Taxi News Roundup April 2017
Drivers in South Lanarkshire Threaten Strike Action
Earlier in April we reported that drivers in the South Lanarkshire towns of Rutherglen and Cambuslang had threatened strike action, in protest over increasingly tough working conditions in the area. Drivers were concerned with what they view as an over-saturation of the number of taxis operating in the region, which they say is severely affecting their ability to earn a decent wage on a day to day basis.
South Lanarkshire granted 142 licenses to new drivers in 2016 alone, with the increase in new drivers on the road not corresponding with an increase in business. One driver in the area, Charles Spiers, said . “I know of drivers having to work twenty-four hours over a Friday and Saturday, just to pay the mortgage. Older drivers in particular are pushing themselves too hard. You have the same amount of jobs, but twice the amount of drivers”.
In response to the treat of strike action, Geraldine McCann, a representative for South Lanarkshire Council said that the law “does not currently permit the limiting of private hire cars”. However, McCann also mentioned the introduction of a new provision that would give local authorities the ability to limit and refuse to hand out private hire licenses, which is due to come into force during 2017.
Cabbies Protest Evening Standard Offices
Back in March, London’s Evening Standard newspaper announced that former Chancellor of the Exchequer George Osborne was to become its new editor. It turns out that some weren’t too happy with the announcement, with London's licensed taxi trade in particular finding issue.
In late April, the Licensed Taxi Drivers Association (LTDA) announced that they were to protest outside the Evening Standard’s offices, over fears that Osborne’s appointment could lead to the paper losing its status as an independent “voice of London'. The LTDA cited recent allegations that suggest the former chancellor lobbied on behalf of ride-share company Uber during his time in office. The LTDA's general secretary Steve McNamara also alleged that Osborne’s involvement with the firm BlackRock placed him as an indirect backer of Uber, stating that BlackRock had “invested millions of pounds in Uber – a £50bn company that paid just £400,000 in tax in the UK last year”.
Like drivers in South Lanarkshire, London drivers are operating in an increasingly saturated market, and as such the LTDA has had a longstanding issue with Uber. They view Osborne's appointment to the Standard as something that could lead to a “lack of transparency” at the paper, and something that could potentially lead to editorials that favour the viewpoint of Uber over the LTDA. Whichever side of the argument you fall on, it’s safe to say that the discussion around Uber in the UK isn’t set to subside any time soon.
Mercedes on Track to Develop Self-Driving Taxis
The world of driverless taxis may not be too far off, as Mercedes and Bosch have announced they are set to work together to produce a market-leading “robo taxi”.
At the moment there isn’t too much of a market to lead in; as far as we’re able to tell, no company is successfully operating a driverless taxi service anywhere in the world. However, in terms of developing driverless taxis the market is saturated, with US rideshare giant Uber and China based taxi platform Didi Dache both independently working on such a service.
Mercedes’ parent group Daimler initially started development of a driverless vehicle alone, employing a team of around 500 engineers looking into hardware, software, and automotive development. However, the partnership with Bosch allows the two companies to ramp up their work, stating that they should have an autonomous vehicle ready by the beginning of the next decade.
For any drivers reading this worried that your job may be in peril within the next 3 years, don’t be too concerned. It’s highly unlikely that driverless cars will be made legal within such a short time-frame, and putting together such a landmark piece of legislation is likely to be a time consuming and lengthy task. Plus, with driverless vehicles currently making headlines for getting into scrapes and crashes around the globe, it’s unlikely that the public will be so quick to accept a ride from a taxi with no driver.