An application by Transport for London (TfL) to the High Court could put the brakes on Uber services in London, and it all comes down to taximeters.
These are the small boxes with which taxi drivers calculate the fare over the course of a journey, and the law states that in London they can only be used by licensed taxis, such as black cabs.
But the Uber app falls into a grey area, since it measures fares according to smart phone GPS estimates of a journey's distance and time. If the High Court decides it does count as a taximeter when the hearing takes place this summer, it will be in breach of the law and could bring an end to London Ubers as we know them – to carry on operating, they would have to find a new way of calculating fares.
There's every chance Uber will be safe – TfL already came to its own conclusion that the Smart Phone GPS mechanism is not the same as a taximeter. But pressure from cab drivers, who said they were being placed at an unfair disadvantage because of Uber, led it to take the decision-making process up a notch. The court will decide, once and for all, whether Uber is breaking the law.
“As in many other areas of transport and retail services, apps can offer passengers the potential of better and more convenient services, but their use must be legal and on the issue of taximeters the law is unclear,” explained Leon Daniels, TfL’s Managing Director of Surface Transport
“A binding High Court declaration will bring clarity on this issue for all parties."
Subscribe to the City A.M. newsletter to have our top stories delivered directly to your inbox.