Thursday, 23 July 2015


There's some controversy about Uber. Uber is a service whereby you can summon a driver+car, to take you to where you want to go. It's kind of like a taxi. Lyft is a similar service.

But it isn't a licensed taxi service. The London black cabs (which aren't always black) are a licensed service. That means that you can hail one; you wave your hand and flag one down. Ladysolly and I usually do this when going from Marylebone to Victoria, or vice versa. because there's always a flock of cabs at Marylebone, and if you stand at the roadside near Victoria, you'll see loads of cabs.

I remember the controversy when "minicabs" started. A minicab is a car plus driver, you call their dispatcher, they send the car to where you are, and they take you to where you want to go. Minicabs are cheaper than black cabs, but you can't hail them. Minicabs seem to be acceptable now.

So what don't people like about Uber? Here's some criticisms I've heard.

1) It isn't safe, because the drivers aren't licensed.
2) The prices go up when there's more demand.
3) The drivers don't have the Knowledge of London like black cabbies have.

I'll discuss these one at a time.

1) Safety. When you get an Uber car, you do it via Uber's service. So they know your identity, and also that of the driver. If something terrible happens, it['s clear who the attacker was. With a black cab that you hail on the street, if something terrible happens, you probably didn't make a note of the taxi licence number, so it could be more difficult to trace the attacker. The certainty of being caught, must be a deterrent to attack. Also, Uber does a background check on the driver before including them - that's not infallible, of course, but it must help.

2) Prices. I actually think that this is a good idea. In London, when it rains, you can't get a black cab, because everyone else has the same idea. Supply is fixed, demand blossoms and I get wet. With the Uber system, the temporarily higher price will get more drivers into action, or move them from where they aren't so much needed, to where they are.

3) This is true. But if you have a satnav, you can easily navigate around a city. What you don't know, is that when Park Lane is blocked, what might be a good diversion. So the cab driver with the knowledge is a plus. Also, black cabs can use bus lanes. I'm not sure if Uber drivers can, but I suspect not.

Minicabs, Lyft and Uber all eat away at the black cab monopoly, which is one good reason why they don't like it. And a very big reason why I do like it.

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