Why Uber Deserved To Lose Its London License

Transport for London’s decision to revoke Uber’s license to operate came as a shock to many, but look deeper and you can see why they deserved it.

Uber has been a gift to the world of on-demand transport for most - disrupting the entire taxi industry and giving people a far easier way to hail a taxi quickly & reliably. But over the last 12 months, cracks have begun to show in the moral makeup of this Unicorn company (valued at $50 billion).

Of course I have my own gripes. These include drivers cancelling trips that I have requested seconds before a price surge was introduced, drivers uncomfortably leaving doors locked until I had completed the process of giving them a 5-star rating and drive-aways if they wait longer than 90 seconds after calling me and being told to wait for two minutes.

However, there is a whole world of shocking stories - from the scary statistic of Uber drivers committing one sexual assault every eleven days in London, to the company itself failing to report said sex attacks and prioritising their own reputation over public safety.

These driver-related problems extend to the rating system too, reducing this democratised platform of personal transport into something akin to a bleak sci-fi wasteland reliant on your MeowMeowBeenz ranking. Hell, the drivers openly admit these sketchy practices (including reducing your rating if you don’t tip) on Reddit.

And their troubles go all the way to the top, with news of a sexist corporate culture leaking out through various stories, CEO transitions and board member resignations. Plus, most recently, some hidden threats to your privacy, as researchers found the app secretly records your iPhone’s screen during use.

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This company meltdown of sorts along with their initial response of hiring “an army of PR experts and an army of lawyers” (this changed to a welcomed humility) shows a classic case of the protected tech giant that - forever protected in a self-contained bubble, ignorant of the negative side effects their tech brings.

Once the bubble bursts, it’s time to become a real business. Realise the impact of your work and take humble steps to improve - taking your mind off quick money, focussing on sturdy growth and customer satisfaction.

So what am I saying here? The reality is simple - much like any other company, Uber is as much a good thing as it is bad. For every good grace of accessibility I feel from easily finding a reasonably priced taxi after a night out, there are consumer fears of a service ran exclusively for the social elite who pander to drivers for that 5-star rating, or slightly nefarious business practices or (more worryingly) drivers assaulting vulnerable passengers.

Something has to change. 

Whether it’s a far stricter process of selecting drivers who apply, deeper inter-operability with other taxi-based companies, the replacement of that damn rating system with some sort of longer-form feedback system that allows Uber to investigate every case, and a hard reset of the company’s internal corporate culture. 

This problem is bigger than just a London mayor’s disgruntled response to the app’s use in our capital city. Uber need to take it as a wake-up call across the entire spectrum of their business.

They’ve successfully disrupted the taxi industry. Now it’s time to grow up.