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United Kingdom Transportation

London Regulator Says Uber Is Operating Legally 105

An anonymous reader writes London's transportation regulator has ruled private-driver provider Uber is operating within the law. Licensed taxi drivers in London last month staged a protest urging Transport for London to find that Uber's mobile app acts as a taximeter, which is illegal for use by private-hire vehicles. "TfL said in a statement: 'In relation to the way Uber operates in London, TfL is satisfied that based upon our understanding of the relationship between the passenger and Uber London, and between Uber London and Uber UV, registered in Holland, that it is operating under the terms of the 1998 PHV(L) Act.' The decision was welcomed by Uber's general manger in the UK and Ireland Jo Bertram as a 'victory for common sense, technology, innovation — and above all, London.'"
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London Regulator Says Uber Is Operating Legally

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  • Backfire (Score:5, Interesting)

    by TWX ( 665546 ) on Friday July 04, 2014 @03:19AM (#47381973)

    However, the protest seems to have massively backfired, with Uber reporting a colossal 850 per cent rise in the number of people who had downloaded the company's app in wake of the protest.

    I wonder how much of this is attributable to the Streisand Effect. I expect that with the generic name Uber it didn't stand out as meaning anything to most non-tech consumers (or even many tech-types for that matter) but the protests made the news and made taxi service harder to come by, planting the name in consumers' minds and giving them a reason to use it.

    The smartest thing that the cabbies could have done was to step up their game as far as their service, doing as good a job as possible to show why they're professionals and deserve to be paid as such, compared to any-random-driver that Uber could deliver. Unfortunately hindsight is 20/20...

    • Re:Backfire (Score:5, Informative)

      by dave420 ( 699308 ) on Friday July 04, 2014 @05:54AM (#47382371)
      London cab drivers can't exactly step up their game without insane amounts of investment - they're the best of the best. They already spend years studying to become a taxi driver, and they already know central London and most of the rest by heart. They already know where the traffic jams are at any given time of the day, and the current best route from where they are to where they need to be. I think they're scared this Uber nonsense will take their fares away, which they have worked insanely hard to even be in a position to serve, and bring the reputation of their profession down. There's no way Uber can compete with the quality of the black cab, or even probably price (if you factor in the length of route selected by an utter professional), but until people realise that, there could very well be a horrible time for the black cab drivers.
      • London cab drivers can't exactly step up their game without insane amounts of investment - they're the best of the best.

        They can improve their level of customer service, though. Also, all that vaunted "knowledge" is still inferior to Google. Google knows all that stuff too, and it's more reliable than a cab driver.

        • by dave420 ( 699308 )

          Google doesn't know that stuff, though. Google's map data is great - don't get me wrong - but it doesn't know about the fluctuations in traffic that the cabbies do. It doesn't know about that accident that happened 30 minutes ago, that the cabby saw earlier, or that small street which is marked incorrectly on Google Maps which is navigable. It also doesn't know what "That road of Essex Road where there used to be that pub called the Red Lion or Red Dragon or something" refers to, which is something plent

          • by shilly ( 142940 )

            On the other hand, cabbies are known to sometimes be complete and utter shits, and there's virtually no comeback.

            Failing to stop for fares is a common one.
            Spouting off vile opinions.
            Driving like a twat.
            Driving people the long way round to make extra cash

            Uber doesn't eliminate all this, but it certainly does make it much more difficult for a driver to take the piss, given that the journey details are recorded, including passenger and driver details.

            Cabbies are their own worst enemy, I'm afraid.

            • by dintech ( 998802 )
              My favourite cab app at the moment is Kabbee []. You enter your start and end points and a handful of taxi companies give you automated quotes. In terms of price: Black Cab > Addison Lee > Uber > Kabbee.
              • by shilly ( 142940 )

                Black cabs can sometimes be cheaper than AddLee, whose fares depend on crossing postcode boundaries. But I agree in general with your hierarchy.

          • by phorm ( 591458 )

            It doesn't know about that accident that happened 30 minutes ago

            I'm not sure sure about this. In certain major cities I've driven (Canada mind, not the UK), my maps has been pretty good at flagging heavy-traffic areas as yellow or red. It might not know it's an accident, but it does seem to know where slowdowns are. Perhaps it's just basing data on prediction via time-of-day, or maybe they'll aggregating phone GPS/nav data and figuring out that "X devices have been stuck/slowed in this area for Y minutes".

    • I've seen a cab recently with an U-B-E-R sign in the back (Manchester UK).

      Presumably his taxi-overlords don't know anything about it :D

  • by Anonymous Coward

    I am finding this difficult to understand... How about a good old-fashioned car analogy?

    • by AHuxley ( 892839 )
      Do you want to be sitting next to a random person who is police checked and fully insured for a longer car trip?
      • Because, in London at least, that's exactly what Uber will give you. See
  • by meeotch ( 524339 ) on Friday July 04, 2014 @03:32AM (#47381999) Homepage

    ...agree with the decision or disagree. But what's the deal with every legal matter, ever, requiring the involved parties to make public statements that sound like they're on the junior high debate team?

    "The decision was welcomed by Uber's general manger as a 'victory for common sense, technology, innovation - and above all, London.'" No - the end of WWII was a victory for London. This is just one more thing Londoners can spend their money on.

    "Aereo CEO and founder Chet Kanojia said, 'We are disappointed in the outcome, but our work is not done. We will continue to fight for our consumers and fight to create innovative technologies that have a meaningful and positive impact on our world." No, you're basically a cable company. A meaningful impact would be finding a cure for Alzheimer's.

    Are canned statements like this actually effective in convincing the public that your pet project is inextricably linked to the survival of humanity itself? 'Cause to me, they just make you sound like a disingenuous prick.

    Even better: this cliche soundbite garbage seems to be the only language spoken by our elected representatives, as well. Why not hire an orchestra to play ominous music in the background, while you're at it? It saddens me to see supposed leaders and captains of industry acting like pre-teens. It speaks poorly of us as a race.

    • That kind of attitude will be the cause of our demise. Motivating statements are the fabric on which reposes the well being of London, and, by extension the Earth.

      We were at the edge of the precipice, but this is a big step forward. A three sixty degree turn that will allow us to set foot where no one has gone before.

      • by gizmod ( 931775 )

        A three sixty degree turn that will allow us to set foot where no one has gone before.

        So much for changing direction :/

        • Besides the big Woosh the statement could be read as three sixty degree turns, which would be totaled as one-hundred eighty degrees. Or a step in the opposite direction. Of course it's a little difficult to turn 180 degrees and go where no one has gone before. Still, it makes about as much sense as most marketing speak. Every time I hear a company talking about their new product being a "quantum leap" I have to laugh.
    • I give you an 8.7, your argument is logical and you made it passionately, but your posture is terrible and you didn't sell it with your body language. Improve on those points and you might qualify for the state championship!
  • I guess Uber UV is registered in the Netherlands, not Holland.
  • I think they would be happy with a level playing field...
  • the fat, racist, overpriced cabbies happy! "They come over 'ere, with their apps and technology... you can't beat the knowledge". Turns out, you can; you just need to know where you are, where you're going, and how to get there. Works fine when I'm travelling abroad; why do you suppose it should stop working in London? (North London at that; they don't like driving South of the river...too many darkies, right fat boy?)

  • Cabs (Score:5, Interesting)

    by ledow ( 319597 ) on Friday July 04, 2014 @04:00AM (#47382073) Homepage

    I avoid using cabs, despite the fact that two of my family members drive them for a living.

    Sorry, they are expensive, inflexible and provide little advantage in somewhere like London. When you do need them (Tube strikes, etc.,) they are impossible to use.

    I've spent an evening walking home from the theatre with a lady with severe knee problems trying to hail a cab. We'd had to help them them to the underground station before we found one that would stop (even when they were showing as available). We were sober, well-dressed, just stepped out of the Royal Albert Hall, had a lady in obvious pain on our shoulders, had waited 20 mins to avoid walking / crowds and in the end made it to our destination before we could hail one.

    The last time a train of mine was cancelled, I was on my way to a filming of a TV show in the afternoon. I came out of the train station 30 mins after I should have been on a train further into London, and there were four cabs waiting. All refused to take two people deeper into London because "they'd have to drive back" - it was the middle of the afternoon, so it wasn't like they wanted to get home. In the end, we ran home, got in our car, drove to the place and got there just in the nick of time.

    I just don't see the cab in the future of a city like London. We're famously rude as a nation, and cabbies are probably among the worst. They are only there for gullible tourists, from what I see. Sure, there will be exceptions, but the fact is that I've avoided cabs for 15 years and when forced to use them, haven't been able to.

    Last time I used one was when my boss was paying for me to come to a meeting with him and we went about 800 yards in one. I'm just glad I wasn't the one paying, and if I remember, we walked back.

    There is a distinction between "Hackney Carriage" and just a private mini-cab in terms of service - the mini-cab will generally turn up when you book them and will know where they are going to and not refuse it. But London taxis? Forget it. All this is is confirmation that some guy who wants the job tries harder to help you than someone who has a protected living and specialist privileges.

    • by dave420 ( 699308 )
      Well, to counter your story I've used black cabs on numerous occasions, and had great experiences. They were courteous, fast, knew the routes like they were channelling the gods of the A-Z, and were reasonably priced. So I guess we cancel each other out. Not to forget their cars are specifically designed for London's streets, and can fit 5 people in the back with ease.
      • Not to forget their cars are specifically designed for London's streets

        In that they have four wheels and a decent turning radius?

        and can fit 5 people in the back with ease.

        Are you sure? Brits are getting fatter with alarming alacrity.

        • by dave420 ( 699308 )

          They have a ridiculously small turning circle, surprising acceleration, and a roomy, disabled-accessible interior.

          Your comment about fat people is absolutely pointless, as you well know, and doesn't exactly reflect well on you.

          • Your comment about fat people is absolutely pointless, as you well know, and doesn't exactly reflect well on you.

            Ah yes, it's cute when people say it about Americans, but it's offensive when Americans say it about other people. Be still, my whining violin.

    • If any refuse you again then take their number and report them. They are obliged by their licence to take you anywhere less than 12 miles if they stop for you.

  • by Anonymous Coward in the case where two groups of people doing essentially the same job are subject to entirely different rules and regulations is "a victory for common sense" ?

An elephant is a mouse with an operating system.