Old institutions can learn from the new

Danial Naqvi

As I scurried along San Jacinto Blvd, I saw a taxi cab with a placard signifying the driver had been fingerprint tested. The feud between new and old isn’t just limited to Austin. Uber is making enemies across the globe. London is the latest city to invite controversy over the safety and fitness of this leading technology company’s ability to serve a city’s citizens. Cab drivers are fighting back but I think that’s it is time to learn from with technological innovations like Uber.

Before Uber came along, we had taxicabs and they were flawed beyond belief. Passengers weren’t aware of how long the ride would take, the route, the cost or anything else convenient to the user. Now we have those capabilities all wrapped up in a neat application for your phone. While there are disadvantages such as reduced wages for taxicab drivers, customers now have a user-friendly, handy tool that it is the palm of their hand.

Unfortunately, unnecessary city rules gets in the way of innovation and healthy competition. Austinites voted against Proposition 1 in May 2016, which stated that ride-sharing companies could continue to use their own forms of background checks, resulting in Uber’s departure. Taxi drivers in Austin are subject to fingerprint checks and are registered with the local authorities. Upon signature of the HB 100, a bill that overruled city law and created statewide regulations which returned Uber to the state capital. Now Uber has returned, there is fiercer competition for Austinites’ wallets, which I think will draw taxicab companies to innovate to keep up to these omnipresent technological giants.

Cities like London show us how old institutions can survive — and even thrive — in the face of new technology. The city showed it can look forward when it replaced nostalgic, polluting old buses with hybrid-engine buses that save the environment while providing the same level of service. Austin can do the same. Its citizens have fought to protect its heritage against the rise of startups downtown in the past, yet, the city is somehow still thriving. Austinites should make the same good faith efforts to work with Uber.

Every business has flaws, and Uber is no different but, the company has shown that it is possible innovate an established industry. Uber’s departure from Austin stirred the debate between the next generation and the old hats who are finding it hard to move forward. Right  now, Uber is clearly superior and has the backing of young people behind them. It’s up to the city to catch up.

Naqvi is a geography exchange student from London, UK.