Uber – what is all the fuss about?
I’m declaring up front that I’m the daughter of a London Black Cabbie, a sister of a London Black Cabbie, the great niece of many London Black Cabbies and have family friends with several of them too!
So, you’d think that I’d be coming at this conversation from just one angle.
But I’m also a woman who works in the digital and innovation field, who spends a lot of her working life looking at disruption and where technology advancements will drive forwards the economy.
And Uber embodies all of this.
It has to be one of THE stand out technologies of the last decade that has literally disrupted its entire industry. And globally. The taxi landscape and its business model has fundamentally changed forever.
And there are many skeletons lying in Uber’s wake. Some of them Black Cabbies, others are companies that have attempted to give Uber a run for their money. Yet Uber has swept all of them out of their path.
And with great success.
40,000 drivers and 3.5 million users in London alone.
And that’s in just over 5 years.
There are also an additional 21,000 black cabs in London.
And then of course, a whole host of other mini-cab firms too.
So you’d think there will be a natural selection process of who survives, because this number of cabs can’t all be needed in one city?
London Black Cabs Vs Uber right?
I think if you asked the majority of London Black Cabbies, they would acknowledge and have accepted (although perhaps begrudgingly) that Uber isn’t going anywhere – even in this current climate that is seeing so much controversy.
The technology that has enabled Uber to sweep the market, has also allowed Black Cabbies to take payments via cards and develop its own app – Gett Taxi.
So, what is the fuss really about if the market is now stabilising and the Black Cabbies are finally catching up with the tech?
The fuss is around 5 key areas:
- Regulations i.e. driver checks
Sexual harassment claims
Tax law suits
Reaching the required standards to ensure that passengers will be safe, both in the vehicle they are travelling in and with the driver that is undertaking the journey surely has to be a priority – which is why TfL have made their stance.
Shape up or you’re out.
However, it seems that not everybody agrees with this – over 800,000 people have signed the petition for Uber’s licence to be renewed immediately. With most of them stating that 40,000 drivers losing their livelihoods is not right and families are going to be the ones who lose out and suffer.
Which is a very fair and valid point – even if these drivers are working other jobs too. They have a right to retain their positions and income.
It also seems that TfL changed their processes for Uber to run DBS checks on their drivers earlier this year – so it seems that this has caused some of the issues too.
But then, female engineer, Susan J. Fowler, explains in her blog how sexism and harassment have been in the make-up of this organisation:
It became obvious that both HR and management had been lying about this being “his first offense”, and it certainly wasn’t his last. Within a few months, he was reported once again for inappropriate behavior, and those who reported him were told it was still his “first offense”. The situation was escalated as far up the chain as it could be escalated, and still nothing was done.
I personally do not want to be engaging with a company where there is continued sexual harassment.
Even the CEO of Uber has admitted this week that their responses to claims / checks has not been good enough:
On behalf of everyone at Uber globally, I apologise for the mistakes we’ve made. Dara Khosrowshahi, CEO, Uber
10% of Londoners want Uber’s licence to be renewed. But the other 90% either want the company to go out of business – or perhaps more likely want the app to continue but with the reassurance of its credibility and safety.
TfL have taken a strong stance on this and want Uber to take action until the situation is rectified.
With other countries such as Bulgaria, Denmark, Hungry, Italy and Canada banning the app – the picture is complex.
Many people blame Black Cabbies for the situation in London – they’re stuck in the dark ages and just moan about how technology has changed the industry.
Others think that Uber is a despicable company, that needs pulling up on many of the issues I’ve outlined above.
As Uber faces another battle this week, where a Judge will decide on whether their workers should be given minimum wage, the uproar and scandals continue to roll on.
I think there are some lessons to be learnt for tech companies around the speed of scale of Uber and how many situations / complaints have been missed.
If the company expanded more slowly across the globe, would it be in this situation? Who knows.
I personally think that London Black Cabbies are pretty special – they are London to me. They’re updating their technology and how they engage with their customers and this will continue to happen.
But Uber won’t go anywhere. Even if the company lost all of its current battles in the capital, and it closed for business – it would pop up in another guise fairly quickly.
The business model won’t suddenly disappear and you can bet your bottom dollar, that Uber will have a team of people working relentlessly to get all of these scandals and issues back on track.
Let the story roll on!
I’ve asked a few fellow blogger for their opinions on the story, here are their thoughts:
Nyomi Winter of A Feminist Family Lifestyle Blog says:
I love the modernisation of Taxi services. Uber is so convenient for me to use and much cheaper. I know they’ve come under fire for some of their policies and their support of Trump and I’d like them to improve but I’m not sure many of the smaller firms are more ethical. My local taxi firm are a bunch of cowboys and aren’t accountable at all – and cost about twice as much. I can guarantee they aren’t doing any of the stuff uber are getting flack over. I’d rather uber were given opportunities to improve, rather than banned.
Stacey MacNaught from One Small Human explains:
I use Uber in my nearby city of Manchester (where Uber remains licensed to operate until 2021, I believe) and also when I’m in London. And I’ve used it overseas. I’ve personally never had a problem. And i find uber and similar services massively convenient and competitively priced.
However cynical I am that the London situation could be brought about by pressure from cabbies and similar, I am hopeful that it is for the right reasons.
As convenient a service as it is, if the company is exploiting its staff and failing to carry out appropriate checks on drivers, then I agree it should not be allowed to operate.
I’m hopeful that Uber can improve Its safeguarding policies and treatment of staff and perhaps regain its license!
Sophie Gillum-Webb from Soph-Obsessed lives in Manchester and uses Uber weekly.
It was a huge game changer for me it meant I didn’t have to worry about finding or carrying cash and could send my route direct to my husband made both him and I feel that bit safer as I’m always alone!! There is a huge unlicensed / fake taxi issue in Manchester and from a safety aspect alone I felt so much better
Hollie Gregersen from Thrifty Mum says:
Uber have a history of setting up in new cities and under cutting existing businesses then once they’ve got rid of the competition, they raise their rates. It’s not a sustainable business model for customers. It’s bullying. I love a bargain as much as the next person but it’s important to consider the bigger picture. Hopefully this licensing issue for them in London will raise people’s awareness of the numerous other taxi apps available such as Gett.
Lauren Gee from Mummy Is A Gadget Geek explains:
I’ve used Uber a few times, in London and in Manchester. (I live on the London/Essex border and work in a London Borough). I like how the app tracks where my ride is, and shows me the route I should be going which I can watch while I’m in the car. I also like that I don’t need cash – when I’ve taken alternative taxi rides before paying with card has meant it’s been a lot harder to find a taxi as they don’t seem keen on cashless payments. I don’t like how unregulated they are though, and although Uber is generally cheaper I’d rather pay more for a black cab or use the tube if I can, especially since I’m usually on my own when I’m travelling. I think the app concept to hail and pay is great, but it needs to be in conjunction with proper regulation.
Terry-Ann Kibbles from Not An Effing Fairy Tale Blog says:
I set up an uber account for my teenager – it was great not to have to worry about him getting home or having cash on him. I loved using it too, so easy and far cheaper than mini cabs or the super expensive Black cabs
Linda Hobbis from Mother Distracted says:
It sounds as if they don’t have basic screening and security procedures in check, particularly DBS checks. I think it’s their lax attitude to the reported sexual assaults and a “we’ll take absolutely anybody” attitude which has got them in this position. From a business point of view I think they’e been incredibly naive. No point being able to get a taxi easily if you can’t be reassured (to some extent at least) that the person driving you is reliable.
I also thought I couldn’t wrap up this blog without a statement from one of my family.
My brother explains:
It surprises me that after TfL have decided that Uber are not a fit and proper organisation, as well as being deemed unsafe to drive Londoners around the capital, that so many people want to sign a petition to put themselves in a position of getting into a unsafe mini cab.
Although London Black Cabs could have been classed as behind the times a few years ago, this is no longer the case, with taxi apps, competitive rates and credit card machines in the taxi, they provide the best, safest service for people to travel around London. Black taxis will continue to fight to provide a first class service which is the envy of the world and which not only Londoners, but the UK, is proud of. And which I am proud to call myself a Black Cab Driver.