OTTAWA — The battle between taxi drivers and ride-hailing service Uber is intensifying in Ottawa. Local police say they are now probing an argument caught on video between a foul-mouthed taxi driver and an Uber driver. Neither of the individuals have been identified, nor is any information available on the Uber car's passenger who was threatened with physical violence by the taxi driver.
The video, posted to YouTube the evening of September 12, allegedly occurred outside a hotel in Ottawa on Friday night after a taxi driver became upset that a passenger had hailed an Uber car. The taxi driver threatened the Uber driver, telling him he would be "dead meat" if he returned.
The film then shows the passenger become agitated at the taxi driver's threats, whereupon the taxi driver begins to verbally abuse the passenger, going so far as to open the door and threaten the passenger with physical violence. No actual violence occurred, but the vivid video illustrates the strong anti-Uber sentiment among taxi drivers in Ottawa and indeed, elsewhere.
Over the last few months, cab drivers have staged numerous disruptions, including deliberately slowing traffic along the road leading to the airport. Police in the city have issued tickets to Uber drivers for breaking various taxi service bylaws, but cab drivers say it's not enough and Uber is destroying their livelihoods.
Ottawa Mayor Jim Watson however, thinks the cab drivers are doing themselves a disservice. "Stop shooting yourself in the foot," he told reporters last month as he announced city staff will compile a report on reforming the city's taxi industry by year's end. The mayor noted that aggressive confrontations are counterproductive and are actually encouraging passengers to switch to Uber.
Disruptive technologies such as Uber can hit established industries hard, and many sympathize with the plight of taxi drivers. However, adaptation and evolution are certainly more likely to help the taxi industry survive and thrive than threats and intimidation.
Many countries across the planet are still figuring out how to respond to the rise of Uber, but if something is better and cheaper, it's hard to imagine how free-market consumers would be content to stick with an inferior competitor.