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In defence of Uber: Three reasons it beats taxis

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Frederik Roeder (centre) demonstrating in favour of Uber in Berlin. Photo: DPA
17:48 CEST+02:00
As Uber and its chauffeur app continue to operate in Germany despite a national ban, one faithful user tells The Local why he became a fan of the company and the app from day one.

I live in Berlin and I use Uber about three times a week, as well as when I'm on business trips in New York or Washington, D.C.

Uber is a smartphone app that shows you available cars in your area on a map. If you want a ride, the app sends a car to the front of your apartment, the airport or a bar.

You can choose from two options: Uber Pop and Uber Black. Uber Pop offers rides by allowing private drivers to pick up passengers and take them to their desired destination for 20-25 percent less than the price of a Berlin cab.

Uber Black offers professional limo services in fancy cars and in-car amenities at the price of an ordinary taxi.

The driver takes you to your destination and upon arrival you don't have to worry about paying - Uber charges your credit card directly through the app. After your ride, Uber emails you the receipt and you can rate the driver and provide feedback on how good that particular ride was.

There are three major reasons why I prefer Uber to a regular taxi:

1 - Price: Uber Pop offers urban rides at a great price, cheaper than legacy taxis by at least 20 percent.

If you're with a group you might even save compared to public transit. This is the true spirit of the sharing economy, which includes things like bike sharing, car sharing and companies like Airbnb.

Uber Pop could even reduce drunk driving for those who normally choose to drive drunk rather than pay a high taxi fare.

2 - Convenience: Uber is convenient; it's easy to use and to pay with credit card.

You can even split the fare with other passengers.  Credit card payment is a game-changer for me since I've been frustrated several times because of taxis that don't offer the option or whose machines malfunction.

The receipt is emailed to you and that is a great relief to my receipt-stuffed wallet.  I would probably use Uber even more often if they would be allowed to be on standby at airports the way taxis can.

3 - Quality and Safety: You can get a really nice ride in a fancy car and the app knows where you are and who is driving you.

If you use Uber Black, the driver opens the door for you, lets you choose the music and offers small snacks and water. The app always knows where you are and who is driving you, which helps to protect you from drivers behaving aggressively for any reason.

Cheaper rides also means greater access for more people, which leads to a larger market for these rides and more jobs for additional drivers.

The taxi lobby often says that Uber destroys jobs, but actually the opposite is happening: more people can afford rides and thus the market grows.

A Frankfurt court decision in August banned Uber across Germany. Instead of complying, Uber is engaging in civil disobedience by continuing to offer their services even though they face fines of up to €250,000 per ride and their German director could be jailed.

Uber is not only innovative and economically disruptive, they also have a no-fear approach that I admire.

The taxi lobby wants Uber to comply with Berlin taxi rules. Having used the unregulated Uber Berlin product for the last 18 months, I have to say that it might be time to totally deregulate and liberalize urban rides.

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Knowing every street in a city of 3.4 million people is nearly impossible and indeed unnecessary at a time when every car has a GPS system.

Many taxi drivers actually fail to comply with their own standards by not knowing streets, taking detours, sleeping too little or even lacking basic driving skills.

The reluctance of most Berlin taxis to accept non-cash payments is another illustration that the industry wants to be protected by laws and is not interested in adapting their model to modern times.

Berlin wants to be a global hub for startup companies and innovation but at the same time the city makes it nearly impossible for disruptive businesses to offer their services.

Hopefully the Berlin and federal government will realize that regulation needs to adapt to the 21st century instead of forcing businesses and consumers to comply with outdated rules.

Frederick Roeder is the Vice President of Marketing and Communications with Students For Liberty, a global libertarian student organization based in Washington, D.C.

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