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London’s iconic black cabs to appear on Uber app, after years of resistance

Starting next year, you may be able to hail one of London’s famous black cabs on the Uber app, the ride-hailing company announced.

The San Francisco-based firm, which has been edging into the taxi market worldwide, already works with cabbies in Paris, New York and Rome. It launched its partnership with D.C. taxis about a year ago.

Uber’s app can already be used in Britain to book planes, trains, rented cars and even, for a period, a “coronation carriage” that was a replica of the one used by King Charles. However, it was not linked to black cabs, whose drivers have been resisting working with the app for nearly a decade.

Uber tried to launch a London black cab option in 2014, but only recruited a handful of drivers and abandoned the effort, according to the Licensed Taxi Drivers Association, which says it represents the majority of the city’s self-employed licensed cabbies.

In 2019, the group hailed London transport authorities’ decision not to renew Uber’s license to operate in the city after thousands of trips were made with drivers who were different than the ones who were booked. Transport for London cited “several breaches that placed passengers and their safety at risk.” The company succeeded in an appeal in 2020 and received a 30-month license to operate in London last year.

Under the new arrangement, users on the Uber app who want a black cab will receive an estimated price range, based on the meter time and distance; cabbies can then choose to accept or reject the offer. All new drivers will pay no commission to Uber their first six months, Uber said in the statement.

Steve McNamara, the LTDA’s general secretary, said that “there is no demand for this partnership” from drivers or passengers, who can hail black cabs on other apps like Gett, TaxiApp, FREENOW and ComCab. He added that taxi trade groups were not consulted before what he called a “unilateral announcement.”

“We have no interest in sullying the name of London’s iconic, world-renowned black cab trade by aligning it with Uber, its poor safety record and everything else that comes with it,” McNamara said.

London, which has the world’s oldest regulated taxi service, is home to the black cab, also called hackney carriages. Its drivers must pass the Knowledge, a test of the city’s thousands of streets and which can require several years of study, according to Transport for London.

Howard Taylor, a licensed taxi driver, said in the LTDA statement that “cabbies work hard to do the Knowledge and we take great pride in what we do. London black cabs are the gold standard. We go the extra mile to help our passengers and are committed to providing a safe, accessible and efficient service. From everything I’ve seen, I don’t believe Uber shares these commitments.”

However, Hameed Hameedi, a licensed cabdriver who completed the Knowledge in 2015, says he’s signed up with Uber. “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,” he was quoted as saying in Uber’s statement Tuesday. “Ultimately, more passengers booking trips means more cash for cabbies and I’m excited that we are now working together.”

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