Taxi dispute gets physical in France with attack on Uber car

During a day of protests by taxi drivers in Paris, an Uber car carrying a technology executive was left with slashed tires and broken windows.

This photo from Uber passenger and Eventbrite CTO Renaud Visage shows the tire that was slashed in his Uber car on January 13 during a taxi protest outside Paris.
This photo from Uber passenger and Eventbrite CTO Renaud Visage shows the tire that was slashed in his Uber car on January 13 during a taxi protest outside Paris. Renaud Visage
Five by Five co-founder Kat Borlongan
Five by Five co-founder Kat Borlongan Five by Five

PARIS -- The idea behind the Uber car service -- use a smartphone app to easily summon a car, inform the driver about your destination, and pay -- got its start in Paris. But resistance in the French capital turned ugly Monday when an attack left an Uber car with slashed tires and a broken window.

"Got attacked in an Uber by cab drivers on strike near Paris airport: smashed windows, flat tires, vandalized vehicle, and bleeding hands," tweeted Kat Borlongan, co-founder of Five by Five, a firm specializing in the idea of open data.

"Attackers tried to get in the car, but our brave Uber driver maneuvered us to safety, changed the tire on the freeway, and got us home," she said. "We're fine. Grateful that our Uber driver was cool-headed and that the doors were locked," she added.

Eventbrite Chief Technology Officer Renaud Visage also was in the car, French tech blog Rude Baguette reported. Visage confirmed to CNET that he was in the car, traveling with Borlongan after a flight from Manila, Philippines, to Paris. (You can read Visage's account of the attack , too.)

Also on Monday, Uber rival Allocab reported an attack. Allocab Marketing Manager Christophe Amalric said in a tweet that a driver in the company's network had been assaulted and that the car was damaged.

Five by Five co-founder Kat Borlongan tweeted about an attack on the Uber car she was riding in.
Five by Five co-founder Kat Borlongan tweeted about an attack on the Uber car she was riding in. screenshot by Stephen Shankland/CNET

The taxi strike, involving a road-clogging drive from Paris' two major airports to central Paris, is protesting "VTC" (voiture de tourisme avec chauffeur) services such as Uber, LeCab, SnapCar, and AlloCab -- and a tax increase. The protest was contentious, involving pepper spray and thrown eggs, according to Le Parisien's account, but apparently some conflicts are between taxi drivers who are striking and those who are trying to work.

Traditional taxi businesses have often been hostile toward Uber and similar rivals, and many cities are also imposing obstacles. In France, the resistance took the form of a rule starting January 1 that requires a minimum 15-minute wait before an Uber-like service can actually pick up a passenger.

Uber CEO Travis Kalanick at LeWeb 2013
Uber CEO Travis Kalanick at LeWeb 2013 Stephen Shankland/CNET

Uber fights back by rallying its customer base , said Chief Executive Travis Kalanick in a December appearance at the LeWeb conference here.

Allocab is fighting the 15-minute wait rule with an appeal, FrenchWeb.fr reported, and it also has launched a Twitter campaign against the VTC rule.

France has a strong reputation for protecting its workers -- something that established businesses and startups don't like. Employees and union leaders held executives captive in labor negotiations involving a Goodyear tire plant early this year, and venture capitalists tussled with a French minister at LeWeb over regulatory difficulties.

Updated at 3:30 a.m. PT and 5:21 a.m. PT to add information about an alleged Allocab attack and to confirm that Renaud Visage was in the Uber car with Kat Borlongan.

A January 13 attack on this Uber car shattered a rear window. Passengers Renaud Visage and Kat Borlongan said they their hands on the resulting shards of glass.
A January 13 attack on this Uber car shattered a rear window. Passengers Renaud Visage and Kat Borlongan said they their hands on the resulting shards of glass. Renaud Visage
About the author

Stephen Shankland has been a reporter at CNET since 1998 and covers browsers, Web development, digital photography and new technology. In the past he has been CNET's beat reporter for Google, Yahoo, Linux, open-source software, servers and supercomputers. He has a soft spot in his heart for standards groups and I/O interfaces.

 

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