Talk about waving the white flag! In recent years, Uber CEO Dara Khosrowshahi has pulled back from many of founder Travis Kalanick’s more ambitious initiatives, including autonomous car development and operations in many international markets. But Thursday’s news that Uber would partner with New York’s taxi industry to make all of the city’s taxis available via the Uber app may be Khosrowshahi’s most symbolic retreat from the Kalanick era. After all, the way Kalanick saw things, as he said in a 2014 interview at a Recode conference, Uber was in a contest with “an asshole named Taxi.”
Under Kalanick, in fact, Uber sought to displace taxis by offering cheaper rides, along with unique options such as the ability to easily schedule rides with drivers whose identity riders could check. The new arrangement, which makes New York cabs available through Uber for the same price as UberX cars, will blur the distinction between taxis and Ubers. Yes, Uber already lists taxis in some markets, along with public transit options. But this arrangement more clearly abandons any pretense that Uber and taxis are in competition.