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.

New TFL officers hit London streets

TFL’s Taxi and Private Hire Compliance Team which currently has a team of 82 people will be joined by 50 new officers to patrol London Streets.

The Mayor of London, Sadiq Khan announced the 250 positions four months ago, for which they received over 4,800 applications.

The main role of the officers will be to crack down on illegal activity within the capital, undertaking vehicle checks and ensuring that all drivers are licensed and have the correct paper work. They will also be ready to provide the public advice on how to get home safely.

Steve Burton, TfL’s director of Enforcement and On-street Operations advised that the increase of officers will allow them to ‘robustly’ deal with breaches and catch those who are breaking the set laws.

The team will continue to grow with the outlook of summer 2017 seeing more than 300 Compliance Officers which is currently the largest number of Compliance Officers in Mayoral history.

TfL’s existing team have stopped approximately 37,000 black taxis and minicabs since April 2016.

Sadiq Khan added “Every Londoner and visitor to our city must feel safe getting around London. The roll-out of more compliance officers over the coming months will be crucial in driving up standards and ensuring Londoners remain safe”

Gett Together Carpooling service

Carpool is coming to Black cabs

Gett Together Carpooling service

Gett will be looking to launch a carpooling service, similar to its rival Uber, in the Capital and possibly other markets in places such as New York. Gett Together

The founder and chief executive of Gett, Shahar Waiser has stated that it could achieve “price point in carpooling that’s never been done before”

For London that would be similar to tube prices which would be fixed.

“It’s a shared commute. There are many people in the car and actually using black cabs gives opportunity to have more people in the vehicle in comfort. With that we can achieve, firstly, faster speeds because we have access to the bus lanes,” said Waiser.

The service will take on UberPool which last week extended the areas of cover across the city.

Gett Together was available to some users on the 05/12/2016 and will be rolled out to a wider audience over the coming weeks.

Uber possibly looking at £150m tax bill

Uber Possibly looking at a £150 Million Plus Tax bill as their drivers aren’t classed as Self-Employed

The latest tribunal ruling could land Uber with a tax bill running into the hundreds of millions of Pounds. Earlier in the month in a landmark judgement tribunal judges ruled that 2 drivers who Uber were claiming were self-employed should actually be classed as employed and therefore entitled to holiday pay and sick pay.

The ruling is a huge blow to Uber’s business model but will also have serious implications to a host of other service industries. If Ubers drivers were to be classed as employees rather than self-employed contractors the tax bill will be huge. Uber is currently in the process of appealing the ruling but it has opened up the doors for 40,000 drivers in London to challenge their employment status.

It has been estimated that their National Insurance Contributions alone could top £13 million a month, this would have a serious effect on their bottom line. The reclassification of their employees could also that they could be forced to pay VAT on all money raised from fares. Uber is unlikely to go down without a fight and has already written to all their drivers telling them the ruling is unique and will not result in a change of its terms of business. GMB Union that bought about the tribunal has heavily criticised Uber’s stance.

uber003

Dean Richardson The boxing cabbie

Dean Richardson – Boxing Cabbie

Quotax are pleased to announce that their sponsored welterweight, Dean Richardson, has been invited to fight on the under card of George Grove’s bout against Eduard Gutknecht at the SSE Arena Wembley on 18th November.

Dean Richardson The boxing cabbie

This means that Richardson’s proposed fight at York Hall, Bethnal Green on 29th October has been cancelled but fighting at Wembley will provide him with more exposure as well as a great opportunity to fight in a massive venue.

 

Anyone interested in going along and supporting one of London’s youngest taxi drivers in his third professional bout should contact 07512 542168.

Dean Richardson The boxing cabbie

Dean Richardson has his eyes on the road as well as the ring

As if it wasn’t hard enough pursuing a professional boxing career, former Dale Youth ABC starlet Dean Richardson, aged 21, has also been putting in some hard graft outside the ring, as he has just completed The Knowledge and become a licensed black taxi driver.  Having turned 21 at the beginning of August, Richardson is one of London’s youngest cabbies.  He was presented with the coveted Green Badge on 26th August 2016.

Dean Green Badge

 

After leaving school at 18 and not knowing where to turn next bar boxing, the former Ruislip High school pupil opted to follow his dad’s path and train to become a cab driver, something Ray has been doing for nearly 20 years.

 

He said: “When I was younger I was never really interested in becoming a cab driver. But when I came out of sixth form still not knowing what I wanted to do apart from boxing, my dad turned to me and said what about becoming a cab driver?’

Dean Cab Driver

 

‘I knew I wanted to become a professional boxer, but at the same time I needed something to fall back on as you don’t know what’s around the corner.’

 

‘It’s been just over three years of hard work but I’m now reaping the rewards from it.’

 

He continued: ‘It’s a job I can do for life, and I can work on it when I have some spare time between training. I have that freedom, so I’m in a good position now.’

 

The prospect of that is no doubt an exciting one for the Richardson, who has made a flying start to his professional career, with back-to-back knockouts in his first two fights against Aleksejs Grustans and most recently Ivan Duvancic.

Dean Richardson Boxer

 

Richardson trains at State of Mind Fitness in Hammersmith and recently had the opportunity to train with Dale Youth ABC legend George Groves, one of a host of boxers he looks up to in the current day.

 

‘He’s someone who has fought in some really big fights in his career already,’ said Richardson. ‘That includes one of the biggest British bouts in recent history and he’s also been out to Vegas.  You can’t ask for a better training partner really than George.’

 

Richardson’s next fight is on 29th October at York Hall, Bethnal Green.  Tickets are available on 07512 542168. 

Dean Richardson Flyer

Black Cab trade boost proposed by London’s mayor

London’s mayor has announced a list of measures which are to support the black cab trade amid growing competition from the private hire sector.

Sadiq Khan has come forward and pledges that the number of taxi ranks will increase from 500 to 600 over the next four years with 20 more bus lanes operational for cabbies to use.

He went on further to state that he wants the Knowledge to be accredited as a formal qualification which would allow applicants to apply for study loans.

Come 2017 £5000 grants will be put in place to scrap old and more polluting taxis.

TFL will also feature taxi information via its online journey planner by summer 2017.

Mr Khan has also set out his intention to push ahead with the new rules for private hire drivers such as Uber.

The new rule includes drivers being required to pass an English test involving reading, writing and listening tests as well as more robust insurance regulations.

As previously reported Uber claims the proposals would pile “extra costs” for licensed private hire drivers and they are still going ahead with the High Court challenge against the rules.

Mr Khan has said he was “determined to drive up standards and improve safety for every passenger in London, while protecting the future of our iconic black cabs that provide a unique and invaluable service for London”

The plan has been welcomed by the Licensed Taxi Drivers Association however the RMT union, which represents taxis drivers, stated that it was “bitterly disappointed” that certain issues had not been addressed by the mayor such as ‘illegal plying for hire and abuse of regulations’

Uber to deploy self-driving cars

Uber have confirmed that within the next fortnight app users will be able to hail self-driving cars in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.

Uber first revealed plans to use driverless vehicles two years ago however after teaming up with Volvo they have now made the plans a reality. To start with all vehicles will be supervised by a driver that will be able to take full control if necessary.

A spokeswoman for Uber told the BBC that this an ‘important milestone that no other automotive company has achieved to date’

She went on to explain, “In Pittsburgh, customers will request cars the normal way, via Uber’s app, and will be paired with a driverless car at random. Trips will be free for the time being, rather than the standard local rate of $1.30 [£0.98] per mile.”

The partners, Volvo have already sent a number of sensor-equipped XC90 sports utility vehicles to Uber for use in the trials. By the end of the year they are estimated to provide them with 100 in total.

Volvo has also given confirmation of the ‘joint project’ with Uber and provided some insight into project by stating “Both Uber and Volvo will use the same base vehicle for the next stage of their own autonomous car strategies,”

“This will involve Uber adding its own self-developed autonomous driving systems to the Volvo base vehicle.”

They also added that engineers from both firms will be collaborating on the project.

It has been noted that the deal with Volvo will not be exclusive and that Uber is making plans to work with other carmakers within the industry.

Uber is said to have invested a lot in its automated driving research programme however having raised over £7.5bn from its backers giving it plenty of financial scope at its disposal.

One caveat however – the “self-driving” Volvos picking up Uber users will still have a human in the driving seat as a supervisor. Even if Uber was confident enough in the technology to dispense with a human, neither Pittsburgh nor any other city is ready to adapt its regulations to allow completely autonomous driving.

Uber wins right to challenge driver English tests

Uber has now won the right to take TFL to court over their new rules which would require its drivers to pass an English test.

TFL recently set out new rules within the industry and wanted all private hire drivers to undergo a reading, writing and listening test from the 01/10/2016, which was accepted by the High Court. The High court also agreed in principle that firms such as Uber would be required to provide a call centre service that passengers can contact during a journey.

Tom Elvidge, general manager of Uber London, said: “We’re pleased the judge has decided this case deserves a hearing.

“TfL’s plans threaten the livelihoods of thousands of drivers in London, while also stifling tech companies like Uber.”

Although Uber had initially supported the tests, they now argue that it is unnecessary for drivers to provide a certificate showing they have an intermediate level of reading and writing and it would also become costly.

Uber has more than 30,000 drivers in London and it is estimated that thousands would be affected by these rules.

TfL said: “We note that the court has refused permission for judicial review of the principle and standard of English language test, the requirement for hire and reward insurance and the ability for customers to speak to someone by telephone.

“We are determined to create a vibrant taxi and private hire market, with space for all providers to flourish.

“We look forward to the remaining issues being resolved in due course.”