Perhaps no segment of the travel industry has been as dramatically altered as ground transportation. The disruptive force of the sharing economy has turned ground transportation on its head, catching many taxi, limousine and rental car companies struggling to keep up with the new services offered to commuters and business travelers alike.
Traditional ground transportation companies, however, cite a lack of oversight and duty of care to argue that shared car services need greater scrutiny and regulation. These issues came to the forefront during a Center Stage panel at GBTA Convention 2016, when CNN’s fiery Richard Quest moderated a discussion between David Baga, Chief Business Officer of Lyft, and Scott Solombrino, CEO of Dav El/Boston Coach Chauffeured Transportation Network.
Mr. Solombrino expressed the views of traditional ground transportation companies that feel as though ride-sharing companies do not play by the same rules, are poorly regulated and do not have proper duty of care guidelines in place – particularly with background checks and drug tests for their drivers.
Mr. Baga emphasized the sharing economy’s protocols for transparency and safety while stressing that traditional car services and car sharing services are different industries with different purposes. “We are a different industry and consumers are voting with their mobile phones,” said Baga. “There will always be a place for a chauffeured car experience. That will never change.”
What is changing, however, is how business travelers utilize both traditional and ride-sharing services. Recent GBTA data shows 44 percent of business travelers now use ride-sharing apps. Mr. Solombrino noted that traditional transportation companies are not as resistant to ride-sharing services as people would believe. “I think David’s company has been a great disruptive force. We are rolling out our own app that unifies thousands of chauffeured car services that do not jeopardize safety or duty of care.”
Duty of care, fair wages for drivers and safety based on background checks seem to be where the traditional ground transportation companies make their strongest arguments. Ride-sharing services, on the other hand, point to their high demand and successful business model to make the argument that travelers have made their decision.
Despite the chasm that currently appears to exist between traditional car services and ride-sharing services, when Richard Quest polled the audience on whether the two types of services will ever merge, the majority thought that they would. “Congratulations, you two will merge in the next five years,” the moderator said. “Maybe not your two companies, specifically, but these two industries will become unified.”