In the past decade we have seen the rise of ride sharing companies and on demand taxi services like Uber and Lyft. When these companies started, they seemed to have the favour of the public. They seemingly opened up the taxi market (suddenly anyone could be a taxi driver) and the convenience of their application was a great innovation in the taxi industry.
Today the situation cannot be more different. Once tools of liberation, these apps and services are now seen as platform that are virtually enslaving hundreds of thousands of people.Uber has come to epitomises all the negative consequences of the platform economy in the taxi industry;
- Uber hasn’t yet taken many taxi drivers’ jobs but has slashed their wages. Drivers can hardly make a living and are massively in debt while shareholders are celebrating , or not, their stock market gains (profits are nowhere to be seen).
- Cities in which on demand taxi services are active, now have more vehicles on the road, more congestion and more pollution.
- Uber primarily operates in areas that are best served by public transport.
- Forget privacy. Uber is all about collecting your data.
Blockchain technology provides us with the tools to take a radically different approach to the concept of on-demand mobility.
When we apply the principles of blockchain technology to the Uber case, we can quickly see how the industry could be better for drivers, while making great steps on the digitalisation of the industry as well.
Fair rewards for taxi drivers
One of the main benefits of using blockchain technology, is that it eliminates the need of the middle man. A transaction is by default peer to peer. This means that if a traveller pays a taxi driver with a token, the travellers are paying the taxi drivers directly. This does not mean that there is no place for additional and complementary business models, but these business models will need to be fair and focussed on rewarding user experience and customer service.
Furthermore, there is no centralised authority that can decide to disrupt the market with unfair price subsidisation or arbitrarily implement peak or predatory pricing – or just increase fees and drive down wages.
The value created will be automatically shared with the value creators, in most cases, the the taxi drivers.
Because of the open nature of blockchain technology, anyone can participate in this shared mobility ecosystem. With many different types of vehicles connected – including integration with public transport – people can travel seamless from A to B to C to D, using a myriad of different modes of mobility without the need for multiple tickets, payment or applications. Taxi services, busses, shared scooters and trains, all connected to the same network. The consequence is that all vehicles can operate as one fleet with the operators delivering more efficiency and a better user experience to travellers.
Think global, act local
Currently, centralised technologies are completely controlled by and support only the goals of the companies that owns them. With a mobility blockchain, any developer or company can create applications or other type of solutions to meet specific, often local, challenges. Examples are; specific applications for elderly people; algorithms for local traffic challenges; flexible and resilient routing for regular disruptions (extreme weather, monsoons etc.) or loyalty programs for niche markets (like tuktuks).
Sharing data for good
Mobility challenges are societal challenges. The mobility industry should not be monopoly owned. It serves the people. This should be especially true when it comes to all the data generated by end users. This data should fully anonymised and be controlled by the producer of this data (in many cases, the traveller). Data owners can decide for themselves to share their data, or not. Generic, anonymous data should be open for smart city planning, new mobility initiatives and to support innovation.
What are we doing at this moment?
We are actively working on developing an open source, white label mobility application, that leverages the VMC blockchain platform. The next implementation is with two major Dutch mobility companies and an e-scooter startup. Follow us to stay up to date!