As many as 12,000 black cabs are expected to congregate around Trafalgar Square, Whitehall and Parliament Square in protest against regulations that let private Uber drivers operate as taxis.
Uber’s app allows customers to order a car based on their GPS location and handles payment, but black cab drivers says the app given to drivers (different to that used by customers) essentially functions as a taximeter – a device covered by legal regulations.
Uber, which was founded in 2009 and was recently valued at $18.2 billion, has responded by adding ‘Black Taxis’ to its three current vehicle classes – uberX, EXEC and LUX.
The company has also undercut rival app Hailo (which offers similar functionality to Uber but only offers access to taxi cabs) by charging “a flat commission of just 5%”.
Uber has said it expects “initial availability” of black cabs “to be limited due to high demand” – although as the service was only announced today it seems unlikely that any black cabs have signed up yet.
The protests in London are part of a wider backlash against Uber, with similar actions hitting cities including Paris, Berlin and Madrid. The company currently operates in 128 cities in 37 countries.
Uber’s UK general manger Jo Bertram told the BBC that there was “room for black cabs and private hire cars to co-exist in London.”
She said: "We are open to discussions with black-cab drivers, unfortunately today's demonstration disadvantages Londoners and it closes down discussion."
Steve McNamara of the Licensed Taxi Drivers Association said that the black cab drivers have “nothing against competition” but “feel that Transport for London has failed Londoners by allowing Uber to operate outside the law.”