London's Black Cabs Fighting Uber Again
For all its mis-steps and own goals, the concept behind Uber is a good one, especially in places where it disrupts a legacy model which serves its customers poorly. London for example, where the iconic black cab is everywhere, yet offers a poor service at a high price provided by drivers who do themselves no favours.
The minicab has been hurting the Taxi service for decades, however the black cabs have always two advantages: they can be hailed from the roadside and the drivers have to know their way around the city.
Technology has removed those advantages and Uber is exploiting that as a strength to bring what is effectively a minicab service into direct competition with the black cab and the cabbies don't like it.
Yesterday they came out en masse to block Oxford Street in protests about the way that Transport for London manages the Uber service. The cabbies argue that the smartphone app acts as a meter and therefore the drivers should meet the same regulations as the black cabs.
Its a weak argument. were TfL to come down on the side of the cabbies Uber need only update its app to fix the destination and price of the journey before the car is summoned, confirming its status as a minicab company.
That's not to say I wouldn't like to see more regulation of the Uber driver sign-up process.
However it seems to me that the future of urban transport is a combination of public services, part-time or shared vehicle ownership and on-demand taxi services at minicab prices. The cabbies may find that their future is built around station taxi ranks, that being about the only place where Uber can't (currently) compete.