David R. Henderson  

Uber Is Even More Valuable Abroad

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Which direction for macro?... Yay, Switzerland!...
In Lima, taxis don't have meters. To use one, you need to negotiate a fare (in Spanish) to your destination. Sometimes they seem to operate collectively, taking on additional passengers.

Thanks to Uber, we haven't had to try and navigate this system. The app lets us tell our drivers where we want to go, even though we don't speak Spanish. And we can see the route they use to take us there (and have a means to complain to a 3rd party if we felt ripped off). The fare is charged to a credit card, without any need to fumble with notes and coins we aren't familiar with.

Uber is great at home, but even more useful when far from home.


So writes my friend Matt Bufton, on his honeymoon in Peru with his lovely wife, Janet Neilson.

If you have ever traveled in a country where you don't speak the dominant language, you may well appreciate how huge these benefits are. Just notice how many problems Uber solves, problems that people, often with good reason, have worried about when traveling abroad:

1. You don't have to negotiate, and if you did negotiate, it would be in a situation where it is difficult because of the language barrier.
2. You don't have to deal with additional passengers. You get to go where you want to go without detours or other stops.
3. You can use your app to tell the driver exactly where you want to go, without his having to understand your language.
4. You can judge, somewhat at least, whether he is using the right route.
5. You have a ready-made way to complain if you feel cheated.
6. You avoid the "unfamiliar money" hassle.

Not bad, and Matt's last line sums it up beautifully.

Now ask yourself this. What if someone who tends to lean toward government solutions wanted a solution to all these problems. Would that person likely have thought of Uber? This is Hayek's "The Use of Knowledge in Society" on steroids.


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COMMENTS (6 to date)
John Roccia writes:

I drove for Uber for a bit. One night I picked up a fare from a bar, headed home, it seemed. He waved when I pulled up and confirmed the address with the app. He didn't say hi, though he smiled. I asked the usual "how ya doing," but got no response, as he was engrossed in his phone. Being polite, I let him ride in silence. When we arrived, he said his first words to me - "Thank You" - and I realized he was deaf.

It made me realize how great Uber must be for him - no need to try to discuss destination, or even hail a cab on a busy (and therefore possibly dangerous) street. So many advantages.

And I remembered that experience when Austin banned Uber/Lyft, and it made me sad.

JK Brown writes:

Found this yesterday when I was catching up on the Adam Smith Institute blog:

Uber saves lives


First, the rate of vehicular accidents falls quite dramatically when Uber enters a city, with traffic fatalities declining by 16.6 per cent over a year. This can be explained by both a reduction in the number of people driving under the influence, as well as the fact that the people most likely to use Uber (i.e. millennials) are terrible drivers and anything that keeps them off the road is a good thing.

Second, they find declines in arrests for both assaults and disorderly conduct. This may be because Uber reduces passenger wait times, lowering the risk of someone being attacked while waiting for a cab. This finding is especially important as governments have attempted to impose minimum wait times on ridesharing services with varying success (thankfully, TFL's proposals were roundly rejected).
Kevin Dick writes:

To expand on John Roccia's point, I recently had a driver who was deaf. Uber informed me of this fact before he arrived and advised me to communicate my destination and any requests through their app or text message.

I also thought this must have been an incredible advance from his perspective.

Anonymous writes:

Uber and services like it will completely revolutionize transportation in the developing world. The challenges developing countries face for infrasctructure building are well-known. That is why cell phones (even dumb ones) were so transformational. There were no landlines. Something similar is going to happen with app-based transportation. Collective transportation has always been dependent on expensive infrastructure beyond road construction. With Uber and services like Uberpool, you can create your microbus line on demand, optimized each day. If road use is charged according to how much space a vehicle takes of the road, this public-transport aspect of Uber should come very soon.
Charging for road use has always been a good cause without anyone to push for it. Uber, the probable winner of such a change, may soon start lobbying for that. Let's wait.

Cyril Morong writes:

A president once said

"no government program alone can take the place of a great entrepreneur"

See this link

Billionaire Executive Pritzker Picked for Commerce Post

Daublin writes:

Now imagine what it would take to gain similar advantages by working the Lima government.

With aplogies for preaching to the choir, there is tremendous value in someone who knows what they are doing simply trying to set up a business and see if it will work. If you don't like it, you don't have to do it. In the case of Uber, a whoooole lot e of people do like it.

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