Transport for London, the group that “regulates and licenses the taxi and private hire trades in the capital in the interests of passengers,” has invited Britain’s High Court to determine whether or not Uber’s application should be considered a taximeter for regulatory purposes.
The request follows protests from London taxi drivers who believe that Uber drivers are circumventing rules that prevent competition between taxis and private car services. By using the Uber application to calculate fares, they argue, those drivers are straddling the line between two separate parts of the transportation industry that aren’t meant to be crossed.
The Licensed Taxi Drivers Association is planning to protest Uber’s continued operation in London by holding a demonstration that the group’s general secretary expects to “attract many many thousands of cabs and cause severe chaos, congestion and confusion across the metropolis.” It has since told the BBC that it doesn’t expect much to come from Transport for London’s request for a definitive ruling on how Uber and its drivers should be regulated.
Uber has responded to the taxi drivers’ concerns with a blog post arguing that it is operating in London for the good of passengers, drivers, and the transportation industry itself:
We strongly believe in competition as it benefits consumers and drivers alike. It gives consumers more choice, and drivers better futures. London cabbies are iconic – arguably the best taxis in the world. However, there is room for all and there is room for more and better. We are bringing competition to an industry that hasn’t evolved in years. This competition benefits riders and drivers, and raises the quality and service levels offered by the industry.
It will be interesting to see how the company argues that its operation is good for drivers when it replaces the lot of them — from London to San Francisco and beyond — with driverless cars that won’t try to walk into its pristine new office building or protest its lack of communication. Until then, it seems, Uber will have to spend some time flinging mud… because taxi drivers and regulators are horrible miscreants who exist only to annoy Travis Kalanick, of course.
[Illustration by Cam Floyd for Pando]