a taxi.
On the other hand, Uber requires prospective drivers to present a certificate of good conduct, an official record proving that they have never been the responsible party in a traffic accident and a professional license for small passenger vehicles.
It has put in place a principle that says drivers should use Google Maps, and people generally find its drivers to be well-mannered.
Uber teamed up with rental companies to meet government demands that it bring itself in line with the law, so the Ministry of Transportation and Communications’ response to protesting Uber drivers that they must establish a taxi company to operate legitimately was unreasonable.
The government’s “sector-based management” policy, which makes a distinction between taxi and ride-hailing services, is fine, but if it believes in a free market, it should not succumb to pressure from one side.
The government should resolve the dispute between Uber and taxi firms so that they can coexist, which would force taxi drivers who offer sub-par services to improve, creating a win-win situation for them, Uber and all other road users.
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