Remember Christmas parties in cities before Uber? The squalid and unsafe scramble for minicabs home. The cost of late-night taxis.
Well, this year you can add to that the misery of a monthlong rail strike, which means some routes will stop running by 10 p.m.
News that Transport for London has decided to withdraw Uber’s operating license will shock a generation of Londoners who can barely recall what life in the city was like before you could summon a car with a click on a screen.
It will stun Uber’s 45,000 drivers, too. What’s going on?
The answer is that TfL is playing tough. It’s decided that Uber is not a fit and proper company to hold an operating license.
It has found that its app isn’t secure and that Uber’s systems have allowed unauthorized drivers to upload their photos to accounts that were not theirs. That means, it says, that on at least 14,000 trips people were not insured and the driver was not the one people thought they had booked.
As a result, argues TfL, it had no choice but to say no to Uber.
The company says the decision is “extraordinary and wrong.” It will appeal, which means the service will keep running as Christmas approaches.
Ubers aren’t about to vanish from the streets. It has been here before and survived, and Uber says it has “fundamentally changed our business over the last two years and are setting the standard on safety.”
TfL concedes that’s true: Its action, it argues, is a very clear shot across the bow rather than a fatal aim intended to take out the service for good.
Let’s hope that’s right. London needs to be a city that welcomes innovation and new technology, not one that drives it away.
Yes, Uber needs competitors — and TfL says it has authorized them. And yes, Uber needs to protect its passengers.
If safety can be guaranteed, London needs this service to stay on the road.
Copyright Evening Standard (London). Reprinted with permission.