Badly dented by lockdowns, Uber is gearing up for what is set to be one of its most dangerous collisions yet: a long-awaited showdown with Mayor Sadiq Khan and Transport for London.
All eyes will be on the taxi app as it prepares to defend itself at Westminster magistrates’ court tomorrow over allegations that it has placed passenger safety at risk.
The Mayor of London wants Uber, and its 45,000 drivers in the capital, off the roads. A court case in November stripped Uber of its licence in London after it was discovered that more than 14,000 trips had been completed by drivers who had faked their identities on the app.
This is one of Uber’s last chances to appeal against that decision. Whether it can hold on to its biggest market in Europe will rest on how much it can prove it has changed its safety record.
TfL admits that Uber has made a number of “positive changes and improvements to its culture, leadership and systems” since its licence was taken away. But it claims the changes aren’t enough.
Chief among TfL’s concerns is the supposed “open secret” of account sharing, whereby drivers share the same account and car. This can mean the person that picks up a passenger may not necessarily match the person listed on the app.
The regulator claims this led to a case where a driver, who previously had their licence taken away, was able to conduct a trip.
TfL also flagged concerns last year around how dismissed or suspended drivers could create a new account and carry passengers again. At the time, Dara Khosrowshahi, the chief executive of Uber, said TfL’s decision was “just wrong”. He claimed the company had “fundamentally changed” the way it operated in London.
Uber hopes safety improvements will secure London future
In a bid to assuage TfL’s fears, Uber released a host of safety improvements. For instance, users and drivers can keep their loved ones in the loop about their trip by selecting up to five “trusted contacts” who can see their journeys in real-time.
Uber also introduced an emergency assistance button that calls authorities directly from the app.
Uber’s tussle with TfL has been going on for some time. London’s transport authority first rejected its licence renewal in September 2017.
Despite the long-running row, Uber’s British demise may still not be on the cards. “My expectation is that Uber will be relicensed,” says James Farrar, the founder of employment rights group Worker Info Exchange.