The international trade group labeled Uber a "rogue" service "operating outside of the public's best interests. ... Such apps are a danger to public safety and operate in violation of community standards for taxi and limousine transportation in terms of passenger safety, access, nondiscrimination and regulated fares."

In fact, LaGasse said, one only has to look at the fine print that accompanies signing up for the app to see that Uber is out for itself.

The terms and conditions on Uber's website state that by signing up for the service, the customer waives all liability claims against Uber. "By using the application and the service, you may be exposed to transportation that is potentially dangerous, offensive, harmful to minors, unsafe or otherwise objectionable," the terms state.

"Uber wants a total open market. I understand that," LaGasse said. "We used to have that, and it doesn't work. The public wants rules. They want to feel safe."

In November, a lawyer filed a class-action suit on behalf of San Francisco taxi drivers, alleging that the for-hire service does not have a city license. At the same time, the California Public Utilities Commission sent citations threatening to shut down or fine not just Uber but two other app-based services, SideCar and Lyft.

In September, the New York City Taxi and Limousine Commission put a roadblock in the way of Uber's attempt to launch a cab service, saying it had not approved the use of apps for cab hailing or payment.

But recognition is coming. In December, Washington officials created a regulatory category to accommodate services such as Uber. After ordering Uber off the road last summer, Massachusetts officials reversed course. Chicago officials are looking for a way to accommodate Uber and the taxi and limo industry.

Holt said times are changing and that established companies and government agencies will have to adapt to what the public wants.

"These regulations were created before there was an iPhone, before GPS," Holt said. "When something new and different comes along, the natural reaction is anxiety. ... But demand for this service is there. Our customers are speaking out and we're growing."

candy.thomson@baltsun.com