It has been a dark week for taxi app Uber but Emma Barnett explains why we can’t get enough of transport’s bad boy
Tis the season to be merry and stumble home in the wee hours. Usually this means a scramble for the last Tube or a smelly night bus home. But not this year. I’m rocking taxis all over the shop – as are all my London-dwelling pals. This is how we roll in 2014 – but not because we’ve all unexpectedly come into riches. We’ve just found Uber – a whizzy taxi-booking app straight out of Silicon Valley – which has suddenly made taxis so affordable, one friend took one home on a whim after his Christmas present haul. Seven quid later he was a happy man.
In a nutshell: Uber lets you book a minicab on your mobile with a few finger swipes. You can track your driver’s progress on a map until they arrive and all payments are cashless – automatically paid by your bank card via the app at the end of the journey. Oh and it’s cheap. The $40bn company which now has a 55-strong UK team, makes its money from surge pricing – which only happens when demand is high, such as on a Saturday night.
But is our love affair with bad boy Uber kosher? This same business has been making headlines in the past week for all of the wrong reasons:Delhi has banned Uber after one of its drivers was arrested for allegedly raping a female passenger; On Monday Paris was brought to a standstill when taxi drivers blocked some roads in protest at it; and it faced a huge outcry on social media when drivers charged people four times the usual price to get out of Sydney during the hostage crisis earlier on the same day. (The company then went onto offer people free rides out of the area and explained that it was their surge pricing model which is triggered automatically by its algorithm). Moreover, Thailand, the Netherlands and now Spain have all banned the service citing various competition concerns.