Why has Uber stopped its free travel

The vehicle must have at least two axles and four wheels. It must have at least two doors on the right long side. The regulation on the operation of motor vehicle companies in passenger transport regulates with German thoroughness how a taxi should look. The bureaucratic work dates back to 1982 and is recognizable from a time when nobody could have guessed how the Internet would one day change the world. And currently, with the Californian company Uber, an intermediary for driving services is taking over, who simply declares all regulations for the commercial transport of people to be wasted.

Such a ride-sharing service in private cars sounds very progressive in a time of the sharing economy, where a growing number of people think that the temporary possession of things is sufficient. And ownership of it is no longer as important to them as it was to previous generations. According to Harvard economist Martin Weizman, it is well known that everyone's wealth increases when things are shared. Why shouldn't that also apply to passenger cars? Most park longer than they drive, they cost and rust. A little pocket money for the driver, that's okay, especially if the trip costs up to a third less than the trip in a regular taxi. The cab trade, which has existed since the 1990s, with concessions, taximeters and passenger transport tickets - it looks rather old in this confrontation with the ride-sharing service.

The ride-sharing service is anything but a start-up

There are good reasons to show the taxi drivers a little appreciation, even if they often do not behave the way a passenger would like them to be. Taxis are part of local public transport, they also secure a communal infrastructure like trains and buses. Taxis guarantee mobility in the city and in the country for people without their own car. The majority of trips take place for private reasons, the statistics show. This is because sick people want to see a doctor, because old people are no longer so agile and can be driven home with their purchases. Not everything is reimbursed by health insurance companies. The tariffs of the taxis may seem high, but they offer a guarantee of the expected costs.

A start-up with money from Goldman Sachs

A demand-driven system like that from Uber with higher prices in rain and snow, at trade fairs and certainly also at Oktoberfest or on New Year's Eve is the last thing that socially disadvantaged people would want. Passenger transportation is becoming a kind of gamble - and Uber always wins. Seen in this way, even the award of concessions suddenly makes economic sense again in order to guarantee a basic supply with taxis even in times of low demand.

It's not just the pricing model that is problematic at Uber. The company poses as a start-up, but is already five years old and has long been part of the establishment. This is even more true when you know that Uber is spreading to 70 cities with investor money from the investment bank Goldman Sachs. Goldman is not alone: ​​One of the investors in Uber is the Internet giant Google. The search engine company is spreading like an octopus in all sorts of business fields, and is currently reaching for the Twitch game platform.

Organizing ridesharing via the app, with Google Maps in the background, that works well. If you think Uber is great, you can join Google. At least indirectly, that's the way it is. For Google, Uber is arguably more than an investment. It could be a field test for the network giant to see how far a clearly illegal business model can be established through anarchist action. Because Uber explicitly disregards existing rules, the regulation on passenger transport in Germany is just one of them. They want to continue as before and complain through all instances. Despite initial successes in court against Uber, the Berlin taxi drivers have given up in view of the financial strength of the alleged start-up with the strong backers. The local, fragmented taxi industry will hardly be able to win the defensive battle against the well-calculated attack on the existing legal system on its own.

Authorities and politicians will have to decide whether they want Google and Uber to impose on them how to organize public transport. In doing so, you should not keep the good of Uber in mind, but the good of the general public.