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London Black Cabs Threaten Chaos To Stop Uber 417

Posted by samzenpus
from the get-in-the-car dept.
Bruce66423 (1678196) writes in with news about a planned protest by London black-cab drivers against Uber. "London black-cab drivers are planning to cause gridlock in the city to protest against car service Uber. The Licensed Taxi Drivers Association complains that Uber's drivers are using a smartphone app to calculate fares despite it being illegal for private vehicles to be fitted with taximeters. Transport for London has declined to intervene, because it disagrees that there has been a breach of the law. LTDA now plans to force the issue by holding the action in early June. 'Transport for London not enforcing the Private Hire Vehicles Act is dangerous for Londoners,' Steve McNamara, LTDA's general secretary, told the BBC. 'I anticipate that the demonstration against TfL's handling of Uber will attract many many thousands of cabs and cause severe chaos, congestion and confusion across the metropolis.'"
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London Black Cabs Threaten Chaos To Stop Uber

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  • Buggy whips (Score:4, Insightful)

    by EmperorOfCanada (1332175) on Friday May 09, 2014 @12:30AM (#46956343)
    These are the sellers of horse feed trying to fight cars not eating oats. Quite simply the day unoccupied driverless cars become a reality this entire job description will be struck from the registry. Driver of car will be right beside shoveler of coal.

    We might not see this for a number of years, but what will make me laugh out loud will be when on the eve of driverless cars these same cabbies will inform us that, "People will feel safer and prefer a human cabbie."

    As for Uber, the key of any new regulations should not be to protect cabbies, but to protect customers. I suspect that some dark spots with Uber will show up and thus need solving. But one of those dark spots is not the providing of much needed competition in our city's streets.
  • Re:Buggy whips (Score:1, Insightful)

    by BKDotCom (542787) on Friday May 09, 2014 @01:36AM (#46956581) Homepage

    Well said.
    Likewise why are there laws protecting auto dealerships and preventing automakers from selling direct to the consumer?
    Regulations & laws should protect consumers, not a business model.

  • by Imagix (695350) on Friday May 09, 2014 @01:53AM (#46956647)
    Not really... the cabs are being artificially hamstrung by regulation that was put into place precisely because private people were doing bad things and thus government was lobbied/decided upon that regulation was required in order to protect public safety. So now there are a bunch of cabs which are following said regulations (likely at a pretty significant cost), and now this other organization is setting up a de facto cab company, but doesn't have to follow the regulation. Now... if the cab companies no longer had to follow the regulations and _still_ couldn't compete with Uber, then so be it. But as it is now you're comparing the performance of two race horses, but one of them has its legs tied together.
  • Re:Buggy whips (Score:4, Insightful)

    by EmperorOfCanada (1332175) on Friday May 09, 2014 @01:59AM (#46956661)
    The key is that if a cabbie is naughty then he can have his license pulled. At this point it seems that Uber will effectively do the same thing. But if you have been with Ebay a long time they are letting more and more big sellers get really sleazy with all kinds of little things. Maybe Uber will do this or maybe they won't.

    This is called regulatory capture when it is the government but as Ebay shows it can happen in the private sector as well. The key difference is that(in theory) we can vote on the politicians who make the rules for cabbies.
  • When it settles (Score:2, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Friday May 09, 2014 @02:01AM (#46956673)

    My problem with Uber is that they don't pay its cabdrivers when they dont have any customer. If a cab driver get sick she or he will not get paid. Right now there are two few drivers for the market but when everything settles (more Uber-like companies) most taxi drivers will not get payd work thier hours they put in. Uber will still make money since it does not cost much extra to have 1000 cars or 10000 cars. But when there are two many cars for the market workers will suffer greatly.

  • by Cederic (9623) on Friday May 09, 2014 @02:04AM (#46956681) Journal

    Yes, apparently I have. I read an article yesterday about it and this one today and that's all I've really heard about it.

    It's a stupid name, and I couldn't really give a fuck about it. It's sure as shit not ubiquitous - just two cities in the whole country? Fuck that.

    Sure, it's disrupting traditional business models, falling foul (or not) of various vehicle licensing regulations, accessed via a mobile phone application. It's still a niche product used by a few people, so don't go acting all fucking surprised that people haven't heard of it. Shit, it's not even available in the second most populous city in the UK or the largest city in Europe. Hardly fucking everywhere is it.

  • by EmperorOfCanada (1332175) on Friday May 09, 2014 @02:08AM (#46956697)
    Yup. You are one hundred percent correct. But this is not a cab problem but something fundamentally wrong with present day implementations of democracy. I can say with absolute certainty that in my area that any decisions made by government that have a large corporate or wealth family interest then the government will act to in the rich family's/corporation's interest. The only time the government acts in some form of public interest is when there is effectively no monied interest.

    Personally I think this why in the US abortion is such a big issue. It is largely an issue that has no monied interest (beyond the interest groups themselves) so politicians are off the leash on that issue. But look at the morning after pill. There was a monied interest behind that abortion related aspect so whoosh it was approved in 2 seconds. I am not saying that it is good or bad, just that normally anything involving abortion is normally full on trench warfare.

    So in this particular case it will be interesting to watch the fairly well monied Uber fighting with the zillion somewhat less monied cab companies.

    This debate is not happening because the politicians said, "Hey look the voters are pissed off with crappy and overpriced transport." They are having this debate because they were told to.

    Our interests will not be part of the equation in any way at all.
  • by Cederic (9623) on Friday May 09, 2014 @02:11AM (#46956709) Journal

    Becoming a black cab driver in London isn't as easy as buying a car, and that's for several reasons:
    - London's fucking big and fucking complicated. Having a satnav isn't necessarily enough to know where to take people, or especially how to get there efficiently
    - Black cabs are a part of London's reputation, attraction and transport infrastructure. There's an implicit level of quality and reliability that the licensing is intended to create
    - There are too many vehicles in London already, and black cabs get priority on many streets. For this reason black cab numbers are controlled
    - Taxi drivers gain personal access to individuals that may be in a vulnerable state. Solo ladies, young people, drunk people

    Does that make Uber wrong? Not necessarily. It may be cheaper, it may be easier, it may offer a broader range of potential vehicles.

    It also adds traffic to roads not designed to cater for it - the transport system in London is geared around a certain level of private traffic and a certain level of black cab activity, and Uber shifts that relationship.

    So no, customers are not property. This situation is also not as straightforward as you're trying to suggest.

  • Re:Buggy whips (Score:4, Insightful)

    by gijoel (628142) on Friday May 09, 2014 @02:16AM (#46956727)
    Dude, considering the number of times GPS units send people driving into the ocean, or down a train tunnel, I think it's going to be a while before robotic cars are going to be safer than humans.

    I really don't see how Uber are going to be protecting customers. Do they require background/criminal/driving history checks on their drivers? Do they require require vehicle inspections to determine how safe your car is? There a plethora of other requirements that I can't think of that I know have been address on other threads.
  • by mrbester (200927) on Friday May 09, 2014 @02:17AM (#46956731) Homepage

    We're not talking about satnav reliant random people with a car: Every black cab driver has to pass The Knowledge, comprising a comprehensive map of London and ability to calculate the most efficient route depending on roadworks / time of day / year *in their heads*. This takes years to master and is possibly the most difficult memory and spatial relationship exercise in the world. I doubt you could do it.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Friday May 09, 2014 @02:30AM (#46956779)

    Yes, I expect better from jcr, who is usually more insightful. The level of discourse on this site has suffered dramaticly all around. It would be nice if we could get past the memery of "buggy whips" and tired business models and get more to the point. Is regulation necessary? Is Uber essentially like a drug manufacturer, throwing caution to the wind with standard purity and best practice regulations to the possible detriment of someone's health? Or are they more like a lemonade stand, that has neglected to get their business license? Or is it more like an unnecessary restriction to only one way of doing things, such as laws requiring dealerships with showrooms for automobiles and disallowing directsales?
    More to the point of the article, if you were a cabbie, what action would you take to correct the situation? What words of conviction would you share with your fellow cabbies? Because, clearly the current situation is untenable, and the only way it can be fixed, is by discussing the things that actually matter.
    Or did you guys come on to the internet just to blow a bunch of hot air?

  • by popo (107611) on Friday May 09, 2014 @03:02AM (#46956869) Homepage

    What these drivers are asking for is a special privilege to be a superior class of citizen: To be spared any natural competition.

    And what they're doing is not protesting. It's throwing a tantrum.

  • by dave420 (699308) on Friday May 09, 2014 @03:07AM (#46956899)
    They're expensive because they're worth it. Each black cab driver has passed an extensive testing process which demonstrates their intimate knowledge of the streets of London, being able to navigate through the maze of streets, using routes depending on traffic levels, construction, detours, etc. You can climb in to the back of a black cab, drunkenly mumble your address (or as much of it as you can remember) and the black cab will whisk you home. The black cabs themselves are designed for London streets - their acceleration, turning circles, and number of people they can carry are all optimised for London. They are tightly regulated, and it works - they are demonstrably the best taxi service in the entire world. They already have competition, and it pales in comparison to the professionalism of the fleet as a whole.
  • by LarhoIm (217789) on Friday May 09, 2014 @03:18AM (#46956935)
    It is very clear that you have never set foot in a black cab in London. Not only do the drivers have to pass extensive (and expensive) training and testing, they are also vetted and held to a very high standard in order to obtain and keep their licenses. They KNOW London and how to get around, to a level which I have yet to see any GPS device/app (including Waze) compete with. Requirements Uber are completely bypassing, with the result being an unfair advantage. Black cabs already have an app, with which you can check availability (location of cabs near you on a map), book a cab (with information about the driver) and pay for the ride using any of your stored cards. It's called "Hailo" and I have used it on many occasions. Personally, I would always pick a black cab in London, over some random guy who signed up for using an app with a GPS device.
  • Re: Buggy whips (Score:5, Insightful)

    by LarhoIm (217789) on Friday May 09, 2014 @03:31AM (#46956973)
    What you, and your fellow Americans posting here, seem to forget (or perhaps you do not know?) is that with London black cabs, you already get a clean and well maintained car with a professional driver. On top of that, said driver actually knows his way around, as he had to prove this when he was given his license, and continuously have to prove it again when he is tested on a regular basis. The London black cabs are regulated and every single driver have to adhere to standards in order to keep his/her license. Fail to drive the best route somewhere? The person in the back might just be a "mystery shopper" and you could lose your license... The black cabs also have an app (Hailo) which can be used to book, track and pay for your ride using any of your stored cards. This is not a case of cabbies stomping their feet and whining, they just do not take well to Ãoeber bypassing the requirements they have to adhere to.
  • by LarhoIm (217789) on Friday May 09, 2014 @03:41AM (#46957009)
    You could not be more wrong. What they are doing is saying "we had to spend 3 years of our lives, studying and passed rigorous tests, which are repeated at regular intervals, with background checks and continuous scrutiny from "mystery shoppers", and can be kicked out of we mess up... And Uber thinks it's ok to ignore this and operate outside the framework we are forced to adhere to? Not a chance!"
  • This (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Friday May 09, 2014 @04:02AM (#46957089)

    Also, in reality, you want the taxi services to be regulated. I've been to coutries where they are not, and the taxis there range from "you will get cheated" to "you will get raped, killed, and robbed". And that's a fact. No way a foreigner can use the local taxis. You free the business completely, competition will drive the prices low (which is a good thing), but the low prices will force the drivers to cheat, steal, and rob, as the only ones making a profit will be the ones who do. And no, i'm not a taxi driver. I hate having to pay the local super high taxi fares, but on the other hand, the service is first class. They are on time when preordered, the cars are nice and clean and safe. The drivers won't rob you, beat you, cheat you, or anything. They actually know their area, they also have navigators in every car, as well as the taxi centrals help. They are not allowed to refuse a drive because they don't feel like going to a direction where they won't find anyone to come back the other way.

  • by thesandbender (911391) on Friday May 09, 2014 @04:10AM (#46957125)
    I'm a New Yorker who makes frequent use of the yellow cabs here and has had the pleasure of using London cabs.

    In NYC, it's basically the taxi's the are licensed. Any yellow cab has to have a medallion [wikipedia.org] and they are expensive... often going for $750k+ USD. Once you have the medallion you can lease/rent it to just about any hack who qualifies for a drivers license.

    In London, it's the drivers that are heavily regulated. The tests are notoriously hard and London cabbies either have or acquire neurology that is much more spatially oriented than normal [wired.com].

    The difference may be subtle to most people but it's important. When you get in a cab in NYC, you usually need to be explicit about the route that should be taken. Nefarious types will often take you through Times Square, Union Square, Canal Street or other traffic nightmares to run up the tab. London cabbies pride themselves (at least in my experience) on on knowing every last back road that will get you there that much faster.

    So I see their point. They're a group of professionals.... who act like professionals. They've put a lot of time and effort into becoming such, I'd want to protect my turf as well.
  • Re:Buggy whips (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Friday May 09, 2014 @04:22AM (#46957155)

    The main difference is that if an ebay seller screws up your order of pogs , nobody dies. If you a going to be carrying passengers, you'd better have a good driving record, a chauffeur's license and a vehicle that receives regular mandated safety inspection.

    And no, you can't trust the free market to self regulate. We've had airlines literally delay the installation of fixes to critical safety flaws because downing the jet to make the repairs cost too much time/money and hundreds have died as a result. If left entirely to the free market, the airlines would cut fleet maintenance to the absolute minimum to keeps the airplane in the sky, and if one of them falls from the sky every so often and crashes due to poor maintenance, it would still be cheaper to pay off the victims than to replace parts at the proper intervals.

    The libertarians would say the answer to this is to choose an airline with the lowest fatality rate.

  • Re: Buggy whips (Score:5, Insightful)

    by LarhoIm (217789) on Friday May 09, 2014 @04:33AM (#46957193)
    Apart from when I am a passenger, I have absolutely no connection cab drivers, not in London, not anywhere. I DO live in London and understand the concerns raised by the cabbies.
  • Re: Buggy whips (Score:2, Insightful)

    by LordLucless (582312) on Friday May 09, 2014 @04:35AM (#46957197)

    What you, and your fellow Americans posting here, seem to forget (or perhaps you do not know?) is that with London black cabs, you already get a clean and well maintained car with a professional driver. On top of that, said driver actually knows his way around, as he had to prove this when he was given his license, and continuously have to prove it again when he is tested on a regular basis.

    In that case, they've got nothing to worry about - their superior service at a competitive cost (I notice you didn't mention that - their prices are competitive, aren't they?) will result in them out-competing Uber's inferior service. Of course, their actions demonstrate that they are afraid - presumably, they're afraid that Uber will give consumers the choice to pay less, even if it means the car's a bit dirtier, and the driver a bit more ignorant. After all, the consumers can't actually be allowed any choice - it means they might not choose the right thing, designated as such by their betters.

  • Re: Buggy whips (Score:4, Insightful)

    by bradley13 (1118935) on Friday May 09, 2014 @04:37AM (#46957207) Homepage

    I don't live in London, but I have been there (and elsewhere in the UK) many times. Yes, the ubiquitous black cab is nice, and the drivers are competent. The question really is this: Should the government prohibit consumers from paying someone else for a ride?

    As long as the customer understands that they are basically hitching a ride with an unknown private person, I just don't see the problem. If I want the assurance of a black cab, I'll flag one down. If I don't care, then I don't care - it's really not much different from sticking my thumb out and hitching a ride, except I have some assurance that someone will actually stop and pick me up.

  • by benjfowler (239527) on Friday May 09, 2014 @05:08AM (#46957269)

    Free marketeers and Randroids, especially those in business are the biggest hypocrites.

    It's funny how the most ardent free marketers turn into rent-seekers when they're faced with real competition.

    I bet Ayn Rand didn't imagine that her beloved Galtian supermen are actually the real looters and parasites.

    Where's the government when you need them??

  • Re: Buggy whips (Score:4, Insightful)

    by LarhoIm (217789) on Friday May 09, 2014 @05:21AM (#46957293)

    The question really is this: Should the government prohibit consumers from paying someone else for a ride?

    If only this was the question.

    The government is regulating the market at the moment, however Uber is trying to bypass the regulations the rest of the market have to adhere to.

    Uber is doing this via providing an inferior, unregulated service, which may, or may not be competitive on price.

    Most customers will not be able to tell the difference between the route selected by an Uber driver, and the route being selected by someone who is bound by a requirement to know what is the optimal route. In the end the customers will be the ones paying the price, without even knowing they were ripped off.

    Want to book a cab via an app? Use the existing one for the licensed cabbies?
    Want to compete in this market? Compete on even terms, get fully licensed drivers to sign up to Uber and let the proof be in the pudding.

  • by LarhoIm (217789) on Friday May 09, 2014 @05:29AM (#46957313)

    seems like black cabs should be providing excellent service

    They are rated as some of the best in the world.

    if black cabs service is so much better than ubers, people will surely choose to use black cabs over uber. where's the problem?

    really, they just want to use government to stifle competition.

    They welcome competition, on fair terms. Tourists (a rather large market in London) have no way of comparing the service provided by the Uber cabs, and the licensed cabs. They have no way of knowing if the Uber driver is actually selecting the best (and cheapest) route for the journey and as Uber have no requirements for drivers to know the area they operate in, there will be plenty of times when the customers will be ripped off, without even knowing it.

  • Re:fuck beta (Score:4, Insightful)

    by thesandbender (911391) on Friday May 09, 2014 @05:48AM (#46957351)
    You're right. It's completely unfair of the government to establish any sort of regulations or expectations on private professional practice on behalf of it's citizen's. You have fun with SurgeonsRUs, PilotsUnited, etc.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Friday May 09, 2014 @07:31AM (#46957651)

    Then the London cabbies shouldn't have any reason to be concerned about competition from Uber.

  • Re:This (Score:5, Insightful)

    by wisnoskij (1206448) on Friday May 09, 2014 @07:57AM (#46957783) Homepage

    I think the problem there might be more with the local law enforcement. 99.999% of society does not undergo background tests and yet do not go around killing and raping to make a little extra on the side. What is so unique about cabbies that that they will do so, if they are not super heavily regulated?

  • by king neckbeard (1801738) on Friday May 09, 2014 @07:58AM (#46957787)
    Okay, let's say you are right (although others here seem to paint a different story). The work hard, they are the best, and they always have minty fresh breath. Why does that matter if Uber drivers can get them from point A to point B for less in about the same time (they are probably not as efficient in route planning, but having more of them means that they are more likely to be near point A)? The Luddites produced higher quality textiles than mechanical looms, but mechanical looms produced textiles that were good enough and much cheaper.
  • Re:This (Score:2, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Friday May 09, 2014 @08:06AM (#46957845)

    Why isn't everyone on craigslist cheating, raping, killing and robbing people?

    Well, there have been examples of all, and the first is in fact deplorably common. The main differences are that

    1. Taxi drivers have access to two vulnerable populations who are dependent on them and will be forced to trust (some of) them - drunk people, and tourists who don't know much about the city. Neither are in a good position to evaluate which taxi driver they can trust.
    2. When you get into a car, the driver has a lot of power over you.
    3. Fewer people live off craigslist as a business. There are higher entries to using craigslist as a business than buying a car, and if you're in a position to use craigslist as a business, you probably have many alternatives.

    Do you get how these factors make taxis different, and more dangerous to completely deregulate?

  • by Attila Dimedici (1036002) on Friday May 09, 2014 @08:51AM (#46958145)
    People keep arguing that London's black cabs are better than Uber and therefore Uber should not be allowed to compete with them. If London's black cabs are everything you say they are (and I believe you are correct), why shouldn't people be free to take the risks with Uber if they feel the lower cost is worth the risk?
    I just don't get the argument, "Option A is better, so people should not be allowed to choose Option B." I understand your argument, but if the cabbies driving the black cabs are so much better than the competition from Uber, why do they need government regulation to keep Uber out of the market?
  • by Stewie241 (1035724) on Friday May 09, 2014 @09:41AM (#46958643)

    To play the devil's advocate, it is bad for tourism and business if you don't have a taxi system that can be relied on to be safe and clean. And, from the tourism perspective, appearance of so is very important. This is most likely rooted in history, especially for a place like London, but I can see it making sense for a city like London to want to ensure that tourists can count on having a pleasant safe ride at a predictable price when taking a taxi.

    Not that an Uber ride isn't necessarily so, but without licensing and regulation, there is no way to ensure you have that consistent experience, and even if Uber sets standards, they are outside the control of the city.

    I think a little competition is good, but you still need a way to ensure that licensed, regulated taxis are still viable so that tourists and business travelers feel safe.

    As a taxi driver in London I would be pretty pissed off if I had just spent three years of my life studying to pass a test and was laying out $500 a year to run my business and had to meet rigid standards because I was abiding by the law and others were allowed to ignore those same laws.

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