Wednesday 12 May 2021

Fighting the future is futile, the future always wins

An illustration picture shows the logo of car-sharing service app Uber on a smartphone next to the picture of an official German taxi sign in Frankfurt, September 15, 2014.  REUTERS/Kai Pfaffenbach
An illustration picture shows the logo of car-sharing service app Uber on a smartphone next to the picture of an official German taxi sign in Frankfurt, September 15, 2014. REUTERS/Kai Pfaffenbach

QCOSTARICA – In an editorial by the of August 22, the newspaper says it is a bad decision of the Ministerio de Obras Públicas y Transportes (MOPT) – Ministry of Public Works and Transport – to ally itself with the taxi and porteadores (informal taxis) to fight the future of transportation in Costa Rica. That future being Uber.

The publication says it (the MOPT) should rather be talking to the Ministerio de Ciencia, Tecnología y Telecomunicaciones (Micitt) – Ministry of Science and Technology – to promote the creation of a better software and easier to use that best fits local idiosyncracies.

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Fighting the future is futile, the future always wins.

The editorial makes reference to the Formula 1 teams of the 1960s, taking more than a minute to change the tire of a race car. Today, with new technology, lasting less than 3 seconds. In the same way Formula 1 teams would not think of going back to using the technology of 50 years ago, in five years from now nobody will think of using their phone to call for a taxi or stand at the corner to flag one down.

For years the problem of optimizing a fleet of taxis in Costa Rica was an academic exercise. To solve the problem of resource allocation, radios and centralized computer systems were developed, invariably annoying passengers (customers), but reducing the waste of idle taxis moving them to where they were needed most.

A decentralized system, with real-time communications, solved the problem further, with the only drawback that no GPS was available then and when they were, were bulky and very expensive. Fifteen years ago the possibility of connecting to a geo-referenced map was ridiculous, not even considered a viable alternative.

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In 2007 came the iPhone. Two years later Uber was founded, providing a solution to the problem of vehicle and passenger allocation in real-time.

Uber is not the only platform, there are many others around the world, as taxi companies move away from the traditional method of bringing together drivers and passengers. For example, in Colombia, Easy Taxi and Tappsi connects traditional taxis with passengers in a similar fashion to Uber.

Today, around the world there are many, especially young people, who use Uber and who in many cases never used a taxi before, not only for being expensive, but due to the particularity of users, despite their needs, none were available.

Geo-based real-time systems allows drivers to know where and when there is a need of service, and passengers get service at the place and time they require.

Many question how Uber can offer cheaper services than traditional. Simply, it makes more efficient allocation of resources. Drivers of services like Uber do not sit around parks and in front of malls, spending hours on end at times, expecting a fare to appear.

With notes from

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