The taxi drivers’ new slogans against Uber have “surprised” him, but “their anger is for no reason”. He is not asking for the liberalization of the licensing market, but “an modernization of the law on transport, because today he does not consider the impact of new technologies”. And of Draghi’s speech to the Senate, which has reinforced the transport competition reform, indicating it as one of the cornerstones for a new government action, he especially appreciated the possibility “that there is a strong executive, capable of having the right push to make necessary reforms “.
Lorenzo Pireddu is the head of Uber Italy. Born in 1983, he took over the leadership of the Italian division of the Californian giant in 2019 as gereral manager. The appointment of him is part of a radical change that Uber has decided on a global level to put behind the years of the management of Travis Kalanick, who ended up in the spotlight again after the publication of the Uber files. After days of no comment, Pireddu decided to talk about Uber’s current situation in Italy with Italian Tech.
Did you expect a return of taxi drivers’ slogans and banners against your company last week?
“I don’t hide it, we are surprised. What strikes us most are the motivations. These protests are the result of a legitimate fear, linked to two things: the first is the possible disappearance of the licensing system; the second is that platforms like Uber can take over the industry entirely. We understand the fears, they are real, but one thing needs to be clarified: we have always believed that the liberalization of the sector today is not a solution. So their anger has no reason, it’s a reaction to something we never asked for. We only asked for a modernization of the 1992 law, not the overcoming of the licensing system ”.
During his speech to the Senate, the prime minister, Mario Draghi, was very explicit on the reform of competition. He asked the parties to support the government, not the street protests of taxi drivers. I guess she appreciated his words.
“What I appreciate is that there is a government that has the strength to make the necessary reforms. I hope that Parliament can find the stability that the whole country needs right now, to manage the priorities and challenges that are there for all to see ”.
Why is it so important for you to change the 1992 Transport Act?
“Simple: it was done before the web, smartphones, mobile phones were born. It forces the car rental services with driver (NCC) to return to the garage after each journey. But it makes no sense to do so if I can receive a request via the app, without it coming back in remittance. We want there to be an evolution in the sector, as there have been so many in different sectors that have public interest. Technological evolutions cannot be ignored. Following what was declared by the Minister of Infrastructures, Enrico Giovannini, the sector can evolve in such a way that there are neither winners nor losers ”.
Why taxi drivers protest (again) against Uber
by Arcangelo Rociola
Hard to think that taxi drivers don’t take it as a defeat.
“Several Italian governments reflected on the need to change that law, and long before Uber was born. Nothing has ever been done about it. But it is evident that it is a necessity that Italian politics feels regardless of Uber or other platforms. We want to have clear rules for our work, as we want taxi drivers to have their market. I repeat: neither winners, nor losers “:
Are you convinced it can happen?
“Surely. The data says so. There is a huge demand for public transport. Our internal reports say that demand has grown by 50% over the past two years. Therefore higher than in the pre Covid period. There is a huge demand and an inadequate offer to satisfy it. Everyone could work, without friction or accusations ”.
The publication of the Uber Files has added fuel to the fire of taxi drivers’ protests. Aggressive lobbying of Western governments, a muscular management of market dynamics. You are one of the faces of Uber’s new course, do you feel you can condemn those practices?
“Yes, and as a company we have already done so. Our official statements acknowledge that management made mistakes. It is useless to deny that there have been wrong behaviors. And we have no rule to condemn them. We remind you that these are files and statements relating to the period prior to 2017, therefore before the appointment of the new CEO “.
How has Uber changed?
“I have adhered to an ethical code that I respect and that deeply reflects me. Governance today calls for an independent board chairman, it’s a literally different company: 90% of Uber’s current employees were hired after 2017. I joined Uber myself after that time. As for Italy, our team has been completely renewed since 2018 “.
What is the difference between a taxi and an Uber
by Arcangelo Rociola
They could accuse you of a facade renovation.
“That the company is different also tells what we are doing. Our approach to the market has changed. Today we try to collaborate with other players in the sector. We apologized for the approach used with Uber Pop (the feature that allowed anyone to become an Uber driver, with fares lower than those of taxis). These are not just words, but also facts, as the agreement with It-Taxi demonstrates ”.
Signed in May, it provided for the integration of the platform of the consortium of Italian taxis into the Uber app. It will do?
“Sure, he’s ready. Rome will be the pilot project. By the weekend, it will also be possible to book a consortium taxi on the Uber app. To date, it has over 12,000 cars in 87 cities. It is an alliance with almost half of the taxis in Italy and it tells more than words how active we are in seeking collaboration with the sector ”.
Haven’t the street protests put the project at risk?
“No, we continued to work with It-Taxi in a decisive way. They have decided to work with us to literally build a new world. Today, most of the industry wants to change things. And we are willing to make our technology available. It is a process in which we are investing time and resources ”.