Uber London: Black cab drivers to bring capital to a standstill in protest at app driving them out of business

Drivers say Uber is bending the rules and threatens their jobs

Senior Reporter

A group of tech wizards in an office in San Francisco will bring London’s traffic to a total standstill on Wednesday, using nothing more than an iPhone app.

It sounds like the sort of unlikely computer-hacking scenario dreamt up by a Hollywood studio, but tomorrow it will become reality as thousands of furious black cab drivers blockade the capital in protest against Uber, the American taxi-hailing app, which they say is driving them out of existence.

Up to 10,000 licenced cab drivers are due to stage a drive-slow through the centre of the city, beginning at Trafalgar Square, before lining up their vehicles across key roads and bringing all traffic to a stop. For Londoners who have slowly grown accustomed to Tube strikes, it will be a novel new form of transport chaos – but it is also a vivid illustration of how rapidly an established industry can find itself outpaced by technology.

Uber, which was founded in 2009 and has its headquarters in San Francisco, allows users to locate and book nearby taxis with their smartphones. It has built up a vast number of cars very quickly by allowing anyone with a Private Hire Vehicle licence to sign up as a driver.

This casual arrangement has infuriated metered taxi operators, who claim it amounts to the deregulation of their industry and is unsafe, as Uber drivers are not subject to the same checks as those who operate black cabs.

The Uber app locates nearby taxis (Susannah Ireland) The Uber app locates nearby taxis (Susannah Ireland) The London Taxi Drivers Association has already launched private prosecutions against six minicab drivers who use Uber, claiming that the app is the equivalent of a black cab’s meter, which private-hire vehicles are not allowed to use. Transport for London has been criticised for licensing Uber, but has defended itself by saying the law about what constitutes a meter is “unclear”. It is now seeking clarification from the High Court and has dismissed the protest as “pointless”.

Some argue that Uber offers customers more choice and that taxi drivers should not be allowed to stand in the way of technological advances. Simon Walker, director general of the Institute of Directors, said: “The cab drivers protesting this week will not be able to prevent technological innovation any more than the machine-breakers of the 19th century could stop the spread of the power loom.”

Uber now operates in more than 100 cities in 30 countries and last week was valued at $18.2 billion, a fivefold increase in the space of a year. If the valuation is to be believed, an app launched five years ago is now worth more than the global car hire firm Hertz, which was founded in 1918.

Similar taxi driver protests will take place today in Madrid, Milan, Berlin and Paris. An Uber spokesperson said the company was “committed to keeping people moving across all the impacted European cities”, adding: “Wednesday will be treated like any other busy period for us.”

Life and Style
ebookNow available in paperback
ebooks
ebookPart of The Independent’s new eBook series The Great Composers
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

ES Rentals

    iJobs Job Widget
    iJobs Gadgets & Tech

    Recruitment Genius: PHP Developer - Mid / Senior

    £25000 - £40000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This fast growing digital agenc...

    Ashdown Group: SQL DBA - Croydon - up to £65,000

    £58000 - £65000 per annum: Ashdown Group: SQL DBA - Bromley, South East London...

    Ashdown Group: Service Delivery Manager - Retail / FMCG / WMS Operations

    £55000 - £65000 per annum + Benefits: Ashdown Group: Service Delivery Manager ...

    Recruitment Genius: Software Developer

    £25000 - £35000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A Software Developer is require...

    Day In a Page

    Machine Gun America: The amusement park where teenagers go to shoot a huge range of automatic weapons

    Machine Gun America

    The amusement park where teenagers go to shoot a huge range of automatic weapons
    The ethics of pet food: Why are we are so selective in how we show animals our love?

    The ethics of pet food

    Why are we are so selective in how we show animals our love?
    11 best bedside tables

    11 best bedside tables

    It could be the first thing you see in the morning, so make it work for you. We find night stands, tables and cabinets to wake up to
    No postcode? No vote

    Floating voters

    How living on a houseboat meant I didn't officially 'exist'
    Louis Theroux's affable Englishman routine begins to wear thin

    By Reason of Insanity

    Louis Theroux's affable Englishman routine begins to wear thin
    Power dressing is back – but no shoulderpads!

    Power dressing is back

    But banish all thoughts of Eighties shoulderpads
    Spanish stone-age cave paintings 'under threat' after being re-opened to the public

    Spanish stone-age cave paintings in Altamira 'under threat'

    Caves were re-opened to the public
    'I was the bookies’ favourite to be first to leave the Cabinet'

    Vince Cable interview

    'I was the bookies’ favourite to be first to leave the Cabinet'
    Election 2015: How many of the Government's coalition agreement promises have been kept?

    Promises, promises

    But how many coalition agreement pledges have been kept?
    The Gaza fisherman who built his own reef - and was shot dead there by an Israeli gunboat

    The death of a Gaza fisherman

    He built his own reef, and was fatally shot there by an Israeli gunboat
    Saudi Arabia's airstrikes in Yemen are fuelling the Gulf's fire

    Saudi airstrikes are fuelling the Gulf's fire

    Arab intervention in Yemen risks entrenching Sunni-Shia divide and handing a victory to Isis, says Patrick Cockburn
    Zayn Malik's departure from One Direction shows the perils of fame in the age of social media

    The only direction Zayn could go

    We wince at the anguish of One Direction's fans, but Malik's departure shows the perils of fame in the age of social media
    Young Magician of the Year 2015: Meet the schoolgirl from Newcastle who has her heart set on being the competition's first female winner

    Spells like teen spirit

    A 16-year-old from Newcastle has set her heart on being the first female to win Young Magician of the Year. Jonathan Owen meets her
    Jonathan Anderson: If fashion is a cycle, this young man knows just how to ride it

    If fashion is a cycle, this young man knows just how to ride it

    British designer Jonathan Anderson is putting his stamp on venerable house Loewe
    Number plates scheme could provide a licence to offend in the land of the free

    Licence to offend in the land of the free

    Cash-strapped states have hit on a way of making money out of drivers that may be in collision with the First Amendment, says Rupert Cornwell