Starting early next year, commuters in London will be able to hail the capital’s iconic black cabs via Uber, the American ride-hailing giant has announced.
London’s black taxi drivers — famous for their uncanny knowledge of the city’s thousands of streets — have long been at odds with Uber, who they say threatens their livelihoods. Frustrated drivers even blocked London streets in 2014 in protest against the tech company’s famously aggressive expansion tactics, and relations still remain tense.
Black cabs are currently the only taxis in London licensed to pick up passengers from the streets in the city and are already available for bookings through apps like Gett, Taxiapp, and FreeNow.
While Uber is playing off the new deal as a partnership, the Licensed Taxi Drivers’ Association (LTDA), which represents more than 10,000 taxi drivers, said it was not consulted ahead of Uber’s “unilateral announcement”.
Steve McNamara, a spokesperson for the organisation, said it has no interest in “sullying the name of London’s iconic, world-renowned black cab trade by aligning it with Uber, its poor safety record and everything else that comes with it.”
Uber, however, claims a “small number” of taxi drivers have already signed up to the service and it hopes to recruit “several hundred” by January. The company said it would not charge new drivers commission for their first six months but didn’t reveal what the fee would be after that period.
While it remains to be seen whether Uber will woo London’s black cab drivers, it wouldn’t be the first time it has turned former foes into friends.
The ride-hail giant recently signed on taxi fleets in Los Angeles, New York City, Paris, and Rome to list drivers on the app. Uber says in Europe and the Middle East, over 10% of Uber trips are now completed by taxi drivers.