Support Faircab - they're crowdfunding for a fair alternative to Uber

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The inexorable rise of the taxi-service Uber was halted a little in London last month. After the London transport authorities refused their trading license, the company have been making amends to the London mayor Sadiq Khan. They also face a UK judicial ruling against their claim that Uber drivers are just freelancers - the court has asserted they are employees, and thus by implication should have holiday and sick pay rights. 

How should these new "platform capitalists" treat the humans that they deploy, and serve? Uber has hardly enamoured itself on this agenda, proclaiming often in the past that they looked forward to self-driving cars. Yet perhaps a good "alternative" response would be to devise a service as slick and usable as Uber, yet which ensured decent standards for both Uber's workers and consumers - and which maybe also addressed the structure of ownership at the same time.

Enter Faircab, an initiative set up by the thinktank New Economics Foundation, and starting off with a crowdfunding appeal. Here's the opening blurb:

Together with trade unionists, tech partners and passengers, we are at the core of a group of socially minded people who know they can build something better than Uber – a driver-owned alternative that is just as convenient and competitive on price, but treats its passengers and drivers with respect.

The New Economics Foundation (NEF) is the UK’s people-powered think tank. We are the home for new ideas to secure real change in our economy, to enhance the quality of people’s lives and protect our environment. We’ve worked with drivers in Leeds and Bradford to explore a worker-owned platform, and are now ready to take this concept to the capital.The new service ­– which we are provisionally calling CabFair ­– will put drivers and customers firmly in control of the company through an ownership and governance structure that ensures they have strong voices to guide the enterprise’s strategy.

Imagine the possibilities: no more exorbitant fees for drivers (Uber currently takes between 20% and 25% of fares); an app that keeps ride costs low and driver wages high by redistributing profits into the wallets of drivers and riders; a business where workers have basic rights like sick pay and a pension; a service that complies with regulation to protect customers’ safety and security.

This isn’t a pipe dream ­– it’s already happening in places like Austin, Texas. After Uber was banned there, local residents set up RideAustin, a non-profit that takes no commission on fares beyond what it needs to run its business. With more than 5,000 drivers and two million rides completed, it’s a successful people-run enterprise that locals love.

The intellectual firepower behind this comes from the Platform Cooperative movement - previously blogged here - which has this aim:

[We want to make] good on the early promise of the Web to decentralize the power of apps, protocols, and websites, platform co-ops allow households with low and volatile income to benefit from the shift of labor markets to the Internet. Steering clear of the belief in one-click fixes of social problems, the model is poised to vitalize people-centered innovation by joining the rich heritage and values of co-ops with emerging Internet technologies.

Support the FairCab crowdfund here. And their promo video is below: