Too free or not too free?

By Don McCurdy

A recent article lamented the New York City Taxi and Limousine Commission’s banning of Vugo tablets in shared ride vehicles. The article stated that the reason was that the tablets“may annoy commuters.”

Really? Like say the taxi televisions? Don’t these tablets have an off button? The writer believes the ruling violates the First Amendment right to free speech.

I’m not a Constitutional scholar so I won’t address that aspect of the issue, but I am equipped with a modicum of common sense. The idea that the taxi television should be mandated while the tablets banned doesn’t register on my common sense o meter.

One of the problems I have with governmental regulation of business is the idea that a regulator’s opinion is more important than the business owner’s is somewhat counter productive.

Yes, I get the idea that fraud, stealing and other obvious criminal activity should be banned are all issues to be scrutinized by the government at some level or other? However, how can it come to be that there is some omnipotent ability inherent in regulators to see the value in an innovation that the rest of us lack?

Personally, I doubt I would want to use the tablet were I inclined to ride in a vehicle that had one, since I already have a device with more computing power than the computers that launched the moon landing. However, why is the government involved in making that decision for me?

Samuel Johnson, a British author of the 1700s, not known as a taxi regulator, is quoted as saying“nothing will ever be attempted if all possible objections must first be overcome.” The idea that tablets should be banned based on what might happen seems to fit that axiom.


Who you gonna call?

Reports are that Wannabe President de Blasio’s selection to head the New York City Taxicab and Limousine Commission is getting torpedoed by the city council. The problem seems to be what to do about those pesky taxicab medallions.

Wannabe’s nominee, Jeffrey Roth, is reported to have dodged questions regarding what to do about the city’s role in devastating the taxicab medallion holders. It would seem that Wannabe is of the mindset that government cannot make the mistake of regulating business and will not consider a bailout for the medallion holders.

There are certainly other voice calling for some kind of relief for medallion owners. I’ll bet the taxi king would certainly be interested in getting bailed out.“Time will tell who has failed and whose been left behind.” Next contestant please.


“Once in every life…”

Reports, and charts, are that Uber took a record loss in the previous quarter. CEO Khosrowshahi is reported to have stated that the loss was a“once in a lifetime” event. Investors were unimpressed and Uber lost 6% of its value.

Uber has also been reported to have lost its“founder mentality.” Having followed the Uber phenomenon since its inception I can agree that Uber is acting somewhat less ruthless.

Former CEO Kalanick appears to have succumbed to the common“founder mentality” that creates the need for a more experienced business mind to keep the concern afloat. That aside, the take no prisoners attitude of the former CEO is what got Uber, and their clones, into formerly closed markets.

The problem, as I see it, is the quality of the product. Uber has taken on the prevailing attitude of the taxicab industry that any breathing person is fine to drive until we get our autonomous vehicles tested and approved for driverless service.

I do wonder about the logistics of autonomous vehicles delivering food. How’s that going to work?


A Waymo to go.

Waymo continues to plug along, drawing closer to the day they can rid their vehicles of the safety driver. Waymo does have test vehicles cruising the streets without a“safety driver,” but they haven’t started transporting passengers without the driver.

Meanwhile, at the Black Hat security convention is Las Vegas, an engineer is reported to have been able to interfere with the path of autonomous vehicles with fake GPS signals. The signal“spoofing” is not prevented by any“integrity mechanisms.”

I’m sure that will add to the excitement for spy movies, but I’m not sure how that affects the safety driver removal.


No so fast!

Autonomous cars are a long way off, according to a recent report. Uber’s chief scientist is quoted as saying it will take “a long time,” while MIT researchers claim it to be“closer than its ever been.”

The article pointed up Uber’s self driving cars pedestrian fatality in March of 2018 and that four Tesla drivers have been killed while using Tesla’s autopilot. While the article is full of various opinions, some with obvious bias, it only mentions Waymo in passing.

I guess if you’re Tesla you get more press, but that might be because they have been reported to have promised a million robo taxis in 2020. Uh huh.


Progress is being made.

As mentioned here in a previous column, the San Francisco Metropolitan Transit Authority (SFMTA) has decided that the medallions on the street, prior to the city deciding to sell more medallions, were barred from picking up at the airport. As easily predictable, the drivers with the older medallions are now forced to find other revenue sources.

Good luck with that. San Francisco is the home of Uber and Lyft. While the SFMTA doesn’t have a collapse of the industry as a stated goal they have managed to push another company over the cliff.

Town Taxi, a relatively small company, is going out of business. The apparently common sense free SFMTA Director of Taxi and Accessible Services, Kate Toran, is reported to have stated that“Town did not indicate that point as a factor in the communications with SFMTA.”

No, they probably listed insufficient revenue or some other bland accounting reasons. There is little doubt that regulation, and the airport edict is crushing the individual drivers who in turn cannot pay their terminal fees, terminal fees for companies that REGULATION requires them to join.

There is absolutely no doubt in my mind that taxicab regulations, as orchestrated by the SFMTA, are going to starve out the old medallion holders with their“regulation” of the industry.

I doubt seriously that the SFMTA will ever come up with a scheme that will bring the value of the near worthless medallions they dumped on the unsuspecting industry.Maybe, when they’re done starving out the old timers, the new medallion holders will be able to generate something more than poverty.

Take a good look, this is what government regulation does for business.

If you have any comments regarding this or any of my articles please feel free to contact me at: – dmc