Google, which started out as little more than this oddly-named search engine many years ago, has morphed into a platform on which the entire world now communicates, does business, and shares cat videos. Aside from the cat videos, the enormity of Google’s influence on the world is so massive, it’s nearly impossible to comprehend. At least not without an abacus and some hallucinogens.

Sure, plenty of people still criticize Google for any number of things, but the truth is, it continues to serve as an extremely valuable service for every person on this planet. Even those who are not directly connected to the Internet still benefit immensely from Google’s presence.

Now while there were plenty of other search engine options running the show when Google first hit the scene, Google ultimately came out on top because it built a better mousetrap. It’s that simple. This is how it should be. And because most politicians at that time were completely clueless as to the impact the Internet would ultimately have on the world, most didn’t have a chance to bury it in red tape and horse heads before it had a chance to bloom into the beautiful flower it has become.

Unfortunately, the same can’t be said for Uber.

The Proverbial Middle Finger

I love Uber.

Seriously. I love it so much I want to buy it flowers and tell it how pretty it is.

Uber has been the long-awaited alternative to the taxicab industry that has screwed me over time and time again. I’m not saying every experience I’ve had in a taxicab has been bad. In fact, one of my best experiences with a hired car was in 1990 with a Rastafarian cab driver in Manhattan who knew I didn’t have enough cash to pay for the full fare, but drove me to my hotel anyway.

But for the most part, I often find conventional taxicabs to be dirty, smelly and driven by folks who only bother to stop because I’m the furthest thing from an intimidating figure, and I’m not black. It just seems like they always act put out by the fact that they have to drive me somewhere.

You won’t get that with Uber though.

Every single trip I’ve ever taken with Uber has been top notch.

The cars are always clean (or cleaner than a typical cab), the drivers are always friendly, and I’ve never had to wait for more than five minutes for an Uber driver to arrive.

Of course, to be perfectly honest, I also love Uber because it’s giving the proverbial middle finger to all those folks who believe that in order to be a driver you must jump through a thousand government hoops and pay hundreds, if not thousands of dollars in fees – just for the privilege. And I know I’m not alone.

There’s another reason I love Uber, too …

Management is thinking big. I mean “Google-Big.”

Uber Robots?

Yesterday afternoon I learned that Uber is opening up a robotics research facility to build self-driving cars.

According to Techcrunch …

Uber is hiring more than fifty senior scientists from Carnegie Mellon as well as from the National Robotics Engineering Center, a CMU-affiliated research entity. Carnegie Mellon, home of the Mars Rover and other high-profile robotics projects, declined to comment at this time, as did scientists mentioned by our source. Uber has “cleaned out” the Robotics Institute, said the source.

And here’s another very interesting section from that article …

In a related story, Bloomberg Business is reporting that Google is looking into creating an on-demand car service of its own, which is very interesting considering Uber’s interest in automated vehicles. It also raises questions about Google’s David Drummond maintaining a spot on Uber’s board. Google has integrated Uber into its Google Maps products and has taken an investment in Uber via its Google Ventures arm.

I love it!

Of course, self-driving cars are still a few years off (and that’s being generous). But Uber’s plenty busy tinkering with other adventures, like delivery services for pretty much anything. Food, medicine, clothes. I heard someone was talking about hiring an Uber driver to take his dog to the vet and to pick up his dry cleaning. Is Uber going to turn into a personal assistant service? It would certainly make sense, and would probably be a lot cheaper than hiring a full-time assistant.

Meanwhile, however, politicians from both sides of the aisle are trying to screw with Uber’s mojo. In fact, just last week, the city of Annapolis began a new initiative to fine Uber drivers if they didn’t have a valid taxicab driver’s license.

Hey man, that’s no way to treat an innovative company that could do so many great things!

Think of the elderly woman who needs a ride to the airport, and has been stood up on more than one occasion by a cab driver. She now uses Uber for rides to the airport, as well as rides to the grocery store.

Think of that drunk at the bar who needs a ride home because he’s too intoxicated to drive home. He could wait around for who knows how long for a cab driver to show up, or the bartender can get an Uber driver over there in 5 minutes.

Think about the single mom who can’t afford a car, so she relies on taxicabs to get to work. She now saves a fortune by using Uber, and never again does she have to worry about being late and jeopardizing her job.

But who cares about them, right? As long as the city gets its cut, just like it does with the taxicab industry.

I tell ya, that’s a hell of a way to treat a company that provides valuable services for the public, as well as jobs for the unemployed. It’s a shame Uber has to even waste time fighting these bullies. That time could be used for better things, like figuring out new services Uber could offer. After all, right now Uber is just a service that helps connect drivers with people who need rides. But just like Google, they could end up being much, much more.

Who knows, maybe Uber could one day send rockets to Mars or build high-speed travel systems using massive evacuated tubes. Oh wait, that’s Elon Musk. But you get my point.

Uber is well capitalized, it has an excellent product that consumers absolutely love, and apparently it’s been making out with Google. If it were a public company, I’d mount it like a lonely wildebeest. But until then, I’ll settle for paying Uber drivers for their superior service. Because in the case of hiring drivers, Uber has built the better mousetrap. And for that reason, they should be rewarded – not penalized!