Entrepreneur

Uber Wars: New documentary highlights the regulatory battle in D.C. (video)

Above: Ride-sharing application Uber is plotting a global expansion -- but it won't be easy!

Image Credit: Uber

Jim Graham (D-Ward 1), a city councilman from Washington D.C., can barely contain his contempt for Uber chief executive Travis Kalanick.

“Where are you from, by the way?” asks Graham in September 2012. “L.A.,” Kalanick immediately responds.”

“Well perhaps you can do that in Los Angeles, but this is the district of Columbia,” Graham retorts.

Uber CEO Travis Kalanick

Above: Uber CEO Travis Kalanick

This testy exchange is the opening scene of a new documentary short, dubbed Uber Wars: How DC Tried to Kill a Great New Ride Technology, produced by D.C. residents Rob Montz and William Beutler, and distributed online by Reason TV.

Indeed, the protracted regulatory battle faced by Uber, and its competitors Lyft and Sidecar, is the stuff of good television.

Kalanick has said in recent media interviews that he’s losing sleep, particularly in the weeks when he’ll face two or three regulatory flare-ups.

As you might expert, the nation’s capital is one of the most contested battlegrounds.

These companies offer a free ride-sharing application, which lets people order a car in a matter of minutes. This movement, which is funded by Silicon Valley venture firms, is a huge threat to taxi companies.

D.C. resident William Beutler co-produced the documentary

Above: D.C. resident William Beutler co-produced the documentary

City regulators are still unsure about whether Uber and its ilk are a public safety risk, despite the overwhelming grassroots support from residents.

Beutler told me he produced the documentary without Uber’s seal of approval. It’s not a glowing review of Uber — a think-tank type claims toward the end of the film (skip to 8:20) that the company worked to disable its competitors in D.C., namely Sidecar.

“We found that the local regulators weren’t necessarily as villainous as we might have expected, and Uber wasn’t so pure,” said Beutler. The film features a roster of experts, including local journalists, managers of taxi companies, and city council-members.

Beutler hopes the film will raise awareness about ride-sharing, and herald yet more innovation in the transportation sector.

“As residents who don’t own a car in Washington D.C, we thought it was a fascinating topic,” said Beutler in a phone interview. “Uber has really changed the market.”

Check out the Uber Wars documentary below, and let us know what you think:

 

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