What is the Uber app & why do London's black cab drivers hate it?

Nissan NV200 Taxi light
27 May, 2015 4:28pm Joe Finnerty

London's black cab community has protested again against the Uber app. But what exactly is it?

Cabbies in London are up in arms over Uber, an app that lets the public hail minicabs using their smartphone. Recent strikes have been causing gridlock in the capital as London taxi drivers fight the app's growth. But what is Uber and how does it work?

Uber is a simple app that connects people with nearby drivers instead of using a taxi booking office or hailing a cab in the road.

It’s available on both Android and iOS and operates in most major cities around the world. It launched in California early in 2014 and has become extremely popular in the US. Taxi drivers in Boston and San Francisco have carried out similar strikes to those in London.

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Over 3,000 Uber drivers already registered in London

Uber is becoming increasingly popular in the UK with over 3,000 Uber drivers already registered in London. The app uses GPS on the user’s phone to team would-be passengers with nearby drivers. You can call a ride from a location other than where you are, too, to make it most convenient for getting a lift from wherever you need.

You can also request a specific type of car – such as a luxury saloon or a more basic car depending on your journey – and the app will text you when the driver arrives. It allows you to check the ID of the driver too and a live map will show you how close the driver is.

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After each journey the passenger has to rate their driver’s performance so that each cabby has an average rating out of five. This means you can select the best cabbie on offer when you choose your ride on Uber.

Why taxi drivers hate Uber and is it illegal?

Cab apps are nothing new though with many on the market already but the fare quotation system is what has got London cabbies upset. Existing apps offer a full quote for the journey when you book it and before you even enter the cab but Uber only offers an estimate. The final amount you pay depends on how long the journey takes and the distance.

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London cabbies argue that this mirrors the meter used exclusively in black cabs. Law dictates that only black cabs can use this system but Transport for London has said the Uber setup isn’t illegal.

Uber doesn’t look like slowing up anytime soon, either. It’s already begun experimenting with additional services. Tests of UberXL, which guarantees a large vehicle for a surchage, and Uber Family, which brings a car with a child seat, have already been launched.

Uber vs Black Cabs - Twitter's reaction

We've seen mixed reactions on Twitter with many users showing support for Uber, which earlier today released a statement calling for calm and claiming that the black cab industry is stuck "in the dark ages". Many users have backed their claim, expressing their shock at the lack of payment options being offered to black cab users. 

Uber puts its side of the argument

Earlier, Uber's UK and Ireland general manager Jo Bertram said: “Londoners are voting with their fingers, tapping the app in support of new and innovative services as we see our biggest day of sign-ups in London today since launch two years ago.

“In fact, today we're seeing an 850 per cent increase in sign-ups compared to last Wednesday. The results are clear: London wants Uber in a big way.

“Unsurprisingly, the LTDA, which is stuck in the dark ages, is intent on holding London to ransom and causing significant economic impact to Londoners today, estimated to be £125 million.

“We join Transport for London and the Metropolitan Police in calling on the London Taxi Drivers Association and others to call off this unnecessary and irresponsible strike.

“We passed TfL's most stringent and comprehensive audit of a Private Hire Vehicle operator to date, passing with flying colours.

“We are proud to be to be in London, we are proud to serve London, and we are here to stay. Uber on London.”

Have you used Uber? Would you like to? Tell us your thoughts on the new technology in the comments section below...

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Taxi drivers hate it because they are rent seekers. End of.

Uber is progress, 21st Century.
London cabs are trying to deny competition. They are unpopular arrogant mouthy louts. They will lose.

Taxi drivers will lose business because of it and most drivers have families to feed.

Welcome to the real world taxi drivers.

I and several hundred others were in London today to be part of the audience of a TV show recording.

This lot delayed several celebrities and a considerable number of people who wanted to be part of the studio audience but ended up being locked out because they arrived too late as they got stuck, wasting their parking fees, congestion charge or their train & tube fares.

Like several other posters have pointed out, it's time for the black cab drivers (whom I admire greatly with their encyclopedic knowledge of London) to move forward and come up to date.

I don't want deregulation with mini cabs & black cabs roles being merged, but it's most certainly time to move forward, because all that will happen is that the authorities will force the issue.

Instead of getting together to find a way of competing back by innovating themselves, they protest and try to impose their protectionism and keep us all in the dark aged - and then they have the gall to claim unfair competition.

No wonder then that a black cab is always the very last desperate resort.

Clearly scared of a bit of competition.... I'd much rather use something like Uber... pay less and more importantly, not have to listen to the personal diatribe opinions of a London cabby on issues they seem experts on such as immigration.

I feel sorry for black cab drivers. However, having a tantrum and blocking the roads will not solve their problems. If they want to have a future then they need act positively and act fast.

Did Blockbuster throw their toys out of the pram when Netflix came and offered an alternative, cheaper, more convenient service? No. They did nothing and look where they are now.

Hailo has been around for years well before the new kids on the block, Most of the tech Hailo use has been copied by Uber. I then hear cabbies don't do credit cards, 25,000 black cabs, 22,000 accept cards. Just look at twitter and see for yourself the complaints Uber are receiving about metered fares.

It's so obvious you no nothing of transportation. Why was it necessary for parliament to bring in regulation. Hailo have been around for years.

Pay less, I think that pretty much speaks volumes for those who are happy to exploit the working class for their own gains. Sleep we'll.

Move forward, the London cabbie have been using computers since the 1950s. Hailo, Get Taxi, App technology being in use for four years now and doing very well. So London taxis and private hire follow regulations set out by parliament at huge costs to both parties. And then Uber ignore all the rules.

If London taxis did not have the regulations imposed on them we could reduce prices by about 30%. But life's not that simple through your rose tinted glasses. Ask yourself these questions, why do London taxis have meters, Why do mini cabs give fixed prices, How many rapes and assaults each week by mini cab touts, How do you control customer safety, why has the London cabbies being voted the best taxis in the world, what about the disabled. I could go on, but I hope you get the point. Regulation is their for good reasons it's not to create monopolies.

The service industry is full of people being exploited by those who are happy to pay less to get from a to b. Nothing like a false economy.

I hope your job is safe and secure and immigration does not effect your standard of living in any way

Sleep well? I always do.