What TfL’s proposed new regulations mean for the riders, drivers and the city we love

November 25, 2015 / London
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If you’re reading this, you’ve probably used Uber to get a ride in one or more of the 350+ cities where we operate. You’ll know that our service is built on efficiencies that make things better for partners and riders – efficiencies now threatened by proposed new regulations.

We’ve been overwhelmed by Londoners’ action to save the Uber they know and love today. At the time of writing, more than 190,000 people have signed a petition to let Transport for London (TfL) know they do not support proposed regulations that include a mandatory five minute waiting time, stricter controls on drivers’ ability to choose when and how to work and calling time on showing cars in the app.

Of course, there’s more to TfL’s proposed regulations than just that. There are some that are really rather sensible and which we support wholeheartedly – English language tests for drivers, enhanced disability training and providing a driver’s photo and registration upon booking, something Uber already does all over the world.

Unfortunately, the majority of the proposals would make life harder for everyone. They seem designed to slow us all down and stop Uber providing the service that riders and drivers love.

Read on to find out more and see how you can respond to the proposed regulations.

Slowing riders down

The proposals suggest forcing riders to enter their destination into the app to get a fare before they book. It’s already an option – and many riders use it. But when you’re running out the door, you may just want to request and enter your destination whilst your driver is on their way (it’s multi-tasking that some riders have got down to a fine art). True, it’s only a minor inconvenience – but when did introducing inconvenience become a good thing?

Then there’s the enforced five minute wait – for your own good to make sure that you don’t get into the wrong car. We think riders deserve just a little more credit than that. There’s no five minute wait to make sure you board the right tube – and for good reason. In fact, call us crazy, but we’d suggest having riders wait around needlessly on the street for five minutes is more of a risk.

Slowing drivers down

If you think riders are coming out of this badly, the story’s worse for drivers. Not only would the five minute wait slow riders down, it would cost drivers too – losses from time spent waiting could amount to £19 million a year. That’s for people driving with Uber, not the business, and doesn’t include the tens of thousands of drivers working for other private hire operators.

In fact, from fingerprint security, which would force drivers to upgrade to the most expensive smartphones, to having to invest upfront in insurance before getting the licence that lets them drive, rather than before they start driving (a financial barrier that would prevent many from driving full-stop), these are proposals that simply make life harder for Londoners just trying to make a living.

Forcing operators with a system like Uber’s to take seven day advance bookings hurts drivers too. They’ll be driving further and waiting longer for a booking – one that could, of course, be a no show – when the majority of the time there’s another perfectly good car less than three minutes away. And, if you decide you want that guarantee seven days in advance, then of course it’s possible to use one of the many of other companies out there that allow you to do just that.

Slowing London down

TfL is also proposing that they approve operators’ business models and introduce restrictions on sharing vehicles, which could prevent services like uberPOOL – which in a single month saved 120 tonnes of CO2 emissions in San Francisco (equivalent to 51,000 litres of unleaded fuel) – coming to London.

London will surely struggle to be a leader in tech innovation or a destination for the best startup talent if regulators are calling the shots on which ideas see the light of day.

Slowing Uber down

Proposals also include making operators like Uber have a fixed landline. That was a great idea 10 years ago but technology has moved on. Even the MET Police doesn’t have a traditional landline these days – those tech-forward bobbies are using VOIP. In fact, many companies, including Uber, have moved away from voice communication to make sure they have a record of everything customers tell them about the service – good and bad.

Uber currently has a team that works around the clock to answer questions and resolve issues – which customers can send in through the app, by leaving feedback, replying to their receipt or emailing in. We locate trip details, investigate issues, track down lost property and remedy complaints – without you having to hang on the telephone.

We understand that London’s iconic black cab drivers are feeling the pressure as technology now lets people book a car at the touch of a button. We’re all for competition – it makes us all better – and the playing field should be a level one. But the answer is to reduce today’s burdensome black cab regulations not introduce pointless rules that will be bad for riders, drivers and London as a whole.

We love you, TfL – you’re great at keeping the world’s oldest underground system running and bringing back the beautifully-designed Routemaster – but no-one can predict how technology is going to change the world tomorrow. We’re a bit biased, but we believe that London is the greatest city in the world – we should be pioneering innovation here, not stopping it in its tracks.

If you’d like to respond to TfL’s consultation yourself, you can find it here.

We’d love you to take the time to give your views – and make sure we keep London moving.