Sharing economy platforms, like Uber and Taxify, present a new opportunity. The opportunity for people with cars who can make some extra money instead of watching their favorite reality show on TV. The opportunity for people who want a cheaper and more comfortable ride on Friday night. The opportunity for city parking policy, for public transport or for air quality.
However, these opportunities are endangered by the regulation of the past millennium. This regulation in Slovak Republic recognizes only two categories of passenger transport: buses and taxis. It did not expect anything like platforms of sharing economy to emerge. And here the problems arise. Drivers of platforms are not taxi nor bus drivers. They are ordinary people with free time and cars. They have no space, time or money to meet all the bureaucratic requirements and regulations associated with obtaining taxi licenses. They are not full-time drivers – half of them drives for less than 10 hours a week and more than two-thirds of the drivers end up driving only for about half a year. You can meet teachers, retirees, students, unemployed, or start-up entrepreneurs, who need to cover their living costs by the means of being a part of such platforms.
How can Slovakia match the technologies of the 21st century with regulation, so that the opportunities will be exploited? It’s simple. It is not rocket science or a super-secured secret. Just look at what has been done by more than half of the U.S. states. They created a special category – Transportation Network Company. These include platforms like Uber or Taxify. The conditions for obtaining a license of this kind are considerably easier than for taxi drivers and can also be met by free-time drivers on platforms. This regulation was first set up by politicians in California in 2013.
Other states have used their already existing category of so called For-Hire Vehicles. This category has always had a lower level of regulation and more open entry into the market. Examples of such attitudes are New York City or the Czech Republic, where Uber drivers are classified under this category.
In Slovakia, there are currently no such options and thus the platforms operate in the vacuum. But that’s not their fault, it’s not even the fault of their passengers, or taxi drivers. It is the fault of the regulator who rests on laurels. Uber has been operating for nearly three years in Slovak Republic. This is may be not that long in the world of politicians and ministries. However, in the internet and mobile apps world, it is eternity, during which a number of launches have begun and disappeared, and existing apps have been updated 150 times, or even more.
Let’s urge politicians to wake up and make a simple decision that will help a lot of people not only in Bratislava. At the same time, we will outpace countries fighting against technological progress. Slovakia can thus make the lives of drivers and passengers easier while building a reputation as a country that is open to innovations. I should commend the Ministry of Transport, which at least started to work on a new legislation to simplify the business of passenger transport. But there is also a second player, the Ministry of the Interior, which to some extent regulates taxi drivers and as such it has to accommodate its regulations to the 21st century as well.