In a FaceBook post Monday night Ashton Kutcher, who is an investor in Uber and other technology, weighed in on New York Mayor Bill de Blasio‘s proposed regulations to limit the ride sharing service in New York City. Kutcher doesn’t mince words when he says de Blasio is “trying to regulate a problem without providing a single solution other than putting a target on a companies back so he can keep getting political funding from another. This is the kind of corrupt shortsighted politics that is destroying innovation.”
In an op-ed that ran in the New York Daily News Sunday the mayor said:
Our responsibilities as public servants are clear: We’re here to keep people safe, make sure workers and consumers are treated fairly, and keep this city growing and competitive.
And right now, like cities across the country and around the world, we’re working to do all those things in an industry that’s changing fast: the for-hire vehicle sector being reshaped by fast-growing companies like Uber.
More than 2,000 new for-hire vehicles are being added to our streets every month, overwhelming the most congested parts of Manhattan. For perspective, that means we’re facing the addition of over 25,000 cars to our streets over the next year — the rough equivalent of two times the total number of yellow taxis in all of New York City.
While most businesses recognize the role of the city to set basic standards and look out for the broader public interest, Uber — a $40 billion corporation — is out with multi-million dollar ads trying to convince New Yorkers that it doesn’t need more oversight.
This isn’t just a New York City issue. In Uber’s home state of California, a court just recommended that the company be suspended and fined $7.3 million for failing to share data with the state, as required by law, to ensure they are not discriminating against passengers.
London is looking at capping or slowing the increase in new for-hire services to address the growing crush of traffic on its streets. Massachusetts has moved to raise standards for Uber’s workers. And Uber has tangled with regulators in jurisdictions across the country over basic insurance requirements to keep drivers and passengers protected.
When you consider what’s at stake — from ensuring workers can make a decent living, to managing the surge of more than 2,000 new cars on our streets every month, to protecting consumers from overcharges, to making sure we have more accessible vehicles for New Yorkers with disabilities — it’s our responsibility to act.
New York City’s for-hire vehicles have been regulated lightly compared to other sectors for decades because they were a relatively small part of our transportation system. That’s all changed.
The upside for riders has been more options when someone needs a ride, and that’s a very positive thing. But there are a host of challenges that come with this, and now that Uber has gone from upstart innovator to operating more cars than anyone else, we have to make sure that the rules are fair for all New Yorkers.
We want a data-driven approach, guided by detailed study, so we can develop a comprehensive, long-term strategy for a thriving, sustainable and innovative for-hire car market. And we support a short pause in the rapid increase of for-hire vehicles to make sure that the future growth of this industry lives up to the policies and principles we set out as a city.
We’ll ensure that current service remains in place — and can even grow modestly — but our goal is to ensure that our streets aren’t flooded with tens of thousands more cars before we can stand up new rules to govern the marketplace.
The principles that drive us are simple:
Protect workers. This industry is evolving so rapidly, with the number of vehicles skyrocketing even as the pool of New Yorkers who can afford to pay $10 or $20 to take a car trip is far more limited.
There’s a point at which more and more drivers will find themselves fighting over the same group of riders — something we see already with 72% of pick-ups made by high-growth companies like Uber taking place in the heavily congested Manhattan core.
According to Business Insider Uber responded with:
When your proposal to cap Uber was introduced, your administration said it was about congestion. The op-ed you wrote in the New York Daily News this weekend was about everything but congestion.
If you have new concerns, we want to discuss them, face-to-face, and invite you to do so in a live-streamed conversation so all New Yorkers can watch.
As cities in Alabama (with the exception of Mobile) continue to fight Uber and the Legislature continues to remain deadlocked in getting a bill passed I can’t help but wonder if they realize they too are taking part in the same “kind of corrupt shortsighted politics that is destroying innovation,” that Kutcher is talking about.