Taxi Unions, Dealerships, And Public Buses, Oh My! It’s Silicon Valley Vs. The Entire Transit Sector

REUTERS/Max Whittaker

This week it was Silicon Valley versus the entire transportation sector.

Scrappy startups and tech behemoths battled entrenched industries and government regulators throughout the globe, in what has become a fascinating illustration of how an entire social sector responds to an existential technology threat.

It’s no longer just Uber vs. Taxis. Here’s a handful of the major battles.

  • Luxury Bus startup Leap preemptively shut down its service in the face of looming government fines. Leap offers spacious bus service with all the amenities a tech worker could want (like WiFi) and charges about 3x the price for each one-way ride ($6). The state claims that Leap failed to meet a number of safety and insurance requirements.
  • Auto dealers went after price-comparison startup Truecar for violating what they believe are strict rules about selling cars. By charging dealers a fee for selling a car listed with the help of TrueCar, the lawsuit claims that the website is acting as an unauthorized car dealer.
  • Texas axed a bill to allow Tesla to sell directly to consumers, making it one of many industries to protect entrenched auto dealers against direct sales.
  • Uber finally got permission to operate in Germany. Among many requirements, drivers must return to the company headquarters after each trip, making it nearly impossible to efficiently route drivers.

Thinking of any major social sector which is big enough to have its own secretary general (like a Secretary of Transportation), it’s hard to find any comparable examples. Education, Housing, Energy, and Defense are still disruption free for the time being.

But as Silicon Valley expands its ambitions, we now have a glimpse of how established interests will fight back.