Uber has raised the bar for transport sector tech, but has lost sight of the fundamentals.
That’s the view of Philip Macartney, head of marketplace at taxi dispatch platform iCabbi.
His comments follow news that Transport for London has stripped the well-recognised firm of its operating licence.
The regulator cited “several breaches that placed passengers and their safety at risk” when announcing that it would not renew the firm’s existing permit.
It now has less than a month to appeal the decision. Macartney told BusinessCloud that he welcomed the decision.
“It’s good to see authorities like TfL pushing back and holding Uber to account in the same way as the taxi industry has been held for years,” he said.
“Uber shouldn’t ever be given any special treatment.”
Macartney believes that the firm’s dominance has had a positive effect on the industry by raising the bar of tech-enabled transport. But now, as competing firms catch up, they are ready to bounce back.
“The USP of disruption is gone. The passenger apps and driver apps that are out there are as good, if not better,” he said.
“There are companies that are ready to give passengers exactly the same Uber experience with a localised brand.
“These guys are digitised, their automation systems for booking are phenomenal. They are increasing their card and digital payments left, right and centre.”
Macartney said that the concerns raised by TfL, which include uninsured drivers and risks to passenger safety, were caused by its company culture, rather than its technology.
“They rolled in like a steamroller and said ‘we know what we’re doing’ and they’ve forgotten about the fundamentals of business like passenger safety and driver earnings.
“I don’t think technology can mask that, it actually goes the opposite way. Technology finds the fissures and cracks.
“They can throw money at it, but that didn’t work for Yahoo or AOL…need I go on? This could be the start of a few dominoes falling.”
Sam Dumitriu, research director at The Entrepreneurs Network, disagrees.
He said in a statement that TfL’s decision sends a signal to the world that London isn’t open to innovation and competition.
“The violations uncovered by TfL, while troubling, have been addressed through stricter checks on drivers using AI and facial recognition,” he said.
“There’s no reason to expect that this specific problem will continue.
“Furthermore, if you take into account Uber’s other safety features, it’s likely they compare favourably to other modes of transport in London and definitely favourably compared to transport in London 10 years ago, before Uber.
“Disruption, innovation, and competition in the private hire market has been overwhelmingly beneficial to Londoners.”
Uber will continue to operate until mid-December, when a final decision following an appeal will decide if the firm can continue to operate.