Startups like Uber argue that technology can transform the casual driver into a professional, and they’re destabilizing the taxicab industry.
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"The fight between the upstart T.N.C.s and the taxi industry has been pitched in ideological terms: free-market innovation versus old-guard competition-killing regulation. In reality, it’s a labor war, and it has destabilized the core of what it means to be a professional driver.
As bad as the shift to being independent contractors was for drivers, labor leaders argue that the ascendance of ride-sharing outfits will be even more painful. If the market is flooded with part-timers, few cities will be able to maintain a fleet of trained drivers who can make a living driving cabs. Speaking of the drivers her union represents, Desai said, “If the Ubers of the world are successful, we’ll be reduced to nothing.”
There is now talk within the taxi community of developing mobile applications to compete with the T.N.C.s. Desai sees this as a viable strategy, one that could stitch together the obvious benefits of technology and professionalism. “In cities where ride-share has grown, it’s because professional taxi drivers have switched to the other side,” Desai explained. “The Uber model isn’t sustainable without professional drivers.”