Uber, under its founder Travis Kalanick, had a reputation of taking on city governments around the world that were trying to regulate the rideshare company. That didn’t end so well. Kalanick was replaced by Dara Khosrowshahi, who promised to take a more conciliatory approach to regulation, its drivers, and customers. He recently pleaded for a second chance in London and won a 15-month reprieve based on promises to clean up their act.
But today, in one of its most aggressive moves under its new CEO, Uber announced a plan to fight regulations proposed by the New York City Council to cap the number of drivers. Uber will be launching an “app takeover,” according to the NY Daily News. Whenever anyone opens their Uber app they will see a message criticizing the City Council’s legislation proposing a one-year ban on new Uber drivers and a longer goal of capping the number of drivers.
The message warns their customers of increased wait times and higher prices. “Arriving now: Higher prices and increased wait times,” the message declares. “The New York City Council has put forth a series of bills that include various proposals. Some of the proposals are worthwhile, but others could make Uber more expensive and less reliable throughout the 5 boroughs — severely impacting New Yorkers who rely on Uber when public transit isn’t an option.”
A spokesman for Uber explains, “We believe New Yorkers will join us in supporting living wages for drivers and opposing a cap that will harm outer borough riders who have come to rely on Uber because of the unreliable, or non-existent subway.”
Also included are links to the actual proposed bills for its customers to read. In addition to the ads in the app, Uber has launched an ad campaign on TV and social media.
The New York City Council has pushed back, saying that the Uber messaging is misleading. They are also under pressure from the city’s cab and limousine industries that have been severely affected by Uber and Lyft. A previous attempt by the city to regulate Uber and Lyft drivers ended in failure.
A study just published by New York City-based firm Schaller Consulting lends some credibility to the council’s action. It found that Uber and Lyft’s ridesharing services lead to at least a 160 percent increase in the number of cars driving on urban streets. The study said that without new regulations, “big American cities are likely to be overwhelmed with more automobility, more traffic and less transit.”