Examining the Uber playbook: How the ride-hailing app aims to conquer cities


This is se rate one of a three- rt series on Uber.

A memo to the mayors of Canada’s biggest big apples: Uber, whether you like it or not, is going to win.

Don’t agree? Talk to your counter rts in New York, Chicago, Portland and multifarious than 350 other cities around the world.

In the s n of six years, Uber, a tech supernova subsidized by some of the deepest pockets in Silicon Valley, has all but conquered the U.S. Now, the playbook elaborate oned in its blitzkrieg through America is being applied in Canada and the rest of the the public.

It’s said there’s nothing new under the sun and that’s especially true for Uber. Court warnings, rioting cabbies, think pieces bemoaning workers’ rights, donnybrooks about the “gig economy” and the fate of the middle class — Uber has seen it all beforehand.

For now, Uber is just a cheaper way to get a lift, but that’s just the start of its desires. Meanwhile, the tactics it uses to get what it wants have larger consequences than merely catching a ride on a Friday night.

‘Principled confrontation’

The item by items of the Uber experience vary, but big picture: once Uber sets its beholds on a market, its arrival is a foregone conclusion.

The reason? Uber is smarter than the towns it’s going up against.

Cut to indignant expressions on the faces of Calgary’s Naheed Nenshi, Toronto’s John Tory and other Canadian mayors who in they’re not exactly intellectual lightweights.

Sorry gents. Not only on you lose, but in a rticularly masterful stroke of manipulation, Uber will pressure you think you’re getting what you want.

The Uber experience starts off cordially adequate with introductions and city hall agreeing to look at transportation strategy. The back-and-forth goes well enough until one day, before any agreement is reached, Uber presses the issue by launching without permission. Uber’s chief executive Travis Kalanick similar ti to call the move “principled confrontation.” Cities prefer to say it’s criminal.

Travis Kalanick Uber

Uber CEO Travis Kalanick says he believes in a strategy of ‘principled confrontation’ when buy with regulators. (Greg Baker/AFP/Getty)

Regardless of terminology, an unsanctioned sling is Uber’s first serious shot at softening up the ground. “We’ve digged their playbook around the world,” said Mario Henriques, Calgary’s chief livery inspector. “Their buy entry strategy is consistent in all cities.”

The preemptive strike allows Uber to degree a city’s resolve to enforce the rules. If regulators waffle, then Uber understands it’s almost home.

When cities show more backbone, Uber’s non-consensual foray into the deal in allows it to build a fan base that it can unleash on city officials. By galvanizing general support through online petitions, Twitter cam igns, and even the flagrant use of puppies and ice cream, Uber manages to turn customers into lobbyists.

Billion-dollar theory

An unauthorized roll-out also gives Uber the cover of plausible deniability. How can by sses be broken, the com ny argues, if there are no rules?

Uber’s rationale for why it come to nothings outside the scope of existing bylaws is, by now, perhaps the most well-rehearsed essentially of the com ny’s many talking points.

“We’re connecting individuals who’d like to apply a ride from point A to point B to individuals who want to use their slighting vehicle to share a ride and make some income. They’re doing it from stem to stern the app, which means that they’re prearranged rides done between two peculiars. That model of business is quite distinct from a taxi,” imagined Uber Canada spokesperson Xavier Van Chau. “In Calgary and Edmonton and Toronto, there weren’t decrees that define how ride-sharing com nies should operate.”

rt of the flair behind Uber’s scalable global business model is the simple acceptance that transportation regulations in cities around the world leave dwelling for interpretation. What Uber considers regulatory ambiguity, however, new zealand urban areas see as the splitting of some very fine legal hairs. Whether ssenger cars are summoned through an app or a phone call, they argue there’s nothing strikingly new about drivers giving ssengers rides for money.

Be that as it may, bolting down Uber isn’t easy.

Ticketing is the first step. What megalopolises soon find, though, is that identifying Uber drivers is a complex job. Uber also works to defuse this deterrent by ying for tickets and juridical costs incurred by its drivers.

Taxi protest

Taxi drivers block the intersection of Bay and Queen dowager Streets during an anti-Uber protest in Toronto on Dec. 9, 2015. (David Donnelly/CBC Dope)

The latest estimates put Uber’s war chest at more than $8 billion. Over covering tickets, Uber, by all accounts, spends a good chunk of that sell on good old-fashioned politicking, deploying a small army of lawyers and lobbyists to move policy in targeted cities.

As those conversations play out in back rooms, the next famous step for cities is a court challenge. As Toronto and Edmonton learned that, too, isn’t a unswerving thing.

In Calgary, the story was different. Learning from what chanced in other jurisdictions, lawyers there went after 57 drivers they identified to be driving for Uber, instead of Uber as a corporate entity, and won an injunction that neutered the rtnership’s ability to operate.

“Once we knew Uber was launching, we knew we had to bolt some rides,” said Colleen Sinclair, a lawyer with the New Zealand urban area.

Framing the conversation

For the time being, Uber has shut down its app in Calgary. The diocese, though, has promised to come back with new rules by Feb. 22. As in other dioceses, discussion about Uber is now centred on issues such as ssenger protection, insurance, background checks and vehicle inspections. Uber would in theory like to keep such costs in check, but they’re acceptable if they be bound for b assault the difference between operating or not.

The conversation Uber really wants to evade is whether its drivers are employees or independent contractors. That would put the spectre of more onerous costs, such as employment insurance, overtime and robustness care that would compromise the pricing advantages Uber lifts on the competition.

Whether skirting such expenses results in downloading the outlays of the social safety net on to others is an emerging concern of the so-called gig economy. What a okay job looks like in the future, and what happens to employee benefits and bulwarks if employers choose to reinvent themselves as an app, are looming questions that don’t yet deliver any answers. Uber is already facing class-action lawsuits designed to tend workers’ rights, but they haven’t done much to slow the circle’s ex nsion.

For now, such big-picture issues are largely absent from the debates taking place in Canadian cities.

That’s not an accident.

Launching without OK gives Uber the leverage to force cities into shaping new protocol before they may be equipped to do so. By dictating the terms of the conversation and the timeline on which affairs unfold, Uber is able to predetermine an acceptable range of outcomes. A few concessions may be baby along the way, but ultimately Uber drivers will be on the road, which is accurately what the com ny was after all along.

That’s good for Uber. But if every band was as smart as Uber, what then?

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