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Transportation United Kingdom Technology

London Mayor Boris Johnson Condemns Random Uber Pick-Ups 216

An anonymous reader writes: The mayor of London Boris Johnson has written a column in the Daily Telegraph condemning the way that Uber drivers in the UK capital can effectively circumvent black cabs' legal monopoly on being hailed by random passengers. Whilst supporting the principle of free enterprise, Johnson has no solution to the legal quandary, except to hobble Uber's business model in an absurdly Luddite move, or else level the playing field and condemn the well-outfitted but expensive black cab trade to extinction. Johnson is reluctant to ask such a thing of Parliament, noting that many people there don't 'have apps'.
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London Mayor Boris Johnson Condemns Random Uber Pick-Ups

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  • by Kunedog ( 1033226 ) on Tuesday October 06, 2015 @12:48AM (#50667687)
    Seriously, google him. Trump's hair has nothing on that.
  • by TWX ( 665546 ) on Tuesday October 06, 2015 @12:50AM (#50667701)
    ...then what uber drivers are doing, by not being licensed black-cab operators, is against the law.

    If I understand it correctly, London is a lot stricter with their drivers than most other cities, such that to simply drive a cab one must pass a fairly difficult testing process before being able to obtain a license.

    At this point I'm not really sure why this is a Slashdot story anymore. It's about a livery company whose legally questionable practices and claims have drivers that are picking up hailed fares. There isn't even a technological angle on this aspect of the story, not that cell-phone dispatch is anything especially novel.
    • Can you be picked up after calling a friend to come get you? If yes, why not when you "call" an Uber?

      Just saying "legal monopoly" doesn't mean much without details.

      I've been to London a number of times. I think London is the only city I've ever been where I really liked the cab system (black cabs specifically that is) - the drivers are friendly, the cars in great shape and clean.

      But even so, what if you can't find one? If you call (if you can call) you might be waiting a long time, or have to walk a whil

      • by Zaelath ( 2588189 ) on Tuesday October 06, 2015 @01:24AM (#50667855)

        Can you be picked up after calling a friend to come get you? If yes, why not when you "call" an Uber?

        For the same reason that I can put my penis in a friend if they ask me to, but I can't pay them to encourage them to ask.

        Your "where's the line?" argument is weak sauce.

        • I can't pay them to encourage them to ask.

          Why do you think that makes sense?

          It's just as poor an example, and badly worded at that.

          In fact if you gave someone money without asking for sex, then they asked you for sex, that would in fact be quite legal... People do that every day in normal relationships.

          • by dwywit ( 1109409 ) on Tuesday October 06, 2015 @04:30AM (#50668463)

            It made perfect sense to me. When money is not involved, i.e. it's not a contract (offer, acceptance, valuable consideration), then it's different to a transaction involving the exchange of $$$.

            If GP's friend invites the P without prior mention of money, then it's not covered by commercial law.

            If GP's friend is given money to invite the P, then it's a commercial transaction, and subject to commercial law.

            If GP's friend invites the P, then asks for money afterwards, no court is going to believe it wasn't a commercial transaction.

          • No, OP said "I can't pay them to encourage them to ask".

            Whatever the rights and wrongs of legalising or criminalising prostituion, if you give a stranger standing on a street corner some money on the understanding that they will have sex with you, that is prostitution in most places.

            And prostitution is definitely a commercial transaction, just like paying an Uber driver to take you somewhere.

      • by tehcyder ( 746570 ) on Tuesday October 06, 2015 @04:37AM (#50668487) Journal

        Can you be picked up after calling a friend to come get you? If yes, why not when you "call" an Uber?

        Because you're paying the fucking Uber driver.

        I really can't believe that people are still trying to pretend that Uber is just a ride-sharing service like giving your dear old mum a lift to the shops.

        It's a commercial service, and therefore should be treated the same as other commercial transportation services.

        Contrary to what the libertarians/extreme right wing free marketers think, not all human interaction is based on the cash nexus.

        • by temcat ( 873475 )

          Contrary to what the libertarians/extreme right wing free marketers think, not all human interaction is based on the cash nexus.

          Exchange in general, not cash. And yes, all human interaction, even with oneself, is based on it.

        • Because you're paying the fucking Uber driver.

          When I've had friends drive me somewhere I offer to pay for gas, and usually pay more than the gas would cost.

          Try again.

          I really can't believe that people are still trying to pretend that Uber is just a ride-sharing service like giving your dear old mum a lift to the shops.

          I can't believe you think that's what I am saying. I am not saying they ARE the same. I'm saying, legally, HOW ARE THEY DIFFERENT.

          Since you can't answer that why should the law be able to?

          • by schnell ( 163007 )

            I can't believe you think that's what I am saying. I am not saying they ARE the same. I'm saying, legally, HOW ARE THEY DIFFERENT.

            Legally, if I take a girl out on a date and I pay for a nice dinner and we have sex afterwards, it's not prostitution. That's because - although she might not have had sex with me if I didn't pay for dinner - there was no expressed or implied contract (offer, acceptance, exchange of value) saying that she DEFINITELY would have sex with me SPECIFICALLY in exchange for free dinner. Likewise, if a friend drives me somewhere and I offer to pay for gas, my friend may or may not take me up on it but will still dr

        • There is a good analogy here as to why regulation... http://www.theregister.co.uk/2... [theregister.co.uk]

          Let’s say you overhear that your next-door neighbour is about to hire a chainsaw for £80 to chop down a small tree in his back garden. As it turns out, you bought yourself a chainsaw for a similar task last year and now it’s just sitting unused in your garage.

          So, just before your neighbour sets off to the hire shop, you pop round and offer to lend him yours in return for £30. This is much cheaper than the hire shop, he says, and accepts. You pocket £30 and he chops down his tree.

          A month later, you have hired out your chainsaw to half the street. You have taken more than £500. This is brilliant. This is not, however, the ‘sharing economy’ any more: it is the ‘black economy’. You are acting as a chainsaw-hire business but without paying tax on your new-found business income.

          Hurrah for the black economy!

          Oh dear, that nice old man down the street hired your chainsaw yesterday but, because you hadn’t maintained the kit properly, the chain broke and sliced his head off. You had looked into the cost of chainsaw maintenance but it would have pushed up your costs, so didn’t bother.

          Hurrah for contributory negligence!

          The nice old man’s family now want to sue you for compensation but you are uninsured. You had looked into the cost of insurance but it would have pushed up your costs, so didn’t bother. Instead, you simply declare personal bankruptcy and avoid paying the family a penny.

          Hurrah for uninsured cowboys!

          Hurrah for tax-dodging, uninsured murderers!

      • by TheRaven64 ( 641858 ) on Tuesday October 06, 2015 @04:58AM (#50668555) Journal

        Just saying "legal monopoly" doesn't mean much without details.

        Licensed black cabs are the only vehicles that are allowed to be flagged down for in London. They're governed by Hackney Carriage laws in the UK[1] and also by some London-specific laws. Getting a license is relatively cheap (no medallion system), but does require passing a test that checks that has questions like 'what is the fastest route from A to B, assuming that it is rush hour and road X has road works?' There are 'mystery shoppers' who audit the taxi system: they flag down black cabs and take rides and, if the driver does not take the most direct route then they can lose their license. The mystery shoppers have varying ethnicities and manners of dress, and refusing to carry one will also result in a loss of the license. Black Cab drivers all know that if they break the regulations requiring them to carry anyone or try to scam a customer, then there's a chance that the customer that they're scamming may have the power to take their license on the spot.

        The distinction between taxi and hackney carriage is increasingly irrelevant. I can't flag down a car owned by Generic Taxi Company #47 that's waiting near where I'm standing, but I can call the telephone number printed on the side from my mobile and have the dispatcher tell me that the car next to me is now assigned to me, and then get in. Before mobile phones were widespread, it was very different - you could only call that kind of taxi if you were near a landline (or used a public call box, which added a fairly significant amount to the cost for shortish trips). Uber and other taxi apps are the next step in this. It's now more convenient to press a couple of buttons on the phone than to flag down a passing cab, but the taxi that you get is not regulated in the same way. Uber attempts to claim that their reputation system and pricing model means that they don't need government regulation.

        [1] This has caused some confusion in previous discussions: In the UK, legally speaking, a vehicle that can pick up people who flag them down on the street is called a hackney carriage, any vehicle that carries people for money is a taxi. In common usage, taxi is used for all categories.

        • What you have said is true, but omits the important fact that in the past, random people posing as "minicabs" were in the habit of picking up drunken strangers and ripping them off, or if female, raping them. Mincabs (Licenced Private Hire Vehicles) used not to be regulated, but are now (by the public carriage office), and are not permitted to pick up people without a paper trail allowing them to be located quickly if they are involved in crimes - some occasionally are, and they are quickly caught. They ar
          • by drinkypoo ( 153816 ) <martin.espinoza@gmail.com> on Tuesday October 06, 2015 @06:35AM (#50668807) Homepage Journal

            The question is, is Uber comparable to a Minicab service. And if it is, how come the drivers do not have to pass the same checks as other minicab drivers? Looks like a Minicab service to me.

            First, the background checks are meaningless, and Uber also does meaningless background checks, so they have parity there. They also get logged via the Uber app, so there is the digital equivalent of "a paper trail allowing them to be located quickly if they are involved in crimes". Actually, while you're transporting a fare the app actually tracks your activity, so it's even better than what the minicabs have. So all that's missing is licensing and regulation of the offices, but since Uber cars operate completely different to taxis, there's no need for that.

            If the state wants public transportation to serve the disadvantaged and handicapped, then the state should provide it, at the people's expense. It shouldn't be pushed off onto an industry attempting to serve willing customers in a voluntary arrangement. So that blows away the last argument.

            • by dave420 ( 699308 ) on Tuesday October 06, 2015 @06:58AM (#50668917)

              The background checks are not meaningless. Uber's might be, but the state ones are anything but. Being logged in to an app is clearly not the same thing as having your entire registration, license, insurance, and tax details in the public carriage office's systems.

              If Uber wants to play the game, they have to play by the rules. Taxis in London are currently very well regulated, and it shows. Uber can't just complain and pay off websites to speak favourably about them in hopes that an already-working system will be degraded to allow their business model to shit over everything and everyone.

    • by Required Snark ( 1702878 ) on Tuesday October 06, 2015 @01:21AM (#50667837)
      There have been a few recent postings on Slashdot about Uber getting in trouble because they have been caught breaking the law in various places. They always have some hysterical language, in this case calling the Mayor of London a Luddite. In the end most of the comments end up agreeing with you: just because some people like the business model doesn't mean that Uber should be breaking the law.

      So why do these rants keep getting selected? There is only one reason: some of the moderators are Uber fans, and they want to keep flogging this dead horse. It's now about promoting a specific ideology, not about geek news.

      This time let's talk about the failure of the selections system and institutional bias. That's the real issue here.

      • by Ichijo ( 607641 )

        just because some people like the business model doesn't mean that Uber should be breaking the law.

        You make it sound like whatever is legal is moral, and whatever is illegal is immoral. If only the world were that simple.

        • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

          by Anonymous Coward

          You make it sound like whatever is legal is moral, and whatever is illegal is immoral.

          As has been mentioned repeatedly with Uber it is in almost all countries. The claims about unjust laws get repeated even when the case in question only requires one or more of: A certificate of good conduct for the driver, a business insurance for the car, a certified taximeter or restrictions against price gouging ( a.k.a Uber surge pricing ). Uber has no plans to follow any law that inhibits their profit in any way.

        • by tehcyder ( 746570 ) on Tuesday October 06, 2015 @04:53AM (#50668545) Journal

          just because some people like the business model doesn't mean that Uber should be breaking the law.

          You make it sound like whatever is legal is moral, and whatever is illegal is immoral. If only the world were that simple.

          Yeah, blah blah, Uber fans always trot this out. Was Rosa Parks wrong to break the law about where black people sat on a bus? No, therefore anyone can break any law they disagree with.

          It is both idiotic and insulting to compare a commercial undertaking trying to gain illegal arbitrage with civil Rights activists and those who practise Civil Disobedience to protest about genuinely unfair laws.

          • by Ichijo ( 607641 )

            Was Rosa Parks wrong to break the law about where black people sat on a bus? ... It is both idiotic and insulting to compare a commercial undertaking trying to gain illegal arbitrage with civil Rights activists...

            Other than you, who is doing just that? (That's a nice example of the "straw man" fallacy, by the way.)

          • You cherry picked the GP's comments. He used the word moral. What Rosa Parks did was break an immoral law. That is where I support Uber. Sticking up against a needless and obsolete taxi monopoly granted by law is in my idea comparable to the actions of Rosa Parks.

            However when they flaunt safety, don't provide befits to employees despite the tax code declaring them as such, skipping on taxes, that's all just Uber-douchbaggery which I won't get behind.

            Some of us actually support SOME actions of the company.

      • That or it's a revenue source.

        But that would imply it's about ethics in linux kernel journalism ;)

        • by KGIII ( 973947 )

          #kernelgate!!!

          Hmm... That was the first time I've ever written a hashtag. I do apologize, I'm gonna submit it anyhow. I like feeling dirty.

    • by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday October 06, 2015 @01:45AM (#50667931)

      Uber is paying Slashdot. I know this because I work for a news website that targets Eurocrats. Uber approached us for a spinsorship, but the deal fell apart because we would not sacrifice edirorial integrity (they wanted to be able to "guide" one article a day). One of our competitors, politico.eu, took the money and sure enough these kinds of articles started hitting their homepage. I think politico learned their lesson because they quit the relationship after six weeks, which was the contractual minimum Uber was after when they spoke with us.

      I don't blame slashdot; Uber is offering a lot of money and their PR folks make it sound benign. After you sign they activate the fine print and make you publish shit (really, shit). However, that is what this scuzzy company has obviously done here and we should call them out in it.

      • This has been standard operating procedure in a number of controversial industries: the critic Film Crit Hulk is on record as saying when he was a student of oceanography he was offered cash money, straight up, to write anti-global-warming papers. We only hear about this stuff when someone turns it down for whatever reason.

      • Uber approached us for a spinsorship

        Is that a typo, or is it a real thing?

        • by Hognoxious ( 631665 ) on Tuesday October 06, 2015 @07:13AM (#50668995) Homepage Journal

          I think its an intentional pun, and quite a good one. Sort of like advertorial and slashvertisement.

          • by KGIII ( 973947 )

            Heh. I noticed the term and I like it. I put it into the mighty Google and it turns out, it's actually in fairly common use in that arena. I think it might qualify as a portmanteau but I'm not 100% of the definition and I am too lazy to look. I like the word well enough that I have decide it needs to make its way into my lexicon. Hopefully it makes its way past all the damage done by alcohol and drugs and remains there. Stupid beer... Even a few years after quitting I still feel like my memory is impaired.

      • I don't know about anyone else, but each time I see an article with such obvious, heavy-handed bias, it makes me favor the other side.
    • by TapeCutter ( 624760 ) on Tuesday October 06, 2015 @02:24AM (#50668055) Journal
      Let's get one thing straight, in almost all jurisdictions where taxi's are regulated, Uber is not a "revolutionary" taxi company, it's not even a taxi company, it is a plain old 'limousine' company.

      You book the limo over the internet and a sub-contracted driver+car turns up at an agreed time and place. Uber's "freedom loving" marketing strategy is to use the "on a computer" fallacy to undermine the existing market such that they can rebuild it in their own image. The people who will be hurt most by their racketeering are the workers, ie: the drivers in both camps.

      This is just clever marketing in that the way to win an unwinnable argument is to convince the audience it is all about a higher morality, in this case Uber paints itself as a "Heavyweight freedom fighter for the little guy", IMO nothing could be further from the truth.
      • Uber paints itself as a "Heavyweight freedom fighter for the little guy", IMO nothing could be further from the truth.

        It's true whether they want it to be or not, because if they succeed then their competitors will also benefit. It's not like they're going to get themselves a monopoly for their efforts, whatever else happens.

    • ...then what uber drivers are doing, by not being licensed black-cab operators, is against the law.

      It is not. London has two types of taxis, black cabs (the only ones you can hail of the street), and minicabs (the ones you call a number, the dispatcher sends a cab to you). The former is more regulated, requires passing "the knowledge" test. Dont get me wrong, the blackcabs I have taken have always been excellent, but they are bit of a premium service. The later, doesnt have to pass tests, but are good enough and are as ubiquitous as blackcabs.

      Now, uber is a minicab service, instead of using the phone sy

      • Note that mincabs are less strictly regulated than black cabs, but their prices are regulated, as are various other things (insurance that they must carry, the registration of their vehicles, requirement that the vehicles carry a taxi registration license plate, and so on). Uber is ignoring all of this regulation.
        • Black cabs and minicabs are both regulated in London, as the parent states. The regulations might be different but they exist and basically Uber is an unregulated minicab operator.

          You might not like the regulations, but there are reasons for them (including passenger safety) and simply doing it 'via an app' doesn't change what you are and how you are expected to do it.

      • Now, uber is a minicab service

        Not according to the Uber shills on here.

      • by KGIII ( 973947 )

        ...circumventing a legal monopoly is not illegal.

        I'll give you the benefit of doubt. It's tempting to just retort but, instead, I'll reply with a question.

        How, in the name of all that is good, did you manage to write that sentence without snorting a beverage out through your nose? There's no way, really, that you can conclude that without some serious brain damage or in an attempt to be funny. Hmm... That kind of violates my objective.

        Yes, yes it is illegal - even in UK laws, surely.

        Let's put this another way, shall we? If you live in a city where they h

    • by AC-x ( 735297 )

      Black Cabs don't have a legal monopoly on taxi services in general, only metered street-pickup taxi services. There's already a thriving "mini-cab" service in London and the rest of the UK where rides must be called for (by phone or at a mini-cab office) and a fixed price is given at the start of the journey.

      In London mini-cab drivers do have to be licensed, but the licensing requirements are much less strict that for black cab drivers. Seems like Uber drivers just need to pick up mini-cab licences.

    • If the black cabs have a legal monopoly...then what uber drivers are doing, by not being licensed black-cab operators, is against the law.

      If my understanding is correct, the well-known "black cabs" do NOT have a monopoly. Their drivers DO undergo very strict training though, and earn some shield or such, and charge a premium. BUT e.g. flying in to LHR, you can also pre-book a "mini-cab" which is cheaper, and of which the driver has less training. E.g., the black cab probably has most streets in London memorized and could potentially get you there via the shortest route, while the mini-cab might need to look it up on a map or GPS.

    • by Alioth ( 221270 )

      But London has had minicabs too for years (these are cabs you can't just hail in the street, you have to phone them to get one) and these are regulated under less onerous regulations than the black cabs. What makes Uber different to any other minicab service that's currently up and running in London? Nothing really, other than you press buttons on your mobile phone's touch screen to order one, instead of talking into your mobile phone's microphone.

    • The Knowledge has been rendered completely redundant by to GPS.

  • Uber supporters (Score:5, Informative)

    by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday October 06, 2015 @12:58AM (#50667735)

    "Uber's business model in an absurdly Luddite move"

    Uber in Germany now does a registered Taxi service, where their drivers comply with all the taxi regs AND Uber still lets passengers book them.
    In Germany it will pay the drivers registration, which is a mandatory step for all businesses and self employed people in Germany to ensure they have the proper business setup, taxes, and comply with the regs like insurance, vehicle standards, registrations etc.

    This is a false dichotomy, Uber could offer a proper taxi booking service and comply with local laws, and does in countries where its banned.

    But before Ubers trolls pop in with their "Uber is Rosa Parks" nonsense.

    1) Ubers maps show fake taxis to lure people into booking. This is similar to Ashley Madison running fake women accounts to lure people to pay for their site. This is fraud.
    2) Uber surge prices, Taxis are regulated prices.
    3) If Uber is cheap now (largely by the advantage of not complying with laws), once its got the taxi market unregulated, it will take all the profits for itself... marketing 101. Taxi fixed pricing was introduced because once taxi monopolies formed, they ripped people off!

    Uber is not breaking some unjust or unfair law. It's breaking basic taxi regs. It is not a Luddite business model, right now you can book taxis across many websites and they book LEGAL taxis, registered and compliant with taxi laws. Uber itself does this in some countries where it can't get away with breaking the laws.

    Uber is not special, it just has a nastier political attack machine than most.

    • I've never seen a more well spoken coward, bravo!
      • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

        What about the coward who's post was selected in the first place?
        • What about the coward who's post was selected in the first place?

          Even Slashdot realised it would be a bit obvious to post the story with the original "Copyright Uber Public Relations" byline.

    • Re:Uber supporters (Score:5, Insightful)

      by Sir Holo ( 531007 ) on Tuesday October 06, 2015 @02:01AM (#50667973)

      I have taken Uber three times. Aside from the first (free) ride, the charge for the ride has been 5X of the "estimated price.

      Oh, and their driver pulled away immediately after "stopping" for the pickup. They charged me $10 for the "abandoned" ride-call.

      Fuck Uber. Taxis – fully regulated & taxed – are indeed cheaper and more reliable.

      Regulations exist for a reason

      • Oh wow! So is that the scam-o-rama now? Just bank on a bunch of short drives to collect on "abandoned" rides? Fucking brilliantly vile!

  • Call me crazy (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday October 06, 2015 @01:21AM (#50667833)

    ...but this article summary seems somewhat biased.

  • by crepe-boy ( 950569 ) on Tuesday October 06, 2015 @01:31AM (#50667877)
    This subject seems to get pushed here ridiculously frequently. Every story is excessively shrill in support of Uber, with no objectivity (on Slashdot, hah!) or balance. Is some of Uber's big budget being spent here on astroturfing?
    • by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday October 06, 2015 @02:12AM (#50668025)

      Dice, or DHI as it's now know, has a commercial relationship with Uber.

      It was disclosed in their yearly statements. But the editors at Slashdot are too cowardly to admit it. No, wait, cowardly isn't the wait; fraudulent?

    • This subject seems to get pushed here ridiculously frequently. Every story is excessively shrill in support of Uber, with no objectivity (on Slashdot, hah!) or balance. Is some of Uber's big budget being spent here on astroturfing?

      But, but...they only have to spend so much money astroturfing because of the evil Government-Union-Big Taxi-Lizard Overlord monopolistic conspiracy against hard working lift share providers and free market martyrs.

    • by Jezral ( 449476 )

      Every story is excessively shrill in support of Uber...

      There has certainly been a lot of Uber stories, but my reading of them is that yet again Uber is caught doing something shady or just illegal. Looking over http://slashdot.org/?fhfilter=... [slashdot.org] I see 10 negative stories about them (shady practices, illegal activities, etc), 4 positive (SA women, SF drunk drivers, etc), and 2 neutral. This particular story counts as negative, since they're doing something illegal.

      So, even if Slashdot is paid to put up Uber content, they're not praising them. But I guess any publ

  • Biased much?

    The summary posted by the sysadmins reads like a PR-piece from Uber directly.

     

  • Enough (Score:5, Insightful)

    by DMJC ( 682799 ) on Tuesday October 06, 2015 @02:30AM (#50668065)
    Enough calling these battles Luddite. No government is talking about banning mobile apps to organise businesses, or automated cars/more efficient services. What they are doing is banning an ILLEGAL business model which is trying to establish a monopoly. History has shown us time and again that the only monopolies which should exist should be government owned monopolies. The Taxi industry is one of these monopolies. Power companies, water companies, and telecommunications infrastructure companies are all entities which should be government owned/run to achieve wider economic objectives than just short term profit. America has spent hundreds of billions of dollars trying to get the telcos to upgrade to fibre and it hasn't worked. If the US government had said screw you, and built the fibre directly, the USA would have had FTTH to every home in the early 2000s. This fantasy that UBER is some magical company with amazing ideas that should just take over the world is retarded. We KNOW UBER is planning to sack all their drivers once the cars are automated. Their CEO has admitted this many times. It would be much better for the UK/US/AUS governments to own the automated cars and booking systems and capture the revenue from the automated car services, than allowing more wealth be siphoned out of their respective economies to a couple of billionaires in North America. UBER's business model is predatory, monopolistic and exploitative, and they're selling it under the guise of convenience/cost. These people are planning to take on the entire transport industry once they've taken out taxis. Expect them to start going for freight/road/rail services next. There is a strong humanist argument that as we phase out entire industries for automation, that the profits raised from those automation efforts be used to raise the living standards of everyone, not just a tiny minority that came up with an obvious idea. This is only going to get worse as we start to automate all service/manufacturing/primary production jobs. UBER really is the test case for how we deal with phasing out entire workforces and replacing them with no new jobs.
    • Uber is hardly the only cab company that has an app for hailing a cab. They are not unique in this perspective. They are unique in the perspective that they are the only company that thinks that because they have an app they are somehow magically not a cab company. I'm sorry, but in the world of regulated commerce, the laws determine what type of entity you are, you don't just get to pick one, and especially you don't get to make up a new one, especially when there is an existing type of entity that has the
  • by bazorg ( 911295 ) on Tuesday October 06, 2015 @02:42AM (#50668091) Homepage

    Interesting that the debate seems to be centred on the Black Cabs of London, omitting the role of TFL (Transport for London = tfl.gov.uk - hint in the URL) and of minicab companies.

    Minicabs are normal cars for hire, they don't look like "London taxis", their drivers don't have specific training just for working in London and they can ONLY work via advance bookings. The phone booking requirement is a major difference in relation to official Black Cabs who can stop anywhere when you see them and ask for a ride.
    The minicab companies are easy to find as they advertise at train stations and leave leaflets and business cards in many businesses and even through home letterboxes. If you are at a major train station, hotel, etc. you'll find a queue of Black Cabs waiting for passengers, the runs are metered and you can fit 5 adults. Some of their seats have a child seat built in, so that's another nice thing about that funny shape of car.

    The minicab companies tend to have self-employed drivers. They bring their own car, typically a 4 door saloon or a 7 seat people carrier and they pay the fuel and insurance from their own takings. They also pay the minicab company for the dispatcher service. Some 5 years ago this was something like £90 per week, which means that between car expenses, the insurance and the dispatcher service, there is a lot of money to pay before the driver sees any profit. The insurance is extortionate in London, even more for working in this kind of trade. Memory fails me, but I think I was something like £3000 per year, again, 5 years ago.

    So, before Uber and Hailo turn up, there is a very regulated competition between the Black cabs and random drivers trying to make some profit from their old Toyota Avensis even if they don't speak the language very well. The Black cab drivers are notorious for being picky about the areas served, but they do know the inner London boroughs very well - The Knowledge is a real thing, it's like they have all street names and POI in their heads and use satnav mostly for traffic info.

    The TFL has a role to play in all this, as they have their name on the licence for both types of taxi business. Probably they take some money from them all. The TFL website is a very good one, for knowing about train, underground and river services, but when it comes to road services, you can find out about buses and road works, the taxi service being quite secondary. That's what I think that they should be working on, rather than having everyone complain and litigate.

    The way I see it, the taxi apps reveal something very crucial that disrupts that peaceful coexistence between minicabs and Black cabs: passengers want to know time and place for their ride, like they do for other transport, rather than always get the same answer from the minicab phone dispatcher "they'll be there in 5 minutes".
    If TFL does not work on providing this service to passengers, then the disruption is that Black Cabs will actually deliver a worse service than minicabs in very important factors: the certainty about when the driver will turn up; the price that will apply; the form of payment available to passengers.

    While in the past, minicabs were the shoddier alternative to Black cabs, now "the Knowledge" and being able to hail a taxi from the street become less important. Before, the self-employed driver was sharing a lot of revenue with the mincab company as a barrier to entry, but now they can have more of their costs turn into variable rather than a fixed rent.

    From a passenger's point of view, what Boris and TFL should be working on is not protecting the Black taxi trade through more legislation, like the ridiculous proposal that was made last week (discussed on wired.co.uk) that was a set of laws tailored to sabotage Uber. They should have geo-location on all Black cabs right now, and a proper dispatcher service so that people can make bookings through the TFL website and pay with the Oyster card like they can for train, tram, bus and river services. Right now minicabs are changing to become better for passengers, be it with Uber, Hailo or with smaller dispatcher companies. Black cabs could do the same if they wanted.

    • by Chrisq ( 894406 )

      The Knowledge is a real thing,

      I think its another case of technology being ahead of legislation. The idea of the black cab rules was not to give a few guys a privilege for nothing. By insisting that they pass the knowledge [wikipedia.org] people know that they will be driven by someone who knows where they are going, the quickest route in the current traffic conditions, and alternatives if there are accidents. Now a good sat nav with real-time traffic updates will do the same thing. Perhaps the need for the monoply has gone now.

      • by dave420 ( 699308 ) on Tuesday October 06, 2015 @04:20AM (#50668439)

        The real-time traffic information is not real-time, so it doesn't compare. If a cabby comes up to a blocked street, they instantly know which route to take to get around it. Satnavs need time to calculate. The knowledge also improves the cabby's ability to determine the destination address, as such a fundamental understanding of the hotels, businesses, pubs, and former hotels, businesses, and pubs is amazingly useful when finding out where someone actually wants to go. Mumbling a bit of your address or using a long-closed pub as a route reference is something perfectly adequate for a Knowledge-equipped cabby, but nowhere near enough for a satnav. Seriously, these cabbies know London incredibly well, including how London used to be.

        So no, London still needs black cabs and the Knowledge.

        p.s. I'm very impressed you didn't slip in your usual hate-filled attack on over 1.6 billion people. You might just be growing up.

  • by Avoiderman ( 82105 ) on Tuesday October 06, 2015 @03:13AM (#50668179)

    Obvious shill story is obvious. Ill informed use of "random" in title on slashdot. Together enough to keep me away from Uber.

  • I dont know all that much about cabs in London (although I did ride in at least one black cab many years ago when I visited the city) but from what I do know, there are companies allowed to operate minicabs which aren't allowed to pick up street hails but are allowed to offer rides to people who call them up and ask for a ride. Isn't this exactly what Uber is other than the fact that you use a button to book the ride rather than talking to a human?

    As for some of the rules they want to apply, the idea of req

    • I didn't read the article but I presume they want them to operate as minicabs, rather than black cabs. Therefore, they are not expecting them to pass the knowledge (e.g. have knowledge of the streets) but rather that they are licensed in the same way as minicabs. Effectively, Uber is an unlicensed minicab operator and that is illegal. The app makes no difference, since many minicab operators have apps where you can book a cab, get real time vehicle tracking, etc, etc.

      There is no 'legal quandary' (like the s

    • by dave420 ( 699308 )
      Blindly following GPS in London is what will get you all screwed up. It simply does not compare to taking the Knowledge. Uber is perfectly capable of running as an actual minicab company, but they'd have to make sure all their drivers are licensed to drive a minicab. They don't want to do that (because it's expensive and decreases their driver pool), so they are complaining that somehow they are special and the hundreds of years of successful regulations which ended up with one of the best taxi services
  • by louic ( 1841824 ) on Tuesday October 06, 2015 @06:56AM (#50668909)
    Except for London, everywhere in Europe I have been:
    1. Taxi drivers are incompetent and rude.
    2. Taxi's are way to expensive.

    In London however:
    1. Black cab drivers can find the quickest way to the smallest street in a complex city.
    2. Taxi's are very reasonably priced.
    3. Private car hire is allowed, for those long trips where taxi's would be too expensive.

    London does not need Uber. But mainland Europe needs it. Badly!
    • by dave420 ( 699308 )
      Europe is a large place, so making massive generalisations like that is very likely going to make you wrong. As I have had excellent taxi service across Europe, I can't agree with your claims, and I guess my anecdote disproves your assertion.
    • If black cabs are so great, why are they so worried about Uber that they have to hide behind the skirts of government?

  • If uber would stop pretending they are not a taxi service and followed the regulations that govern that industry. uber does not want to follow the regulations and claims they are not a taxi service. All the dick riding in the world doesn't change this simple fact. So change your ways or fuck off. I don't have time for little shits who try to game the system by pretending they are innovating.
  • You can view this as either:

    • Uber and their lackeys breaking a law intended to safeguard users of taxi services in London
    • or entrenched legacy taxi services using a legal monopoly to deny users of taxi services the benefits of competetition

    Clearly, a modern (?) Thatcherite response would be to remove the monopoly and allow all drivers a tax credit for clubs and other hand weapons that drivers can use against each other and against scum customers who use the competing service.

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