back to article Uber's London licence appeal off to flying start: No, you cannot do driver eye tests via video link

A contrite Uber told Westminster Magistrates' Court today that it "fully accepts" last year's decision by Transport for London (TfL) to revoke its taxi operating licence as "justified". TfL, the UK capital's transport regulator, wants the ban upheld, in part because of fears that spy-on-regulators tech Greyball was used in …

  1. Zippy's Sausage Factory

    Uber really isn't a great business. In New York, the scarcity of taxis is basically to try and reduce congestion in the city. With Uber, that policy gets shafted and everybody loses (because, by implication, the cost of ordering a cab/Uber is now more than before, as the time spent waiting in congestion is greater than before).

    I have no patience with them. Never used them, never will. Anyone who thinks they're "the future of public transport" is deluding themselves - they're the new Addison-Lee / Foxtons of public transport, if they survive that long (and given their cash burn rate, who knows)

    1. HamsterNet

      American Taxis are the reason Uber exists. So many of them are utterly appaling, bad drivers in dirty old knackered cars, often forgetting how to speak English, have "Broken" meters/card readers and will try to rip off any visitors.

      London black cabs, whilst clean are totally up there own behinds. The number of times I have been told "not going there mate" is ridiculous - they seem to forget I decide the destination not them.

      The invention of ride-sharing apps has been a lifeline for travellers like myself. I can now get a ride, knowing I'm not getting ripped off, the car will be clean, I know where and when and who is driving. I don't have to carry any cash (which if you are only in a city for a day is handy).

      So far I've not had any bad experiences with Uber et al, but many many incidents with "licenced" taxis in lots of cities globally.

      1. israel_hands

        @Hamsternet

        You are getting ripped off, you just don't know it yet. Uber lose money to both drivers and passengers on every trip they make (despite fiddling the journey times to gouge both parties). The only reason they do this is do drive proper taxis out of business so they can then jack their prices up. Or did you think they were running at a loss out of the goodness of their hearts?

        As to saying you know who is driving, you may have their name but they probably haven't had the proper background checks and may not even be legal to drive. Likewise for MOT, etc on the vehicles they use.

        Not that I don't take your point about plenty of other taxis being shit, but it's hardly universal. My local company are pretty good, the drivers are pretty polite, don't rip you off and turn up on time. Not bothered if some of them don't speak great English, I'm not paying them for their conversational skills, and most of the ones I've dealt with a pretty pleasant, regardless of linguistic fluency.

        Even if standard taxis are sometimes shit, the answer isn't to replace them with a bunch of regulation-dodging cowboys with as toxic an outfit as Uber. They're the very worst kind of middlemen who try and dodge all responsibility for running a business. I'm still surprised people are using them after all the shit that's been revealed about their dodgy business practices. Using software tailored to hide them from regulators is pretty despicable and is the same sort of shit that got WV fined billions. Then there's the whole issue around them buying the medical reports of a woman who'd been raped by one of their drivers in an attempt to discredit them.

        Fucked if I'd give them a penny of my cash, regardless of how shit the alternatives may be.

        1. TheVogon Silver badge

          Re: @Hamsternet

          "Uber lose money to both drivers and passengers on every trip they make "

          Johnny Cabs are coming. Then drivers wont be needed.

          1. DrXym Silver badge

            Re: @Hamsternet

            "Johnny Cabs are coming. Then drivers wont be needed."

            I wouldn't hold your breath if I were you. If self driving cars make an appearance at all it will be on closed loops such as shuttling people between airport terminals & hotels. There are way too many variables and intractible problems on the open road that self driving cars aren't anywhere close to solving even with a human being acting as a backup.

            1. Sir Runcible Spoon Silver badge

              Re: @Hamsternet

              You should look up the Cambridgeshire Guided Busway.

              Seriously, how can such a simple system be made so complicated? It has a driver, and the buses drive along a section of concrete road with 'sides'. Even so, you wouldn't believe how long it took them to make it work.

              Self-driving vehicles isn't going to happen in my lifetime unless we do away with the corporate manslaughter laws.

    2. DrXym Silver badge

      New York is probably the place that least needs them

      Within Manhattan you merely have to stand out on a main street and within minutes you'll be able to hail a cab. It's a bit like central London really. Perhaps further afield the story for a ride hailing app becomes more compelling. That doesn't excuse Uber for skirting the law, but that's where their model should lie.

      1. LucreLout Silver badge

        Re: New York is probably the place that least needs them

        Within Manhattan you merely have to stand out on a main street and within minutes you'll be able to hail a cab. It's a bit like central London really.

        Unfortunately that is nothing at all like central London, really. Try this on a Friday night and report back - also, insist on going to Peckham or Brixton. "Don't go sarf of da rivva afta dark mate!" LTDA have quite simply priced themselves out of the market due to a combination of unrealistically high fares for what is a job that basically anyone can do (hello SatNav!), and an attitude towards customers (particularly ethnic minorities) that is not remotely acceptable.

        You'd expect the dinosaurs to complain about the meteorite, but quite why TFL or anyone else is listening is beyond me.

        1. Mark 65 Silver badge

          Re: New York is probably the place that least needs them

          Ah yes, the cabby classic. As you are bound by your license to take fare paying passengers wherever they ask to go you simply turn off your "For Hire" light after 5pm. Then, as you are legally allowed to be hailed from the street, you can pull over beside anyone hailing a cab and ask where they are going. As your light wasn't on and you're "on the way home mate" you then get to pick and choose who you take where.

          I put up with that bullshit for a decade before leaving London forever. They only have themselves to blame.

  2. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Cough, cough....

    Uber's use of Push Doctor remotely to do eye tests says as much about Uber as it does about Push Doctor

    1. Vehlin

      Re: Cough, cough....

      I don't get why it's up to Uber to be doing medicals on its drivers. The drivers themselves are all individually licenced as Private Hire drivers, any medical requirements should be part and parcel of that licencing.

      1. DavCrav Silver badge

        Re: Cough, cough....

        "I don't get why it's up to Uber to be doing medicals on its drivers. The drivers themselves are all individually licenced as Private Hire drivers, any medical requirements should be part and parcel of that licencing."

        They don't have to, but if they do they have to be done correctly. Hope that helps.

      2. Cpt Blue Bear

        Re: Cough, cough....

        "...individually licenced as Private Hire drivers..."

        There is the problem. They are not actually licensed.

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: Cough, cough....

          Surely they have drivers licenses, the plain vanilla type. Isn't an eye test required? I don't want anyone driving around half-blind, whether they work for Uber or not.

          I'm not a fan of Uber, but this is the reason it exists: cities milking traditional cab services for so much revenue that plebs can't afford them.

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Cough, cough....

      "Cough, cough" <- That would be an Uber decision-maker coughing up clearly identifiable bits of a deep fried baby panda kabob during a PETA convention.

  3. Steve Davies 3 Silver badge
    Childcatcher

    Just make them

    have all their drivers 'do the knowledge'

    then

    operate only Electric Vehicles (no Prius's please).

    That will reduce the number of drivers and stop the already illegal pollution in central london from getting worse.

    After all, TfL's aim is to remove petrol and diesel engined vehicles from central london ASAP.

    1. Voland's right hand Silver badge

      Re: Just make them

      operate only Electric Vehicles

      This will just feed the lease companies which offer a full "become a Uber driver" service. It used to be one of those prominent announcements you would see on the local notice board in the local Romanian, Bulgarian, Polish, etc shop. All you needed to know is how to read the language.

      Ban it completely altogether with the business model. Want to run a taxi service - employ your staff and pay NI, Pension and Income Tax. Want to pretend to be self-employed - run full accounts, payroll and pay your tax as a company.

      1. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

        Re: Just make them

        Want to pretend to be self-employed - run full accounts, payroll and pay your tax as a company.

        FTFY

      2. Nial

        Re: Just make them

        "Want to pretend to be self-employed - run full accounts, payroll and pay your tax as a company"

        So you're banning people working self employed in the UK?

        You know there are more tax advantages running a company?

        1. Kristian Walsh Silver badge

          Re: Just make them

          So you're banning people working self employed in the UK?

          He's not. The important words were "pretend to be". Bogus self-employment is a big problem in the UK as well as other countries whose tax systems make a distinction between those who are employed (and thus have employment rights) and the self-employed (who don't).

          The idea is simple: a company hires you on condition that you act as a self-employed individual and pretend to contract with them for work. They then proceed dictate your working terms to you as if you were their employee. The person doing the work loses, while the de-facto employer gains: no sick-pay, no guaranteed working hours, no social insurance contributions, no paid holidays.

          Uber isn't the clearest case of this, but if you compare driving for Uber to driving with one of the traditional drivers' co-operatives that operate in the taxi business (in which drivers genuinely are self-employed), you'd notice that while Uber's drivers do share the costs of providing their service, they don't get a share of the profits in return (and the fact that Uber doesn't make a profit isn't the reason for this). Also, Uber dictates the work, which fails another test of self-employment: Sure, you can refuse jobs on Uber, or go offline for periods, but if you do so you'll notice a decline the quality and quality of jobs you're offered by the service. Not quite "do this or you're fired" (Uber is your employer), but it's not exactly "can you do this for me?" (Uber is your client) either.

        2. Voland's right hand Silver badge

          Re: Just make them

          So you're banning people working self employed in the UK?

          You know there are more tax advantages running a company?

          I do, I do. Does this answer your question?

          Bogus self-employment the way it is practiced by Uber, Hermes, Amazon Logistics, etc should be banned.

          There should be no such thing as self-employment. There should be employment by a company, which may or may not be owned by the employee and the company should run proper accounts, payroll and taxes. How tax efficient - it is the company's business. The moment that happens the whole gig-economy benefit fraud (it is exactly that) dies there and then.

          1. Roland6 Silver badge

            Re: Just make them

            >There should be no such thing as self-employment. ... The moment that happens the whole gig-economy benefit fraud (it is exactly that) dies there and then.

            And pigs will fly...

            Remember one of the reasons HMRC has it in for "personal service companies" is because they can be very tax efficient to the point that the 'employee' is voluntarily claiming benefits...

      3. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Just make them

        " Want to run a taxi service - employ your staff and pay NI, Pension and Income Tax. Want to pretend to be self-employed - run full accounts, payroll and pay your tax as a company."

        I don't agree with needing to employ the drivers, why can't a taxi app have hundreds of independent drivers and small taxi firms using it? the major winner is the consumer here. The company running the app should ensure that mini-cab drivers are licensed, the same as any mini-cab driver must be, the app & company running it should be purely an app for booking a cab, rating the driver/taxi firm....

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Just make them

      But the Taxi and Private Hire division of TfL, these are the same people who suspended Uber, give ALL the taxi and private hire vehicles a 100% discount on the congestion charge and T-Charge. So that would make it totally irrelevant for them driving electric vehicles!

      The question people should be asking is "how pollutant are the taxis and private hire vehicles ?"

      There are currently 110,000 vehicles on the exemption list!

  4. Aristotles slow and dimwitted horse Silver badge

    Gratuitous World Cup sideload...

    "TfL alleged that Elvidge "does not accept that it was clear and obvious that the proposed [video medical exam] solution was unsatisfactory".

    Perhaps they should introduce VAR just like in the World Cup. That is designed to spot and correct clear and obvious errors also. But doesn't in the majority of cases...

  5. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Push Doctor (Copyright SuperFly Ltd)

    ME: Hey random computer doctor, can I get some pills...

    SnoopMD : Yeah Brother, The more medicated, the more dedicated... check yo email, dawg!

  6. handle bars

    Pirate radio stations could not just say forget the past

    Uber came into the London market with no cares about what the rules were. When told they were wrong they stuck two fingers up and continued. Now they want forgiveness? Remember when pirate radio stations broadcast illegally? They had to jump through hoops to be one of the lucky allowed to become legit... Uber still has a long way to go. The chicken and egg question is not applicable, you follow the law first then open for business.

    1. bigtimehustler

      Re: Pirate radio stations could not just say forget the past

      Isn't your reasoning a little off here? I would say the model pirate radio stations used actually worked, it forced the authorities to open up the airwaves to non government controlled entities to broadcast. So the example you used actually shows a very worthwhile breaking of the law to achieve a better situation.

    2. Roland6 Silver badge

      Re: Pirate radio stations could not just say forget the past

      >Remember when pirate radio stations broadcast illegally?

      Which particular group of pirate radio stations are you referring to? Those who followed the law and were 'naughty' namely Radio Caroline etc. who broadcasted (legally) from international waters, or those who strung a transmitter up on a high rise building (with was illegal) most weekends and broadcast to those who were prepared to explore the FM frequency band.

      Currently, I would put Uber in with the weekend operators, they knew what they were doing was illegal, they just hoped that they wouldn't get caught.

    3. Vinyl-Junkie

      Re: Pirate radio stations could not just say forget the past

      No pirate radio stations were allowed to become legit following the implementation Marine Broadcasting Offences Act in 1967. Radio Caroline, the only surviving UK pirate radio station, did not become legit (as an Internet only broadcaster) until 1991. They did not get their MW licence until last year, some 50 years after the passing of the Act.

  7. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Push Doctor,

    Push! Is it another "disruptive service", perhaps to replace NHS, and provided, by chance, by the same disruptors as ueber-disruptors? It sounds like a perfect plan: cheap, won't work, but-we-say-it-works-as-advertised-says-the-spokedroid, etc.

    1. Francis Boyle Silver badge

      Yes

      but since it's all online, unlike Uber, they won't kill anyone. . .

  8. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

    "Uber modified its systems to require employees seeking to apply such tags to obtain pre-approval by a manager and legal clearance. Violation of the policy would lead to disciplinary sanction."

    Translation: Not no.

  9. Jason Bloomberg Silver badge
    Paris Hilton

    Judge Uber on its record

    607 drivers dismissed, 221 immediately suspended on public safety grounds.

    I imagine Uber will claim that shows they were doing a grand job of keeping on top of any problems which arise but I'm wondering what sort of job they were doing that those problems arose in the first place.

    I would hope we would all have preferred those Uber drivers convicted of rape and assault to have never been allowed to become Uber drivers in the first place.

    1. Pascal Monett Silver badge

      Re: I'm wondering what sort of job they were doing

      The only "job" Uber is doing is keeping itself as far away from an actual job as possible, whilst raking in the dough and driving competition into the dust.

      The obvious end game is Uber being a monopoly and suddenly prices are going to hitch a ride on the Saturn V.

      1. Mike Moyle Silver badge

        Re: I'm wondering what sort of job they were doing

        "The obvious end game is Uber being a monopoly and suddenly prices are going to hitch a ride on the Saturn V."

        well... If it got us the Saturn V back... Maybe...

    2. Kristian Walsh Silver badge

      Re: Judge Uber on its record

      In the spirit of using cutting edge tech to solve issues best handled by humans, Uber had previously been using an advanced quantum vetting process. As its drivers were simultaneously both dangerous and safe until an observation collapsed this duality and placed them into one or other category, it could be reasoned that, so long as the company never actually investigated anyone, they would never have any "definite" dangerous drivers. Simple.

  10. Not Enough Coffee

    Uber also said that it "would never knowingly compromise public safety".

    Considering their self-driving tech, I'd want them to define "knowingly".

    1. Mike Richards Silver badge

      'Move fast and break things' and self-driving really don't go together.

      1. Mike Moyle Silver badge

        "'Move fast and break things' and self-driving really don't go together."

        (Puts on best Pantomime Punch voice) "OH-H-H-H, yes, they DO!"

  11. katrinab Silver badge

    Have a look at the court cases at Reading Magistrates Court.

    Several Über London drivers get prosecuted there every month for driving without a licence or insurance, and Über were refused a licence to operate in Reading. They could use their London licence to pick up passengers who want to travel to London. London firms who specialise in the airport market do this, but people generally book their travel to the airport at the same time they book their flight tickets, and Über aren't geared up for that.

  12. Grant Fromage

    Your creepy Fakir will be with you shortly.

    I know from working with them at various companies several Uber lady users. the ones that use it daytime have had no significant creepy probs.

    The ones covering 24 hr working who when it started tried Uber after midnight, all stopped and went back to minicabs after only a few months after a creeped out experience soured them.

    One exception who used to teach Karate in a former life was tempted to do it as a mission to go perve frightening,

    Top girl!

    I would never let an unaccompanied lady get into an Uber cab. It would be considered neglect of a duty of care.

    1. MrXavia

      Re: Your creepy Fakir will be with you shortly.

      "I would never let an unaccompanied lady get into an Uber cab. It would be considered neglect of a duty of care."

      That is a sad situation to be in, there should never be a situation where a pre-booked car (or black cab) is a threat to anyone.

      what could be the solution to this?

      1. Kristian Walsh Silver badge

        Re: Your creepy Fakir will be with you shortly.

        Less regulation, of course.

  13. lglethal Silver badge
    WTF?

    WTF

    "Uber seeks restoration of its licence for 18 months so its corporate changes can become "fully embedded and [be] put to the test". "

    Honestly gov, yes, yes I did rob all those banks, but that was back then! I'm operating under new rules now. I've got a new code of conduct. So you should definitely let me be the head of the Royal Mint, so I can prove to you just how much I've turned over a new leaf...

    1. Alister Silver badge

      Re: WTF

      Honestly gov, yes, yes I did rob all those banks, but that was back then! I'm operating under new rules now. I've got a new code of conduct. So you should definitely let me be the head of the Royal Mint, so I can prove to you just how much I've turned over a new leaf...

      “Shall I tell you about angels, Mr. Lipwig?" said the Patrician pleasantly. "I know two interesting facts about them."

  14. GregoireLeGros

    Why not a taxi company owned and run by someone like TfL? If they are no good then it must be possible to set up an employee owned situation.

    1. Steve Davies 3 Silver badge

      TfL are the licensing authority

      so there would be a direct conflict of interest and all the Black Cabs and MiniCabs would be out in force and bring London to a complete standstill.

      IMHO, your idea is a non starter.

  15. DrXym Silver badge

    Why is this so difficult?

    Uber is a taxi service. They should be required to comply with all the regulations and rules that other taxi drivers must comply with.

    That typically means - a police "good character" check, additional health certification, drivers who can speak English, adequate vehicle insurance, additional vehicle safety checks (since a taxi is considered a public vehicle) and a licence to drive a minicab (private hire).

    And if they can't do that then they can GTFO.

    And that's even before considering other Uber perennials such as their contract model, health & safety regs on shift patterns etc.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Why is this so difficult?

      Spot on. At last someone brings up the bloody obvious thing that is the crux of the problem. If they want to compete with the black cabs make them do the knowledge and comply with all the other checks and regs. They couldnt do it. Its an unfair playing field and ltf need to get their act together. The ban should stand.

      1. LucreLout Silver badge

        Re: Why is this so difficult?

        If they want to compete with the black cabs make them do the knowledge

        Why?! The need for this died out decades ago now.

        The Knowledge only exists now as an artificial and arbitrary entry bar to restrict the number of black cab drivers in order to drive up the price they can charge. There is literally no other reason for it to exist today.

        Its understandable why the cabbies might like to keep it, and even the odd demented union rep, but it makes no sense at all for the customers.

        1. EnviableOne Bronze badge

          Re: Why is this so difficult?

          The Knowledge only exists now as an artificial and arbitrary entry bar to restrict the number of black cab drivers in order to drive up the price they can charge. There is literally no other reason for it to exist today.

          There have been numerous independant tests, johnny with his sat nav has been beaten by black cab drivers hands down. The issue is black cabs take different routes dependant on time of day, weather conditions, etc, sat-nav sticks to one route, possibly changing if it has some traffic info, but most streets dont have the sensors.

          Any way there's a big difference between PH and HC licencing and Uber just need to play by the same rules as everyone else! PHVs arent required to do the knowledge, but you do have to have a basic understanding of london geography and know how to use a map

          1. LucreLout Silver badge

            Re: Why is this so difficult?

            There have been numerous independant tests, johnny with his sat nav has been beaten by black cab drivers hands down. The issue is black cabs take different routes dependant on time of day, weather conditions, etc, sat-nav sticks to one route, possibly changing if it has some traffic info, but most streets dont have the sensors.

            Which is something they learned to do while driving those streets, sort of like the average person with a sat nav will do as they go, no?

        2. mintus55

          Re: Why is this so difficult?

          The Knowledge is still very important - satnav only works if you know the address or post code of your destination.

          i can tell a black cab driver to go to the vietnamese on kingsland road and he will know what i'm talking about and get me there no questions asked.

          if i ask the same thing question to a mini cab driver i would not get to my destination. heck most mini cab drivers can't even find the brick lane beigel shop.

  16. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Okaay...

    "never knowingly compromise public safety"

    Do they mean like, disabling the emergency braking because it can disrupt ride comfort? There's a higher spirit up there somewhere who left her dead body with her bicycle, who might have a view on that.

    1. Cpt Blue Bear

      Re: Okaay...

      "never knowingly compromise public safety"

      Knowingly is the important word in that sentence.

  17. This post has been deleted by its author

  18. Party Bus10

    Why

    Uber need to seriously take note of other motorists on the road and find a carpark to operate there business legally and safely

    1. Tromos

      Re: Why

      "there business"

      Where business?

  19. MR W B Jones

    Just get the ban hammer out and get rid of them before its too late!

    Once they drive every one else out of business they will just push prices up!

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