A little over this time last year – after the initial decision by TfL not to renew Uber’s licence in London – there was a lot of people predicting the end of Uber. Lots of stories about drivers now looking for work (endless abandoned Toyota Prius’s!), many people saying it’s the Authorities taking a stand against advancements of Technology, and it made a lot of noise.
Around that time – given I had a strong opinion on this back then, as did many other people I know – I wrote a bit around the possible ‘End of Uber’ in London (still one of my highest-read posts) and thought over the course of the year – now that over a year has past since that ruling, and Uber’s licence has been extended (quitely) a lot has changed for Uber over the past year – on camera, behind-the-scenes, as well as my own experience.
This may seem that this piece is biased toward Uber and I make no apology for this – there has been significant improvement in their service and offerings, over the past year. Black Taxi’s are still, same now as I thought then, somewhat still overcharging and refusing to take me from one part of London to another. Not even me saying this, I see a lot of friends of mine/the random Facebook post/tweet from people saying the same.
There were a number of key points that TfL had told Uber they needed to fix, and Uber quietly implemented a lot of changes over the past year, with most coming to fruition over the past several months this year. The departure of their CEO (who gained a lot of notoriety for various reasons, most not pleasant) was made public earlier this year, and more people were brought in (especially in London) with PR/Comms and Tech experience to handle smoothing the relationship with them and Local Authorities.
The first time I noticed a slight change in what Uber were going was when I got one in Manchester going to a Hotel for a festival, and noticed that the Driver that was picking me up had a ‘Licenced By’ on their profile:-
Then, I’d seen this similar when I using Uber out in London as well in Bristol – showing the relevant licencing authority that certified the driver. This, to me, it was something Uber had done to quell fears about unregulated drivers, and this brings piece of mind to a user. Furthermore, in the US, it seems that Drivers even have their own Bio info so a user can find out more about them too (!)
Even when having a bit of chit-chat with the Drivers – nearly all of told me how happy they are, as they have flexible working hours, full training and support. It felt weird hearing it from them, but they all felt genuine. This was no matter where I was, or time of day/ night, the drivers have this kind of new-found passion for doing this (nearly all said the flexible hours were the main reason, given most had families)
Still on the subject of safety – most recently, they’ve rolled out a 24-hour support helpline, and a ‘Toolkit’ that very recently has been rolled out – More importantly, it’s scarce that I have ever heard anyone (Male or Female) tell me they’ve any bad experiences anymore – and I mean no-one – when, compared to many years ago it had a reputation of being cheap, but very unsafe/unscrupulous at night.
Also – everyone I know says this – it’s the absolute convenience of it that still draws many people into it. Long journey to the other side of London and don’t fancy getting 2/3 tubes? Uber it. Payday and need to meet friends in an awkward part of town? Uber it.
For me, the most crazy thing about Uber in the past year now, is that I don’t know many people that adamantly do not use them. Almost everyone I know has it installed on their phone and it’s become commonplace for every night out to end with ‘oh I’m gonna Uber it’. This seems to be the case on nights out with close friends and/or friends of others that I meet up with on a given night. The previous myth of them being unsafe/worrying/etc seems to have been gone… perhaps?
Uber have gone a massive PR offensive in London too – their CEO is doing the rounds in interviews proclaiming to help drive (no pun intended) the Green fuel initiatives that Sadiq Khan is pushing forward with, pushing the various safety features they’ve implemented whilst still cautiously saying there is more work to do.
But what about Black Cabs? Unfortunately, I still see the odd tweet every weekend where someone has said they hailed one, only to be told they won’t travel past a certain part of London. Friends of mine say the same still have issues with them overcharging them for a journey. However, in a rush to meet some friends/going to a meeting, not mega far away? There is still no alternative to hailing one down. The LTDA are also making strides in making people aware of the lack of safety with Uber drivers too (see below I’d spotted around Shepherd’s Bush, with apparently similar ones running elsewhere in Central London too)
Whether something comes up in the future around this would be good to see. The battle between them – in London at least – is far from over. In the meantime, Uber are still operating, and looks like they can be, for the foreseeable future.
Full Disclosure: The above is based on my experiences myself and with friends, and what I’ve heard from others. Not sure how others have experienced/had with either Uber’s or Black Cabs in the past year, but the above is my personal view/concensus around them. Legitimately would be happy to hear any other views/thoughts around this… drop me a comment!