EDITORIAL | Probe how to handle hi-tech advances

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The Nelson Mandela Bay municipality wants to cap the number of metered cabs operating in the city in a move which will likely hit the Uber and Taxify services the hardest.
We reported on Monday that the city wants a two-year moratorium on approvals, as well as to investigate the emergence of e-hailing services, to avoid a looming oversupply in the metered taxi industry.
Given the gloomy economy and increasing desperation for jobs, it is no surprise the municipality is being bombarded by hundreds of new applications for operating licences.
Couple that with the growing demand for services such as Uber by consumers and the spike is easy to comprehend.
Uber has become hugely popular in SA, and in Port Elizabeth, in the same way customers globally have embraced the service because of its convenience and affordability, while also perceiving it as safer than regular metered taxis.
At the same time it is easy to understand frustrations on the part of the formalised metered taxi industry, who see their slice of the pie shrinking by the day. In SA Uber has also bumped heads with the minibus taxi industry.
There is no easy path to a happier middle ground. Major cities around the globe have had to seek ways to regulate the industry so all parties are fairly accommodated.
Besides capping the number of licences for metered taxis at 513 as a temporary measure, our municipality proposes a full investigation into the industry.
Such an investigation must be welcomed. However, the expected two years or more it will take is too long to finalise such a probe in the constantly evolving technological space in which the likes of Uber operate. E-hailing services go far beyond mere transportation. As the sharing economy continues to gain traction, similar platforms such as AirBnB in the accommodation sector will keep coming to the fore.
This city should see debate around possible regulation as an opportunity to reflect on how we will respond to even greater technological advances in the future.

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