This past week one of the headline news stories was that the Mayor of London (one Sadiq Khan) was attempting to stop the Uber taxi company from operating in the capital city. Citing (mainly) the lack of safety as it was revealed that some 14,000 journeys have been made with uninsured and unlicensed drivers.
I have mixed feelings about companies like Uber. My gut instinct, as a kind of modern-day Luddite (see below), is that we do not need them. Also, while not inherently bad, they are also not ‘the greatest thing ever’ as some would have you believe. Uber operates on new technology and not all new technology is necessarily a good thing. Despite large parts of the media repeatedly telling us the contrary. (That is one Luddite view I actually do believe)
Listening to the younger generation you would think that nobody was ever able to get from A to B before Uber. This complete lack of awareness seems commonplace nowadays. In London there have always been alternatives to the famous black cabs. Local private taxi firms have always existed. Then there is public transport (including night buses) plus the old-fashioned forms of transport – cycling and walking.
Above all, I do think there is a real problem with the younger generation not being able to survive without their mobile phones. What the hell do they think we did before mobile phones and the internet? Are they really that stupid?
In my experience…
Personally, I have only ever used Uber once. In Madrid. That was only because the “normal” taxi service was on strike and I needed to get to the airport very early on a Monday morning. I think I wrote about it in a previous post – try this one. My preference in a large city would always be to use the fully licenced local service. Not some global, distant company that has nothing to do with the area in question.
It seems that these companies spring up with no real tangible assets or hardware. They operate via mobile phone “Apps” and the internet and take a small percentage of the booking fee while other people take all the risks (e.g. investing in a vehicle) and do all the work. How is that progress?
And don’t get me started on those fast food delivery services. Who the f*ck thought those were a necessity?
On the other hand…
Now for the other side of the argument. There are always two sides of course.
In big city centres getting a regular taxi can be easy. Outside of the centre this is not the case. This is even more so in rural areas. And this is where Uber has become popular. Also, Uber drivers need to operate to the Uber rules so you can track your taxi’s arrival on the “App”. This means that the whole service will generally be more reliable than the old private hire taxis ever were.
There will clearly be political reasons why London’s mayor is doing this. Just being seen to be doing something is no doubt the main one. I am sure that Uber will come up with some excuses and new means of vetting drivers that will quickly be accepted by the same politician. The whole thing will blow over as these things tend to do.
Speaking of which… What happened in Madrid? What was the result of the licenced taxi drivers’ strike? Anyone know?
A bit of history…
Luddite is defined online (ugh! apologies for that) as “a person opposed to new technology or ways of working” and classed as a derogatory term. Yet the history of the Luddites is far more interesting.
Back in the late 18th century the textiles mills of England were harsh places to work. Despite this the workforce were generally well behaved as they needed the pay. They were also highly skilled. However, when the industry introduced machines which could produce the textiles much faster and more efficiently. They could also now be operated by much lower skilled workers. The old workforce saw that the need for their skills was coming to an end, so they set about secretly sabotaging the new technology by breaking up the machines. Fairly soon the secret movement early activist movement was formed and became known as the Luddites.
The name is said to be derived from a person called Ned Ludd. But it turns out that Ned Ludd was a fictional character. It is more likely that they took their name from a lad named Ed Ludlam – who did exist – and was said to have destroyed two knitting frames in a factory in 1779; in a ‘fit of passion’. By the time the “Luddites” had started their campaign (about 1812), whenever any machinery was broken people would say “Ned Ludd did it”. (For some reason that reminds me of the movie 12 Monkeys – but I digress…)
In this case the established – and fully licenced – taxi service are the Luddites. And I have to say that I am more or less fully on their side in this whole argument.