We've written plenty of stories about ridiculous (and ridiculously slow to adapt) government policies that simply don't keep up with the times, which then hinder new, innovative and disruptive services. One company that seems to be running into such things all the time is Uber, who is taking on local state and city regulations around the country as it tries to offer its innovative (and quite useful) transportation service in various metropolitan areas. You may remember the big fight in DC
about some regulations that would have hindered Uber by forcing it to charge high prices. Up in Boston, things are even more bizarre. The company has been effectively told to cease and desist from offering its service
. This has happened elsewhere, due to various silly regulations regarding cab and livery services, but in Massachusetts they seem to do everything in an especially screwed up manner and this is no exception.
The reason Uber can no longer serve the Boston region: Because they were making use of this crazy newfangled technology called "GPS" to measure the distances that cars traveled for the purpose of billing users
It seems that the Massachusetts Division of Standards, and its laws covering "weights and measures," is so out of date that it has not been updated to recognize GPS as an appropriate "weight and measure" system for distance. As if to prove just how incredibly out of touch these folks are, in the official letter ordering Uber to stop service, they repeatedly refer to the iPhone as an "I phone." They also refer to the Global Positioning System
as the Global Positioning Services
. These are the people in charge of killing off innovation. Incredible.
Basically, the state had someone sign up for Uber, take a ride in the car as a "sting" (one of the people in the car's job title is -- and I'm not joking -- the "Sealer of Weights & Measures") and then cite the driver after seeing that he (*gasp*!) used a GPS device on his phone to measure the distance traveled. When Uber pointed out that GPS has been around and widely used for decades, the Massachusetts Division of Standards argued that may well be... but since GPS is not for commercial purposes they can't accept it. Seriously.
Global Positioning Services (GPS ) technology is not an issue as it is and has been widely used in non-commercial applications for a number of years. However, GPS has not been used in commercial applications for assessing transportation charges until Uber Technologies, Inc. introduced its use for this purpose. The major problem at this time is the fact that there are no established measurement standards for its current application and use in determining transportation costs similar to that of approved measurement systems for taximeters and odometers. Massachusetts law does not sanction unapproved devices for use in commercial transactions.
The idea that GPS isn't used in commercial applications is silly. GPS has been widely used by the military for decades and has been used in commercial applications for quite some time as well. It's beyond silly to think that because some clueless "Sealer of Weights and Measures" is still focused on last century's technology that GPS is not a viable (or even common) technology for this purpose. This seems like a clear case of a totally out of date bureaucracy actively hindering innovation for no reason other than general luddism.