London mayor, Boris Johnson has warned that all Uber drivers could be routinely breaking the law every time they get behind the wheel and use the Uber app. He has said the use of the app to hail a cab is essentially the same as hailing a cab, which is only permitted for black cab drivers, and has also questioned whether mobile phone apps that are used by drivers to calculate distance and cost are taximeters, in which case their use could also be deemed illegal.
Uber is a relatively new company, which started in the USA and has now been adopted in London and Manchester. Drivers are said to be vetted by the company, their vehicles registered, and they can then be called upon to driver Uber passengers to their destination. Passengers only need to install an app and can then use the app to effectively hail a taxi; a practice that black cab drivers have said is only legally allowed to be practiced by them. Despite previous fallings out with black cabbies, Mr Johnson has seemingly lent his support to the argument of the black cab drivers, by saying that Uber drivers are routinely breaking the law whenever they respond to such hails.
Black cabbies and Transport for London have also questioned the app that is used by Uber drivers and its legality. The app not only tracks cars, showing customers a photo of the driver, providing them with the registration plate of the vehicle that will collect them, and allowing them to see exactly where the car is while on its way to collect them. It is also used to register a credit card, and then used to determine the cost of the journey by calculating the time and distance travelled.
TfL has said that this calculative process means that the mobile phone and app technology is equivalent to that of a taximeter, and that only black cab drivers with The Knowledge are permitted to use this kind of device. Private hire drivers must provide a fixed fee before the journey begins, and cannot deviate from this charge.