London introduces new powers as Uber awaits appeal

18th May 2018 Jonathan Andrews

Transport for London’s Taxi and Private Hire (TPH) Compliance Officers have been given new powers by the Metropolitan Police to crack down on illegal activity.

One hundred and nine officers are now being specially trained with powers to stop any private hire vehicle for inspection, testing and verification of licensing conditions without the presence of police. This could include checking for valid insurance, inspecting the driver’s licence or photo ID, and inspecting the vehicle for any defects.

“The safety of Londoners is my number-one priority, and with the growth of the private hire industry in London it is essential we give our compliance officers real powers to clamp down on illegal activity, and take action against unsafe and unlicensed vehicles,” said Sadiq Khan, Mayor of London.

The new powers are part of the mayor’s Taxi and Private Hire Action Plan, which includes a range of steps to drive up standards and boost the quality of service for Londoners. The mayor says they will help deal with the rapid growth of the UK capital’s private hire industry, which has seen an increase from 59,000 licensed drivers in 2009/10 to around 113,000.

In September 2017 London became the first UK city to refuse to renew Uber’s taxi licence because of safety concerns. The company is still able to operate while it appeals the decision and has taken steps to increase safety.

Uber says it has strengthened driver screenings by re-running criminal background and motor vehicle checks each year, and is investing in new technology that can notify the company when a driver is involved in criminal activity.

A new feature has been added that allows riders to share live trip information with up to five trusted contacts, and is rolling out a new emergency button in the app that can automatically communicate the car’s location to an emergency call centre.

Dara Khosrowshahi, CEO of Uber, has also made moves to further placate cities with data sharing.

“While having multiple transit options in one app can be powerful for our customers, we know that that alone is not enough to improve the cities we operate in,” he wrote in an Uber blog post in April. “We recognise we also need to give value back to the public agencies that govern these cities by using our technology and insights.”

The company has started a pilot, SharedStreets, in Washington DC to share data on curb usage across all modes of transport. The data can help cities prepare for when more people access transport through a combination of shared modes, rather than relying on their own vehicles.

Similarly, Khosrowshahi said that the company will be expanding Uber Movement to 12 cities including Amsterdam, Bangalore, Brisbane, Cairo, Hyderabad, Melbourne, Mumbai, Nairobi, New Delhi, Perth, Pittsburgh, and Toronto. Introduced last year, Movement is a website that offers anonymised and aggregated Uber data to show travel conditions across different times, days or months, and how travel times are impacted by things like big events and road closures in a city.

“As we think about where we want our cities to be in the future, we know we can do more, and we will,” added Khosrowshahi. “Technology and data alone are not solutions for urban problems–but when done right, and in partnership with others, they have the potential to contribute to a better world for all.”

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