Uber: why London cabbies hate the taxi app

Black cabs, licensed taxis in London

Black-cab drivers stage mass demonstration to protest against Uber's mobile-based car service

LAST UPDATED AT 16:08 ON Wed 11 Jun 2014

London's black-cab drivers have brought parts of the city to a standstill today with a mass protest against the car service Uber, which allows people to hail a cab and agree a fare using their phone.

The Licensed Taxi Drivers Association (LTDA) says its protest is directed not at Uber, but at Transport for London, which it claims is failing to hold the mobile-based car service to the proper regulations.

"Transport for London not enforcing the Private Hire Vehicles Act is dangerous for Londoners," Steve McNamara, LTDA's general secretary, told the BBC before the protest got underway. "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".

So what is Uber and why all the fuss? Here's why the car service has got London cabbies hot under the collar.

What is Uber? 
Uber is an app that "connects drivers with passengers at the touch of a button". The app is free to download and, when accessed, shows all the Uber-accredited cars in a user's vicinity. To hail one, users just tap on a car that is close by, jump in, and at the end of the ride their card is debited automatically. Rates are considerably lower than in a black cab – unless you order a luxury car – and are calculated according to how far a passenger travels and how long his or her journey takes.

Sounds useful. What is the problem? 
British cab drivers argue that Uber is operating as a taxi company and should be subject to the appropriate regulations, and that the cars available through Uber should also be classed as taxis rather than minicabs.

Uber, meanwhile, insists that it is "not a transportation carrier". But black cab drivers disagree, noting that unlike licensed mini cabs, which have to quote on a price up-front rather than using a meter, Uber operates like a conventional taxi company by calculating fares based on time and distance, with a user's smartphone acting as the meter.

What is the official response? 
In TfL's view, using smartphones to record fares may differ sufficiently from conventional metered travel. Such devices, they say, "do not constitute the equipping of a vehicle with a taxi meter".

"This distinction is important," The Guardian notes, "because it helps Uber keep away from laws that govern licensed taxis".

Should Uber be regulated? 
Uber has expanded rapidly and now operates in 32 countries around the world. The California-based start-up has already been hit with legal action, protests and bans of various kinds in Brussels, Paris, Berlin, Houston, Portland, New Orleans, Seattle, Miami, New York, San Francisco, Chicago, Washington DC, Vancouver and Toronto, the Guardian reports.

What next? 
Transport for London says that it has investigated Uber's business model and determined that it believes the company complies with all applicable rules. However, it has referred the case to the High Court and asked it to deliver a binding ruling, the BBC reports. Meanwhile, publicity generated by the cab drivers' protest may well have backfired: Uber says it has seen an eight-fold increase in sign-ups since this time last week.

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They are annoyed because Uber actually offers value.

1. Uber is much cheaper - An UberX from Shoreditch to Putney cost me £22 in a nice clean Toyota Prius. The same journey in a black cab would cost around £35, and you would have to stand out in the cold to grab one.

2. You can request a quote upfront, and they are almost always accurate.

Im a complete convert. I never use a black cab if I can help it.

I use uber from Putney to Camden
what I like is the choice of classy vehicles. The price is less than black cabs and the drivers are smartly dressed. The knowledge is nice to have, however, its not necessary these days with technology. Iget to know the vehicle and a picture of the driver and car registration. As a women passenger I find this reassuring.

Uber can surge charge, raise their fares at any time due to busy times or bad weather be carefully also drivers are rude and unprofessional.
I would always use black taxi

And here I thought the French were total pussies.

The knowledge is useful, if you are going to or from an awkward location there can be a lot of problems with Uber because the driver's have no clue where they're going. For value and ease though there's no contest. I would love to support black cabs but they are not good value for money. Black cabs need to evolve rather than strike...why can't they just adopt the same technology? It's 2014 you can't expect people to walk around in the cold and then pay £50 to get home. If the prices were close I would use Black cabs, but they aren't even in the same league. Come on guys...

Evolve rather than strike - yes this is exactly right. Because soon it's going to be evolve or die.

When companies such as Uber transition to real time taxi sharing, and make their proposition even better value for money, taxis are going to be left in the cold.

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