To be clear, ‘Tech’ isn’t the problem, even though the slag dogs would have the public believe we’re vehemently against it. it's the ultra viral way in which ‘Tech’ is being used that's the problem.
There are three main perpetrators involved, the Government, TfL and Uber.
In short, TfL with the Governments bidding, is facilitating Uber’s use of technology to shift a State regulated trade over to a corporate controlled service. As far as the policy makers are concerned, Uber were -and still are- the solution.
One of the biggest bugbears of those in control -especially TfL- is the taxi trades economic ability to hold on to their position of autonomy. Financial independence is problematic for governments and their arbiters, as it allows the independent trader some degree of political sway.
In the past, London taxi drivers have been able to command a degree of reverence which provided the template for relational equality between driver/ passenger and driver/regulator. As far as the regulator was concerned this was unacceptable. Uber was able to provide those in power the means to accumulate an entire workforce, enough to fracture the earning capability of a taxi driver with steep business costs. And all without conducting any risk assessment whatsoever.
The government would also have access to a phenomenal amount of data, and in today's climate, data is currency.
Much of this data can be used to process and share information that can- theoretically at least- prevent vehicle collisions, keep traffic moving and reduce environmental impacts. It can also be used for their own ends to add weight to their own political decisions.
Indirectly, you could say, the established apps that use licensed Taxis, whilst much further down the logistical line, are not all that different to Uber. The difference is, the Taxi apps, namely Gett and Hailo (now My Taxi) do not represent what has become known as the GIG Economy. Instead of extolling the so called virtues of the shared economy, they use established services, mainly locally licensed taxis, in an attempt to compete with the new humongous hybrid that's swamped around towns.
However, things have changed a lot since Gett and Hailo descended on London claiming to be the solution to the attempted takeover of our industry, and by the time Hailo had shifted over the dark side, the writing was on the wall for any such reverence that might remain.
They had realised, in order to compete at a global level, they would have to de-shackle themselves from the grip of tight regulatory parameters, and, minimise the cornerstone of our working model -the free- associated 'street hail'
Make no mistake, in order to jostle for a competing position in the global market, the street hail has to go.
Believe me, the term ‘an equal playing field’ -a saying the trade has bought into to some degree- is firmly meant for their benefit, not ours. The commission based apps consider the street hail as an impediment to fair competition. Ever wondered why the big players have never lobbied to support the defining aspects of what differentiates taxis from Private Hire?
Well now you know.
Uber are a monstrous inefficient pita in London, sold on the basis of streamlining working practices with less down time and fewer people using private cars, when the reality is, the total opposite is true. There are 40,000+ of them -10 cars for every one person requiring a ride- crawling and stalling around, hanging it up in dense urban areas hoping to snatch a fare.
Likewise, the exploitation of taxi, either now or in the future, is the only way the Corporate owned apps can survive. So what's new?
The money men would always take their opportunity is if there was an opening to do so, and believe me, that opportunity has been handed to them on a plate.
TfL have gone to great pains to filter the modus operandi of taxi drivers out of public consciousness to the point where we are not considered an option to an entire generation. This would've been fine if, at the same time assisted Uber by stripping away regulations that govern legitimate PH, even to the point of blatant state assistance in the high court.
Gett responded by disregarding any importance of tariff structuring has for the service provider by setting up its own haddock pricing system based on its own data amassing. It has also gone to war on the street hail, offering incentives to drivers to convert the work across to the app.
What we as taxi drivers are experiencing, is not a straight forward taxi war that the media would have you believe, but a corporate battle for market domination in a bid to take control of logistical services, and we are one side of the cannon fodder they are using to do battle with. In and of ourselves we do not pose a threat to the financiers war and when the time is ripe, the corporate ‘taxi’ apps will drill us down to a one tier system quicker than you can tell Gett to Get lost.
The policy makers are on this course of believe that data and technology will save hundreds of millions, interesting then that the Government this year CUT TfL's budget dramatically. History however tells us money merely shifts to different pockets. One thing is for certain, they don't want, surplus money- or any money- sitting in the service providers pockets, be it the pockets of taxi drivers or those that go the way of the SatNav swamp (You see why they see them as the same as us).
The real solicitude of the matter is, if we accuse Uber drivers as being slaves and eulogists of their own demise, then so are we, just because the trades not so demoralised that the established apps stay constrained to using a certain product, doesn't mean their ultimate goal to transfer labour over to the money men isn't in the cards.
Now I could write aplenty extolling the virtues of TAXIAPP UK and I totally understand that drivers need to earn money. I am, after all, a driver myself with no other means of income, but I cannot stress this enough, we have a finite period of time to ring fence ourselves from the rapacious take over of our livelihoods, and I firmly believe it can be done.
We can carry on pretty much as we are but we need our own technological solution. To dismiss it leaves us all hyper vulnerable. The truth be told, the trade knows not what to do now anymore than it did four years ago. Sure we might be a little better connected politically, but only as a result of almost losing everything.
The black cab trade is like no other, in that it has never aspired to emulate any other taxi service. It has been held in such high esteem by far surpassing any other taxi service in the world, but it has been hijacked on its one major weakness. As sole traders we have never needed to be interconnected in the way that we do now. And that is what the fat corporate money men are rubbing their chubby little hands together to control.
So here's the deal, if you're going to work the established apps then at least fight fire with fire and help transfer passengers over to TAXIAPP UK. The app is a non profit venture, neither can it be sold for profit. Any surplus money the app does make will be used for marketing and PR. In just four months TAXIAPP UK has produced more advertising than the established apps have ever done. Us Drivers are the product, the sales team, and the the solution. We are what the slag-dogs are willing to haemorrhage money to possess and we are everything that's needed to be a formidable force.
If we must fight a guerrilla fight then so be it. But know this, if we want to continue working as we do now then it's not as simple as merely evolving to accommodate technology, but to fully recognise the way technology is being used to destroy us. This time we can't go it alone, this time it really is a numbers game.
Let’s step up the way we see business.
See you out there on the mean streets
Sean Paul Day- TAXIAPP UK