UBER: Disruptive taxi app firm stripped of licence by London’s TfL

London – VIJAY SHAH via SARAH BUTLER, GWYN TOPHAM and The Guardian

San Francisco-based taxi app company Uber has had its application to renew its public carriage licence turned down by Transport for London (TfL) after its business practices and safety record were called into question by critics, the Guardian newspaper reported today.

The company, founded by Travis Kalanick in 2010, operates in 400 cities around the world and is well known for its cheap prices, its large pool of contracted drivers and its ease of use. But the company has come under fire in London its ‘lack of corporate responsibility’, and its disruptive effect on the city’s indigenous ‘black cab’ licensed minicab trade. Uber has been accused of not properly vetting its drivers’ criminal records and for not doing enough to investigate alleged sexual assaults by contracted taxi drivers.

The move by TfL has created a massive shock in London, with many customers and drivers of Uber condemning the decision not to renew the firm’s licence, which enables it to operate on the city’s streets. Black cab drivers and motoring safety groups however, have expressed support for the decision, blaming Uber for increasing traffic and stealing trade from established cab firms.

 

TfL is said to have rejected Uber’s licence renewal on the basis that it is not a “fit and proper” private car hire operator, according to the Guardian newspaper. The current Uber licence will expire on the 30th of September and the company’s UK arm plans to launch an appeal against TfL’s decision.  Uber works with 40,000 drivers and 3.5 million users, called ‘riders’ in London alone.

Uber’s chief executive, Dara Khosrowshahi in a message to the app’s staff issued yesterday said: “The truth is that there is a high cost to a bad reputation,” he wrote. “It really matters what people think of us, especially in a global business like ours.

“It’s critical that we act with integrity in everything we do, and learn how to be a better partner to every city we operate in. That doesn’t mean abandoning our principles – we will vigorously appeal TfL’s decision – but rather building trust through our actions and our behaviour. In doing so, we will show that Uber is not just a really great product, but a really great company that is meaningfully contributing to society, beyond its business and its bottom line.”

TfL was supported by London’s city Mayor, Sadiq Khan, employment rights campaigners and a federation of black cab firms. Uber has in the past been slated for not giving its drivers full employment status and not paying them a living wage, according to its critics. Uber’s customers and drivers have expressed dismay, along with Trade Minister  Greg Hands.

TfL said it had rejected the company’s application to renew its licence because “Uber’s approach and conduct demonstrate a lack of corporate responsibility” in relation to reporting serious criminal offences, obtaining medical certificates and driver background checks. TfL has also accused Uber of employing special cloaking software to make it difficult for authorities to access the app and records for such purposes as law enforcement.

Khan said he fully supported TfL’s decision, saying all companies needed to “play by the rules”.

He said: “I want London to be at the forefront of innovation and new technology and to be a natural home for exciting new companies that help Londoners by providing a better and more affordable service.

“However, all companies in London must play by the rules and adhere to the high standards we expect – particularly when it comes to the safety of customers.”

But Hands, who is also minister for London, said: “At the flick of a pen Sadiq Khan is threatening to put 40,000 people out of work and leave 3.5 million users of Uber stranded.

“Uber must address safety concerns and it is important there is a level playing field across the private hire market.

“But a blanket ban will cause massive inconvenience to millions of Londoners, all while showing that the Mayor of London is closed to business and innovation.”

Sam Gyimah, a Conservative justice minister and MP (Member of Parliament) for the East Surrey political constituency, said it was “possible to have effective regulation of Uber without penalising the consumers who benefit from more choice and lower prices”.

Steve McNamara, general secretary of the Licensed Taxi Drivers’ Association, which represents London’s black cab drivers, said the mayor had made the right decision.

“Since it first came on to our streets Uber has broken the law, exploited its drivers and refused to take responsibility for the safety of passengers. This immoral company has no place on London’s streets,” he said.

Uber said in a statement the decision would “show the world that, far from being open, London is closed to innovative companies”.

“3.5 million Londoners who use our app, and more than 40,000 licensed drivers who rely on Uber to make a living, will be astounded by this decision,” the company added.

Uber’s maverick business model have caused it to get in hot water in numerous world cities. There were protests against the app in places as far apart as Rio de Janeiro and Paris. Last year, its founder and CEO, Travis Kalanick was forced to step down after allegations of sexual harassment at the company’s headquarters and a fiery exchange with one of his company’s drivers, caught on camera. Many observers say that the decision by TfL could deal a fatal blow to Uber.

SOURCES:

Facebook, Facebook Inc. https://www.facebook.com/

“Uber stripped of London licence due to lack of corporate responsibility” – Sarah Butler and Gwyn Topham, The Guardian/Guardian News and Media Limited (23 September 2017) https://www.theguardian.com/technology/2017/sep/22/uber-licence-transport-for-london-tfl

IMAGE CREDIT:

“Uber app” – freestocks.org, Flickr (12 January 2016) https://www.flickr.com/photos/freestocks/23707913564

 

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THE FUTURE OF PRIVATE HIRE: Online UK wide taxi bookings with guaranteed licensed drivers/operators

with James Sorolla (contributor)

Today’s contributor, James, is a representative for the British-based online solutions enterprise, TriggerAppy Ltd, which focuses on the private hire sector.

TriggerAppy produces software in cooperation with some of the country’s largest taxi hire firms and private hire despatch software providers. One partnership with Diplomat http://www.diplomat.co.uk/ saw the two technology companies combine TriggerAppy’s online advanced web booking capability with Diploma’s software to provide a seamless experience for the passenger as well as create decent cost savings for the companies involved. The software helps reassure passengers that the cabs they order will be fully-licensed, and therefore far safer to hail and ride, which is especially important for lone travellers catching cabs at off-peak times. Individual cab firms can also maintain their own booking sites where they can acquire passengers at the click of a button, meaning all-round and effortless convenience for both parties.

(c) TriggerAppy Ltd.

Following on from the software, TriggerAppy plans to condense its product into a handy mobile phone app, that will help users order cabs safely and at their own convenience.

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Ever wondered just how safe and above board the taxi operators are that you use when you visit any number of the online taxi booking sites?  And wouldn’t it be great to have a single service online that could cover your journey wherever you happen to be or need to get to, anywhere in the UK?  You might be fed up with your regular local companies or visiting somewhere new and wondering how you will get about… These are the key issues bubbling to the surface as the world of private hire finally catches up with technology.

People are starting to see the applications that individual taxi and minicab companies are offering for what they are…purely local “tools”, and in reality no-one really wants to clog up their mobile, tablet or pc with an app for each town or city.  So the winners in this race will be the truly national applications that keep things simple and offer the extensive service people are looking for.

English: UK Minicab - note name and phone numb...
English: UK Minicab – note name and phone number on the side of the Ford Mondeo (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

The other essential element that will define the successful applications of the future in this arena is the safety of passengers, and how the applications seeking their business ensure that every journey booked via the application is fulfilled by a fully vetted and licensed driver or operator.  This particular issue is a hot topic with the regulators who can see the popularity of online and mobile applications taking off and are keen to ensure that every technology provider meets the grade.  It’s fair to say this is a bigger issue in some developing countries, but it’s worth noting that even in the UK there are certainly some less than trustworthy ventures in the app marketplace.  The hope is that the regulator will pick up on these instances and enforce the necessary changes, and soon.

These concerns aside, the advantages to booking online or on the go are clear, and some of the applications out there certainly offer some great features.  Those coupling this functionality with UK wide service levels are going to prove invaluable.

Some of the most advanced applications on the market ensure that all the journeys are seamlessly sent through to and handled by the operators.  No need for any more calling for a cab or rummaging around for a number to call.  Getting a no obligation quote and then guaranteeing a great price and service.  Even after your car is booked (all confirmed online) you can still send notes and receive further updates online from the taxi companies booked.  Online booking engines offer lots of great features for users to make rebooking fast and simple – the secure services let you save addresses, contact names, favourite journeys and much more.

One such online application is http://www.taxiforce.co.uk/ It’s a partnership with a leading Taxi and Private Hire Despatch Software provider http://www.diplomat.co.uk/  Thousands of the licensed private hire operators using their software and the “lite” version http://www.navlite.co.uk/ are seamlessly passed TaxiForce bookings.

IMAGE CREDITS:
TAXIFORCE, TriggerAppy Ltd. http://www.taxiforce.co.uk/
“File:Minicab.JPG” –  TerriersFan, Wikimedia Commons (13 September 2006) http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Minicab.JPG
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LONDON CABS: The MiniCabster Infographic

The Half-Eaten Mind has been based in London all its life. The author too has been based in the Greater London area all his life. He was born in Barking, which was once part of the nearby county of Essex until the Local Government Act of 1965 changed the face of the city’s political landscape and heralded the creation of the new county of Greater London (The Royal Mail still includes my hometown in its Essex postal district). He is both a Londoner and an ‘Essexman’, having spent his formative years in east London, where he still lives and is currently working in the city centre.

London
London (Photo credit: @Doug88888)

As a proud Londoner, I always take an interest in the going-ons of my city, especially given that I am trained as a journalist, the newsy aspect of London life. London is home to around 8 million people and is the financial and cultural powerhouse of the United Kingdom, as well as the centre of the country’s media industry. It is fun, exciting and exhilarating. It can also be tough, hectic, and depressing. But I do love my London.

In honour of this metropolis of magnificence and madness, the Half-Eaten Mind brings you this special ‘infographic’ courtesy of The Minicabster Blog, a website bringing news on the industry behind one of London’s most memorable tourist icons, the humble taxi cab. There are estimated to be around 23,000 ‘black cabs’ (taxis) plying their trade on London’s roads, according to local paper The Evening Standard. Add to that figure the thousands of private hire vehicles that are the travelling module of choice in the suburbs and outer areas of the city. They are usually known locally as ‘minicabs’.

The interactive infographic offers a short trip through the history & developments of the London cab and aims to answer all the questions you might have ever asked about taxis, such as when the first public carriages appeared and where the industry is heading now.

(c) Minicabster Ltd.

You can view the infographic by clicking the image above. The graphic works best with Google Chrome, but will also work well with Mozilla Firefox. Mobile users and people viewing it with Safari browsers may experience issues using this current version (Feb. 2014)

It is incredibly easy to use. You only need to push down the right arrow key on your keyboard to move the car and begin your historical journey. With fun graphics and accessible language, it is ideal for all age groups.

To find out more about Minicabster, the company behind the London taxi infographic, please visit https://www.minicabster.co.uk

SOURCES:
Taxi history – an interactive infographic from Minicabster!” – Chris Linn, Minicabster/Minicabster Ltd. (31 January 2014) LINK
“London’s black cabs have many miles in them yet, says China’s Henry Ford” – Toby Green, London Evening Standard (26 February 2013) LINK
IMAGE CREDITS:
“London” – Doug Wheller, Flickr (4 December 2011) LINK
“Taxi history – an interactive infographic from Minicabster!” – Chris Linn, Minicabster/Minicabster Ltd. (31 January 2014) LINK 
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