MyTaxi to take on Uber as they merge with Hailo

The taxi-hailing app Hailo has launched today as MyTaxi and it is forecasted to give Uber some stiff competition.

Daimler took over Hailo back in July of last year and oversaw the merge of the app with its MyTaxi subsidiary which has formed Europe’s largest taxi app.

Hailo’s chief executive Andrew Pinnington feels that the German car company will build up its credentials against their rival Uber.

He also went on to say that MyTaxi is a new brand to London however it is currently the market leader is over half of the countries it operates in.

The new app has incorporated the features of Hailo along with some added additions. One of the additions will allow customers the option to save a favourite driver in order to make it more likely for them to be allocated on their next journey.

For all customers that hold a Hailo account, they will be redirected to download the MyTaxi app from the download store which will automatically log them in without the need to register or sign in.

Around 17,000 of Hailo’s London cabbies have signed up for MyTaxi along with a further 700 joining the app.

Uber has not received the warmest of welcomes by London Cabbies since they launched in the capital back in 2012. Many protests have been held over the company’s operation however with little effect to the running and success of Uber.

That being said TFL has been setting out plans to have a shakeup of the private hire industry in order to boost standards across the board.

Uber has recently lost a legal claim against TFL for their plans to introduce a written English language test for all private hire drivers. Uber claim that the plans will result in “tens of thousands  of drivers” losing their livelihoods.

London’s new black cabs being secretly tested

The brand new iconic taxi is currently being secretly tested out in the Arctic Circle.

The vehicles being tested have a black and white camouflage at this stage so that competitors cannot take accurate photos as it hides the contours, however the cab will still be the traditional shape and colour.

One noticeable feature is the fact that it is ‘virtually silent’

The new cab is almost zero-emission as it has an electric engine however it sports a small petrol engine which charges the battery in order to help extend its range.

So why the Article circle? The main reason for this is that the manufacturer tests all new vehicles in extreme temperatures to see how they perform and also the target audience for sales will be polluted cities all over the world, including Moscow which can be a little on the cold side in the winter.

All black cabs currently have diesel engines which has been classed the new ‘villain’ in the war on air pollution within the capital.

Figures from TFL (2013) – estimate that black cabs are responsible for 15% of poisonous gases called nitrogen oxides produced by traffic in Central London.

It’s is also noted that they generate a high percentage of more harmful, larger particles such as PM10’S and PM2.5s.

The Mayor of London, Sadiq Khan, is on a mission to reduce the pollution in the City and states that by 2018 every newly licensed taxi MUST be “zero-emissions capable”

This would mean that a vehicle would need to travel 30 miles without generating any air pollution, which is a goal that can be met by the new cabs.

With the introduction of these vehicles, plans have been put in place for 150 rapid charging points by 2018, with the aim to increase it to 300 by 2020.

The new cabs will come with a price tag of over £40,000 per vehicle.

Dean Richardson next fight at York Hall

London taxi driver turned professional boxer, Dean Richardson, steps into the ring for the fourth time at York Hall, Bethnal Green on Saturday 18th March.

Undefeated Richardson, from South Ruislip, who turned pro in November 2015, has won all his fights by KO, the last in November last year when he fought on the undercard of George Groves vs Eduard Gutknecht at Wembley Arena.

If you would like to go along to York Hall and support Dean, tickets are available on 07512 542168 and are priced at £35 (Unreserved Seating), £65 (Ringside) and £100 (VIP which includes a free bar and food from 5-7pm).

Dean Richardson at York Hall

Volkswagon unveil an all-electric minibus for the future

Volkswagon ID Buzz Minibus

Volkswagon has unveiled a new futuristic concept of the old minibus called the I.D Buzz.

The vehicle will be zero-emission and can seat up to eight people. It will also come with a ton of hi-tech features including an “augmented reality” display screen.

The vehicle will have a self-driving mode which when given a “slight push” it will activate and allow the driver’s seat to swivel 180 degrees allowing them to join the passengers.  Also, each drivers preferences in terms of seat height and music are linked to a ‘cloud’ which will automatically activate when the driver gets into the vehicle.

The Buzz will have a max speed of 99mph in order to save battery life and can do 0-60 mph in five seconds.  The battery will be 11kWh which can be charged to 80% within half an hour. The vehicle will also have a driving range of around 270 miles which is comparable to petrol/diesel cars.

Keeping with the old ‘hippy’ style, the seats will recline to make ‘beds’ which will allow several people to snooze at any time.

The plans were unveiled at the North American International Auto Show in Detroit.

Dr Herbert Diess, from Volkswagon has advised that the new plans would begin in 2020 and has promised a “completely new vehicle architecture”.

Dr H Diess also added that the company will be launching a new generation of all-electric vehicles with the vision to make “electric mobility the new trademark of Volkswagon”

The London Assembly report includes change in road pricing tech

One of the most successful IT based policy initiatives in London, the congestion charge has reportedly been beaten by a rise in delivery vans and private hire cars according to a report run by the London Assembly Transport Committee.

The committee has proposed that the existing charge be replaced by a ‘road pricing’ system which would be based on distance travelled and the time of day.

The current congestion charge is fixed at £11.50 per day and is supported by automatic number plate recognition technology (ANPR), which was introduced back in 2003. Between 2002 and 2014 the number of vehicles entering central London fell by around 39%.

After a decade of initial success, it appears that congestion is back on the rise with average vehicle speed on major roads falling by 11% from 2012 to 2015.

The report suggests that the increase is not due to the use of private cars which it states has been decreasing over the last decade. However, the number of light delivery and private hire vehicles have increased by over 70% in less than 4 years.

Delivery vans still pay a contribution towards the charge but private hire vehicles that are licensed with London Taxi and Private Hire are exempt. The committee has proposed that the exemption be removed.

The London Assembly Transport committee commented “The recent increase in congestion should lead to a reassessment of whether the policy is achieving key objectives, and how it may be modified or replaced.”

They have put forward a short-term plan whereby the system is replaced by one that charges vehicles more for entering the posted zones at peak times and for the time spent within that zone. The long-term plan is to integrate the charge with other charges that drivers have to pay such as road tax. They have not outlined what that would mean for vehicles registered in London but used outside of the capital.

This being said, some of the committee’s other solutions seem much more reasonable. One of which are to consider expanding the use of electronic board displays on the outside of the buses which show real time traffic and congestion information.

Caroline Pidgeon, the char of the committee says: “We recommend in this report that the mayor should make plans now to introduce road pricing in London. This idea has long been discussed, but until now the political will make it happen has been lacking. Delaying further is not an option.”

Driverless bus tests start in Paris

Paris, a city with chronic pollution and traffic are experimenting with electric powered self-driving shuttle which will link two train stations.

Two EZ10 minibuses that have a capacity to carry 6 seated and 6 standing passengers went into a trial service yesterday. The trial will run till April and will cover between Lyon and Austerlitz stations in Paris.

RATP president, Elisabeth Borne said ‘The autonomous vehicle presents an opportunity for new services in less densely populated areas.’

The vehicles will be GPS guided and will run seven days a week, free of charge to customers.

The minibuses will run in a single traffic lane at 15 miles per hour, back and forth. The bus will not require an infrastructure as it will use a virtual route which can be changed at any time.

The EZ10 minibus has already been tested in other countries such as the United States, Japan and Finland. They have also set plans for it to be tested in two main ‘green’ spaces in southern Paris

 RAPT also have hopes to introduce regular routes for such high-tech vehicles within the next 2 years.

Diesel Private Hire Vehicles to be banned from the capital

Sadiq Khan has been called upon by the City of London Corporation to implement a ban on diesel private hire vehicles (PHVs) with an outlook to remove existing ones from fleets as soon as possible.

It was highlighted in the authority’s response to the London Mayors proposals on air quality. The Corporation has requested that all new diesel PHVs banned as well as current licenses to be phased out by 2020 in a bid to protect the public from toxic emissions.

City of London public protection director, Jon Averns stated; ‘Diesel PHVs travel huge distances in central London and cleaner alternatives to diesel are readily available. They are releasing pollutants including nitrogen dioxides and particulate matter which can cause asthma, heart disease and cancer.

‘London’s businesses and residents want to see effective action from the authorities to reduce public exposure to air pollution in the short term. It is important that action is taken at the earliest opportunity to protect the health of Londoners.’

The Corporation has recently banned the purchasing of diesel vehicles for its own fleet and has pushed on with a London-wide ‘crackdown’ on drivers that leave their engines idling.

Minibus licence loophole, is it putting people at risk?

A legal loophole has been found which allows drivers of “public carriage vehicles” who are not subject to a criminal check.

A spokesman for the Department of Transport confirmed it was planning to take immediate action as the loophole would allow “unscrupulous drivers” to legally work even if the local councils have placed a ban on them.

The current rules and regulations mean that drivers of public carriage vehicles are licensed by the DVLA whereas local councils license taxi drivers.

Taxi drivers are required to undergo enhanced criminal record checks when being issued with a license.

The LGA has advised that the loophole meant that drivers who had either been refused a taxi/minicab licence or whose license had been revoked could instead obtain a minibus licence which allows them to operate in the same area.

In some cases, the drivers continued to work for the same company however with a different license.

The LGA has urged the government to change the law, thus removing the loophole and ensuring that vehicles seating 9-16 people were licensed by the local council.

Simon Blackburn from the LGA has expressed that the majority of minibus drivers are ‘trusted by the public’ however the loophole has provided opportunity for ‘questionable’ drivers to work in close proximity to the public even in cases where the council have deemed it not safe to do.

He continued to say “Larger minibuses are often sent in place of a regular taxi to pick up individuals or small parties, purely because they are nearest to the pick-up point rather than because there is a requirement for such a large vehicle.

“They are used to take groups of children to school, or to drive groups home after nights out.

“It is therefore extremely worrying that councils’ proactive work to protect taxi passengers from harm – and particularly those who may be most vulnerable – is being undermined by this loophole.”

Mayor’s Question time interrupted by private hire drivers.

Private hire Taxis drivers claim they are being bullied by TFL.

Members of the United Private Hire Drivers (UPHD) association interrupted the Mayor’s Question time to protest against TFL’s private hire vehicle regulation proposals mainly calling for English language tests to become mandatory.

The test will be of a GCSE level and applied to all private hire drivers that are independent and working with larger companies.

Driver Crystal Yasir from Norwood Junction said: “There are great difficulties surrounding these proposals and we all stand to suffer. We are here because something must be done.”

In a statement on the website TfL said: “These changes were introduced to raise standards in London’s private hire industry, and improve the safety, customer service experience and convenience of customers and drivers.”

UPHD co-founder Yaseen Aslam, the protest organiser said “TfL’s own analysis shows the test is of no interest or benefit to transport users yet piles cost and misery onto drivers.

“The decision to retrospectively apply the test is especially cruel as drivers may face years of worry and eventual unemployment.”

A spokesperson of the London Assembly went on to thank the protesters for maintaining a peaceful protest while in the chambers.

TFL continue with the statement that has been posted on their website, “These changes were introduced to raise standards in London’s private hire industry, and improve the safety, customer service experience and convenience of customers and drivers.”

Uber faced with threats of legal action in California

California’s attorney general Kamala Harris has threatened legal action against Uber unless they comply and “immediately” remove self-driving vehicles from the roads in San Francisco.

The threat was released by the attorney general in a letter released to the public shortly after Uber stated it would defy the states regulations out of principle.

Only 20 companies have been given approval to test self-driving cars in California and Uber had not been included due to the company refusing to abide by the same rules and regulations as its rivals.

The DMV had ordered Uber to either obtain a permit or remove its self-driving vehicles from the road on its first day on the trail which they had started without permission.

The letter released by the attorney general has warned that should Uber not comply with the rules they will “seek injunctive and other appropriate relief”.

Uber has made it clear that they have no intention of backing down as the head of Uber’s autonomous vehicle programme, Anthony Levandowski said that the rules did not apply to the fleet due to the particular form of technology used in the vehicle.

He then went on to say, “We cannot in good conscience sign up to regulation for something we’re not doing,”

“It’s an important issue of principle about when companies can operate self-driving cars on the roads and the uneven application of state-wide rules across very similar types of technology.”

Levandowski argued that Uber’s fleet were not capable of operating without being controlled/monitored by a human operator and therefore they did not need to seek a testing permit. He went on to compare the technology to Tesla’s autopilot feature which the DMV deemed they did not need a permit for.

In May of 2016 the first known death caused by a self-driving car took place in a Tesla vehicle that was using auto pilot.

Uber first rolled out the fleet of autonomous vehicles in Pittsburgh back in August, the home of Uber’s self-driving-car facility. The programme was met with enthusiasm by local officials however the same cannot be said about San Francisco.

According to the San Francisco Examiner, the police departments traffic division was not given the heads up on Uber’s programme until after it had begun. Two of the Uber vehicles had been observed running red lights on the first day of the pilot tests however Uber has advised that the drivers involved had been suspended.

The San Francisco Bicycle Coalition has also highlighted concerns with the programme as Brian Wiedenmeier posted about them in a blog post. Wiedenmeier had been given an invitation to take a ride in one of the vehicle prior to the launch however the journey only deepened his concerns with the vehicle ability to operate safely on the streets that they share with bicyclists.

The current conflict has furthered the argument that critics class as unethical and illegal tactics that the company uses in order to grow their business.