Almost as soon as the news emerged that a Private Hire vehicle had collided with several pedestrians on Kensington’s Exhibition Road yesterday afternoon, the suspicion grew that this was yet another in the litany of traffic accidents resulting out of the presence in London of driver and rider matching service Uber. The car involved was the identikit Uber vehicle - a Toyota Prius. And he had a fare in the back when the crash happened.
We know this as someone told the press “The girls in his car said he was an Uber driver”. We also know that, not far away from the Exhibition Road crash in the Cromwell Road, there was yet another Uber shunt early today which ended up with their vehicle on its roof.
This recalls the concerns of Inspector Neil Billany of the Met, which I covered recently, who said “I do also hold concerns with Uber as an operator and am seeing an increasing amount of my team’s workload relating directly to them (out of 128 PH drivers reported for driving offences in the last 4 weeks 79 were Uber drivers with many of these offences relating directly to road safety). There seems to be a disconnect between them taking responsibility for their drivers, their driving standards and the condition of their vehicles”.
The Toyota Prius is the vehicle at left in this photo
But what of the claims that the Exhibition Road vehicle was driving along part of the shared space area that is most definitely not for the use of motor traffic (and hence striking so many pedestrians)? Again, this appears to come down to driver inexperience and/or ineptitude. Most likely he had never driven along that road before; perhaps he had just executed an illegal manoeuvre as well. And it gets worse.
Sat Nav shows an illegal left turn Cromwell Road to Exhibition Road
Why did those three blokes have to restrain the Uber driver? It has been suggested to me that he was in the act of “legging it”, leaving the scene of an accident. Why? If it was his vehicle, and he was a registered Uber “partner”, with his licence and insurance up to date, then why do something that would only ensure the Met would throw the book at him just that little bit harder? Something did not add up. Until later today.
This is what the Cromwell Road and Exhibition Road crossing looks like
At this point we need to also recall what Insp Billany said about those using TfL registered Private Hire vehicles for purposes which are definitely not private hire: “anyone can hire a TfL PHV and use it as they choose. Examples of the risks this presents includes them acting as a taxi tout with a view to committing sexual offences, transport drugs and weapons around London and also to avoid Congestion Charging”.
We do not yet have this confirmed, but it is being suggested - I stress no more than that at the moment - that the man driving the Prius was not actually a registered Uber “partner”, which is why he tried to leave the scene. He may have been borrowing the car - and the phone - from someone who was registered. That, my Occam’s Razor has concluded, is why we saw those scenes in the aftermath of the accident, and also why the Met and the media are keeping quiet for now - until they can be certain.
But unless there is a very good explanation for what happened yesterday afternoon, this is yet another nail in the Uber coffin. Too many accidents, too little regulation, and if their drivers are letting others borrow their cars, well, that’s just too much.