Uber To Tempt London Black Cabs With App Offer

The fractious relationship between London’s Hackney carriages (more commonly known as black cabs) and Uber continues, despite an olive branch from the ride-hailing giant.

Uber has announced it will open up its platform to London’s black cabs next year, in an attempt to end a decade of tension with London’s famous taxi service.

But Uber may struggle to overcome vocal opposition, after the announcement was reportedly dismissed by a group representing the majority of London’s black cab drivers.

Uber offer

Uber announced that will open up its app to the world-famous London Black Cabs, with the service rolling out early next year.

All new drivers will benefit from 0 percent commission for their first six months.

Uber said that taxi drivers in Paris, New York, Rome and major cities across 33 countries are now taking trips through Uber, and that the first London cab drivers has already signed up.

“We’re partnering with taxi drivers across the world and the message we are hearing from them is clear – Uber and taxis are better together. Black Cabs are an iconic part of the capital, loved by Londoners and visitors alike, and we are proud to work side by side,” said Andrew Brem, General Manager of Uber UK.

“Partnership is win-win-win: helping London cab drivers earn more, boosting travel options for passengers and making London’s transport network more efficient,” said Brem.

Uber pointed to Hameed Hameedi as the first London cab driver to sign up with Uber.

Hameedi apparently completed ‘the Knowledge’ test in 2015, and prior to that had worked as a private hire driver.

“A lot has changed since Uber first came to London, and I know lots of cabbies who first started out as Uber drivers,” Hameed was quoted as saying. “Nowadays more passengers than ever are using apps so Uber opening up to Black Cabs will be a huge advantage to the trade.”

“App bookings are good for me because I know where my next job will be so I don’t miss any time searching on the streets for the next job,” said Hameed. “Ultimately, more passengers booking trips means more cash for cabbies and I’m excited that we are now working together.”

At the moment, black cabs are the only vehicles that can pick up passengers from London streets or taxi ranks. They can also be booked via other apps.

Uber of course is available in London via its ride-hailing app, and London is one of Uber’s top five markets.

No interest

But Uber’s offer to open its app to London’s black cabs may experience some pushback.

Reuters reported that a group representing the majority of black cab drivers has already dismissed the offer, saying there was no demand for it from members.

“We have no interest in sullying the name of London’s iconic, world-renowned black cab trade by aligning it with Uber, it’s poor safety record and everything else that comes with it,” Steve McNamara, general secretary of the Licensed Taxi Drivers Association (LTDA) was quoted as saying.

It should be remembered that Uber has faced a great deal of resistance in the UK capital, as well as other European cities over the years.

In London for example, Transport for London (TfL) in September 2017 declared Uber “not fit and proper” due to potential public safety and security implications, and said it would not renew its licence. Uber however was allowed to continue to operate during its appeal process, and it was granted a licence by a magistrate in June 2018.

But in November 2019 Uber once again lost its London licence after TfL alleged that Uber had discovered more than 14,000 rides by unauthorised drivers in late 2018 and early 2019.

Once again Uber continued to appeal, and in September 2020 Uber was deemed by a British court to be ‘fit and proper,’ and was granted 18 month license to operate in London – in a decision that was a blow for Transport for London (TfL) and London mayor Sadiq Khan.

Uber concerns

There have also been criticism of Uber for its previous attitude towards privacy and the corporate culture at the company, amid allegations of sexual harassment, bullying and inaction.

This ultimately resulted in former CEO Travis Kalanick being replaced by Dara Khosrowshahi.

One particular issue was cybersecurity.

Eight years ago Uber waited five months to report that it had been hacked in September 2014 after details of hundreds of its drivers were leaked online.

But much worse was to follow in 2016, when Uber concealed a data breach that exposed data from 57 million customers and drivers.

To make matters worse, Uber actually used its “bug bounty” program (normally used to identify small code vulnerabilities), to pay off the hackers.

Uber came clean about the incident in November 2017, after newly installed CEO Dara Khosrowshahi became aware of the breach, after joining the firm.

Then in September 2022 Uber confirmed it was “responding to a cybersecurity incident,” after reports emerged it had been hacked.

That came after the New York Times had reported that a hacker had accessed the company’s network and took several internal communications and engineering systems offline.

In October 2022 Uber’s former chief security officer Joseph Sullivan was guilty of criminal obstruction for failing to report the massive data breach in 2016.

Tom Jowitt

Tom Jowitt is a leading British tech freelancer and long standing contributor to Silicon UK. He is also a bit of a Lord of the Rings nut...

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