Commuters love Uber. Especially on rainy days when getting a taxi off the road is harder than striking lottery in Singapore. Instances where taxi drivers refuse to pick up certain passengers because: 1) – they not going towards the ‘same’ direction as the commuters, thus inconvenient, or 2) rainy days are deemed ‘dangerous’ to drive due to slippery roads, hence picking up passengers is not advisable.
Of course, they have every right to refuse your business if they want to, whether you find their reasons (excuses) valid or not. Not wanting to pick up passengers that doesn’t ‘meet area requirements’ or ‘increases risk of an accident’ are examples of how humans adhere to the principle of ‘putting your own needs and safety’ first, and for the majority of drivers (not discounting the fact that some taxi drivers DO go out of their way for their passengers), this is just a natural thing to do.
However, this certainly does not bodes well with commuters who just NEED to travel to a certain destination no matter what and on whatever day (rain or shine). After all, the freedom to travel is commuters’ right too, no?
To meet the demands of commuters, technology has enabled car-sharing services like Uber and GrabCar to thrive in these environments by making use of what is already on the roads – cars.
Commuters rejoice as they no longer have to wait endlessly at taxi stands for taxis to show up. Even those who frequently used cab booking services via phone, sms or taxi app know how exasperating it can be especially during peak hours.
This is where Uber, GrabCar and other car-sharing services come in. Instead of just waiting for an available cab to show up, we now have more travel options to choose from. Since conventional taxi services failed you, commuters can now turn to alternative solutions to meet their travel needs.
This is not a problem unique to Singapore or other cities in Southeast Asia because of dense city population or notorious traffic conditions. Noting that Uber was first conceived in San Francisco, it goes to show that the skewed commuters-taxi ratio is apparent in many major cities and it is an (annoying) existing problem faced by the commuters who doesn’t drive.
To the commuters, the rise of Uber and similar services alleviate their travel pain points. For private drivers, the services they render provided a source of income for them to lessen certain financial burdens. At first look, it seems like a win-win situation where everyone benefits: commuters get their rides, private drivers find new source of income, and existing taxis can remain as picky as they want to be.
After all, for all the passengers that the taxi did not want to pick up are loss income anyway and for them to turn to a third-party service who is willing to fulfill their request is just plain logic.
I mean, ‘to each of his/her own needs’ right? If I am rejected umpteen times by taxis who refused to take me from Tampines to Boon Lay at 12 midnight, what should I do? Continue to wait endlessly and pray that the next taxi driver will ‘conveniently’ go to Boon Lay? Just leave it to chance and hope for the best? Or would you turn to an alternative service which will help to improve your chance to get to your destination?
Which why I find it a little hard to comprehend the anger among certain groups of conventional taxi drivers towards private drivers. Reports of Uber drivers being hurled abuse at by taxi drivers are not new, and according to a recent news by Business Insider, even Uber executives are not spared from the hostile and violent reactions in some ‘Anti-Uber’ cities and countries.
The company has since filed legal action against threatening characters who have show up in lobbies, accost Uber executives, flame them on Twitter and send death threats. Some protesters even harassed the executives by throwing eggs at their homes.
For a company who has creatively challenge an age-old city transport problem, this kind of hostile and violent reaction is definitely uncalled for. True enough, taxi drivers now feel the threat as what used to be their ‘market-only’ is being opened up to more players – meaning business may not as good as before.
Plus, there are also concerns on car insurance, passenger safety etc. where clear-cut regulations need to be drawn up to create a more level playing field. But let’s not go into that now, and take a step back and look at the big picture.
The reason why Uber is so successful is because there is a market demand and technological advances i.e. real-time location services and GPS have made this possible. So even if there is no Uber, you can be certain that there WILL definitely be something else.
Human beings are problem-solvers by nature, and if the means are available, nothing will stop them if there is demand and the opportunity to monetize it.
We are all part of this economic system, like it or not. And directing anger and abuse at those who are simply providing a demanded service… won’t change anything…
So why not look at this from another perspective? Instead of viewing these car-sharing drivers as a threat, consider that for reasons unknown to you, the private car driver might be shouldering a heavy debt or is currently facing some financial difficulties. Some Uber drivers I know, wanted to earn that extra income so that their family can live a little easier – which something we all want for our loved ones isn’t it?
Considering the kind of criticisms that our private drivers had to faced in real life and in digital world, for rendering a service we desperately need, let’s all be a little more empathetic. So be nice to your Uber driver okay?
Editor’s note: Well of course, when there are good eggs, there are bad eggs as well. While there are definitely some horrible private drivers, the purpose of this article is not to spread hate so if you have had a bad experience with such services do report the matter accordingly to the respective service provider and the local authorities.