In what appeared to be a response to the launch of a driver-less service by Uber in Pittsburgh, two aldermen in Chicago proposed an ordinance in the windy city to ban such self-driving vehicles.
Ed Burke, one of the aldermen, said that since no technology is 100 percent safe, he would not like to see “The streets of Chicago used as an experiment that will no doubt come with its share of risks.”
The ride-sharing taxi service, Uber, initiated a pilot program in which the general public in Pittsburgh could use self-driving vehicles as an alternative to the traditional driver-operated cars. The driver-less cars all had drivers as back-up if anything indeed went wrong.
The proposal bans the operation of autonomous vehicles on any road, with a $500 fine for violations of the ordinance.
A hearing date for the proposal has yet to be scheduled, but the ordinance would first have to make its way through the finance and transportation committee of the Chicago city council.
Uber, the convenient app that allows customers to call a cab directly from their smart phones, has been competing with Chicago’s regular taxi companies for a while, but in what some might say is an unfair way. Currently Uber drivers are not allowed to operate to and from the city’s two major airports, O’Hare and Midway; nor can they take people to or from the McCormick Place convention center.
Chicago’s Mayor Rahm Emanuel has proposed a leveling of the playing field by giving Uber access to those three strategic locales, incensing the conventional taxi drivers who believe (and probably rightly) that such a move would bite off a huge chunk of their already diminished business.
On the whole Chicagoans would like to see Uber flourish, creating more completion which they believe will lower taxi prices and improve service, but the revelation that the mayor’s brother Ari is an investor in Uber did not help Uber’s case. Therefore an intense ad campaign has ensued to further persuade the public to get on board with Uber. The Uber ads are hitting the taxi industry where it hurts:
“You never know. Will a taxi show up in your neighborhood? Will an empty cab pass you by? That’s the reality with taxis. But now you have a choice. With just the touch of a button, Uber will show up anywhere you are,” explains the ad.
Chicago’s City Council will most likely be voting on this issue next week. The Aldermen will need to choose between what Uber says will be an additional $20 million per year into the city’s coffers from fees and surcharges; or to support traditional taxi cabs and their hold on the city’s taxi transportation industry.