Skift Take

Uber's attack on the taxi establishment in New York does remove people from the industry that currently serve no role other than charging drivers for the right to drive. And that's a good thing. But there needs to be rules in place to keep Uber from becoming just as bad an influence.

Among the string of guests to make an appearance during The Late Show with Stephen Colbert’s first week was Uber CEO Travis Kalanick, who was grilled by Colbert on Uber’s impact on the taxi industry, self-driving Ubers and the next thing he plans to “Uberize.”

Kalanick, who told Colbert he arrived at the show’s taping because he “pushed a button and got a ride,” reportedly ran into some unplanned-for protests when an audience member began shouting about Uber’s negative effect on the taxi industry, specifically citing New York City.

Fortunately for Uber, the incident did not make it on air; however, Colbert did press Kalanick for his response to the idea that “Uber kills professional, good paying jobs and is unfair to the drivers and it is destroying the cab industry.”

“Let’s just take New York for example. Taxi drivers spend $40,000 a year renting a car, that should be a Bentley that you are riding around in,” Kalanick said. “Instead, it goes to a taxi owner who owns the license to own and operate a cab. In the Uber world, you can use your own car. You don’t pay $40,000 to rent a vehicle. You make more dollars per hour and it is flexible — you don’t have a shift. You can turn on your work when you want to and you can turn it off.”

Colbert later went on to point out Kalanick’s vision for self-driving Uber cars, arguing that the business would no longer benefit drivers as essentially it would be “employing robots at that point.”

Using Google’s, Tesla’s, and Apple’s move to engage in a ‘driverless’ world, Kalanick said he sees it as the way of the future.

“[The driverless thing] is going to be the world,” he said. “And so the question then for a tech company is, ‘Do you want to be part of the future, or do you want to resist the future?’ We feel that in many ways we want to not be like the taxi industry before us. That’s how we think about it.”

Other topics addressed during the interview included surge pricing during emergencies, with Colbert using the 2014 terrorist attacks in Sydney as an example, when Uber fees tripled, as well as Kalanick’s own experience as an Uber driver. (In case you are wondering, he has a five-star rating, and no, he doesn’t do it for the cash.)

And then next thing Kalanick hopes to Uberize?

“We are doing Uber Eats, where you just push a button in the app and then lunch is delivered [in five minutes],” he says, eliciting laughs from Colbert, who understandably wasn’t grasping the concept of where exactly the food is being delivered from.

“Normally when you order food, they make it, they put it in cars, and then they deliver it,” Kalanick said. “In the Uber world, they make it, they put it in cars, and then you order it.”

Colbert pointed out that this sounds a lot like a day-old tuna sandwich hanging out in the glove compartment until someone is ready to order it, leading Kalanick to explain that temperature-controlled packaging would keep food safe and edible.

Still — we think we’ll stick with Seamless, thank you.


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Tags: ground transportation, uber

Photo credit: Uber CEO Travis Kalanick appeared on The Late Show with Stephen Colbert on September 10, 2015. CBS

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