Undoubtedly, one of the most interesting bits of news that came out last week was Transport for London’s decision to not renew Uber’s licence in London. Even when it was announced last Friday, as of today friends of mine are still talking about it and the impact it will have.
Personally, I’ve only used Uber since the start of the year and I will be the first person to say it’s been a massive help to me going out. Case in point – getting home Liverpool Street (EC1) to West London (W12) would either involve a Black Taxi – setting me back £15-30 (depending on traffic, route and time of night), the lottery of either a 2minute or 25minute wait for a Night Bus or the Night Tube (which, like for many people doesn’t take people right to their doorstep). Uber changed that with drivers who know where you were and would be with you in 3-5minutes, would charge me less than £10, and would get me there quick. Not having that service anymore is something that’s making me (and others now) re-think their nights out.
But now that time has passed and myself (and others) have calmed down somewhat, a few things come to mind:-
- Firstly, I think there needs to be an understanding around the specifics on TfL’s decision – which I’m inclined to agree on. Uber’s handling of specific instances of criminal offences are very well documented (not just in London) and even in it’s early stages of use, there were lots and lots of horror stories about Uber drivers, it did have a bad reputation for cheap but risky fares. Uber now is a lot better than it was then, but still has that stigma attached to them, I think.
- Following on from that, there is the company itself – the former CEO, their workplace, the investigations into their board management, etc – made Tech headlines over the past 6-12 months. When Local Authorities see this negative perception of the company into how the inner workings of how they’re run, it doesn’t do them any favours when it comes to negotiations.
- When the news came out – my initial thought was a ‘minority of incidents affecting the majority’. Whilst I personally have never had a bad Uber driver (they’ve actually been really good) I know a lot of friends who have at least one bad story to tell – one of them was dropped a few miles before her house as the driver ‘had to go somewhere else’, a group of friends weren’t picked up by the Uber driver as he was only expecting one and just drove off, as well as some extreme unfortunate cases I’ve read/seen on Social Media of attacks threats, etc. Some people I know won’t even install the App.
- There a lot of political arguments around this too – many saying that it’s TfL ‘against disruption’ ‘against the modern times’, etc – and I think it’s detracting from the fact that whilst there are other similar operators in this space that are still running, it’s Uber that have had this stigma that surrounds them, and needs addressing.
In the long run, I firmly believe this decision would enable Uber to address the many various concerns TfL as well as non-users have about it’s service. As a somewhat recent Uber-covert, I hope that’s the case. Is it frustrating for me? Absolutely. But I can understand the decision, and if this marks the start of Uber’s (or other operators) way to up their game on safety and security, then I’m all for it.
In the meantime, a non-Uber London will be VERY interesting.
(Some interesting takes on this below:-)