Uber needs help pushing back against taxi regulators. “Our opponent—the Big Taxi cartel—has used decades of political contributions and influence to restrict competition, reduce choice for consumers, and put a stranglehold on economic opportunity for its drivers,” CEO Travis Kalanick explained.
So Uber hired a “campaign manager”: David Plouffe, who ran Barack Obama’s campaign in 2008 and served as a senior presidential adviser. Too bad Mr. Plouffe didn’t discover the virtues of deregulation before leaving government.
The Obama administration’s standard reaction to technological innovation has been to block change via regulation: The Federal Aviation Administration bans commercial use of drones, the Food and Drug Administration restricts gene-testing suppliers such as 23andMe, and the Federal Communications Commission is considering massive regulation of the Internet in the name of “net neutrality.”
Federal regulators are also putting the brakes on self-driving cars, which are closely related to the Uber innovation—enabling riders to order a car service using their smartphone app. If fast-moving technology hadn’t collided with slow-moving regulators, this might have been the last summer you’d have to drive your own car.
Self-driving technology is reaching the limits of what U.S. regulators will allow. The 2014 Mercedes Benz S-Class sedan uses digital technology to be the first car most of the way to being self-driving. The S-Class combines active cruise control, automatic braking and lane-keeping technologies to offer what an industry analyst calls “70% autonomous driving.” The car steers, accelerates and brakes on its own in congested traffic up to 40 miles an hour. On the highway, it uses numerous cameras and radars to remain centered in its lane at a safe distance from the car ahead, up to 120 miles an hour.