Dear President Hollande,
I would like to offer a suggestion. I think you should legalize Uber POP and all the competing services such as Lyft in France.
Uber POP drivers want to work and make money. They don’t have much. They deserve to be protected and helped as much as taxi drivers as French citizens who want to work hard to make a living or additional revenue for their family. Here in San Francisco where I live I only take Uber X, the equivalent of Uber POP. The experience is just better than cabs for generally 30 to 50% less. Last time I took a cab in Paris my bill was 12 euros and I only had a 20 euro note in my wallet. The driver told me he did not have any change hoping I would leave him an 8 euro tip. As I explained I would not he told me as a customer it was my responsibility to carry change and he would not take credit cards either. I would rather give my money to a driver who is nice, doesn’t try to screw me and is happy to get work.
The same day as your Minister Emmanuel Macron promotes “French Tech” abroad and makes it easy for foreigners to launch their startup in France with an entrepreneur visa, you arrest the Uber managers in France and detain them over “illicit low cost taxi operation”. What a great timing. It’s amazing that finally some members of your Government want to promote technology entrepreneurship, I have been a fan of that initiative and tried to support it. When you arrest those two startup managers you ridicule France everywhere and especially in Silicon Valley. You protect the old taxi lobbies against the young entrepreneurs and dedicated Uber drivers so happy to work. Sure, Uber has had legal issues in many other Countries and even in the US, France isn’t an exception trying to shut them down. If you had looked at what happened each time authorities tried to shut it down you would have expected what occured in France last week: you only made Uber more popular and stronger, Uber became one the most downloaded mobile applications in France thanks to all the free publicity you gave them. That movie has already played elsewhere a long time ago.
Google self driving cars are already appearing on the roads in California. Soon software will make those cars so secure and reliable they will come pick us up on their own and drive us anywhere. After dropping us they will pick up another customer and always be busy. There will be less cars because we will not need them anymore, most of today’s cars are idle all day long. There will be less traffic and parking issues in Paris, if at all. There will be less polluted air over the French Capital. This will all be good news. Will you protect the taxi drivers and lobbies burning self-driving cars when that happens? Will you make self-driving cars illegal in France not because they will be more secure but because the taxi monopoly will be in jeopardy?
Sure I have compassion for taxi drivers who invested so much of their lives to do what they do and sometimes bought expensive licenses so they can work. Think of it as vinyl records and plastic CDs that disappeared with illegal mp3s. Taxi drivers will just disappear one day as cashiers at highway and bridge tolls are being replaced by credit card machines. It’s sad, I agree, and I’m sorry to see jobs replaced by technology but hopefully they can retrain themselves and do something more interesting. Napster was illegal then replaced by iTunes and Spotify which are now legal and growing. Do you want to kill Napster or focus already on the next real opportunity which is to legalize the equivalent of iTunes and Spotify and let them grow? This is what the market wants, there is no law you can write that can go against this.
Make Uber and Lyft legal and start collecting tax on that new flexible work that customers and workers want. Prepare the Future instead of trying to protect the past that cannot be saved. Make France an example worldwide in embracing the millions of jobs created by the Internet economy. Make me proud of being French instead of detaining fellow startup entrepreneurs. I cannot wait and I am happy to help.