Welcome To Zelo Street!

This is a blog of liberal stance and independent mind

Tuesday 16 May 2017

Uber App - Dangers IGNORED

Events at driver and rider matching service Uber continue to reflect adversely on the company and its cheerleaders: drivers are so skint that they are sleeping in their cars, the CJEU has suggested Uber should be regarded as a transport company, the Mail has now got its teeth firmly into the company, especially over its Ministerial contacts, and then there is the problem of how drivers interact with the Uber app when in their cars.
After much probing, it has now been established that Uber’s drivers cannot respond to the app - for instance, to confirm they have accepted a booking - without using their hands. The European Transport Safety Council’s “Making Taxis Saferreport spells it out: “Ideally taxi drivers should receive information on their next client order with the minimum amount of distraction using hands-free communication and not via a hand-held mobile phone”.

In any case, there is a straightforward solution to any dispute over whether using the Uber app distracts drivers: have it made the subject of a risk assessment. So one enterprising soul asked TfL if they had risk assessed the Uber app. “We licence the operators, not the apps … There is no obligation on us to undertake such assessments” came the reply. Those who have witnessed the recent spate of Uber accidents might not agree.

The procession of variously bent Toyota Prius models seems never ending. Still, on went TfL: “it is the duty of the driver to use any mobile/electronic device and associated app responsibly and in compliance with the Highway Code and associated road traffic legislation”. So the suggestion has been made that Uber cars (and those whose drivers use similar apps) should have an accelerometer fitted which would disable those apps.

A moving vehicle would prevent the possibility of distraction, as the accelerometer would kick in to prevent it happening. Uber would not like that, but look at all those shunts their drivers have been involved in during the recent past. It’s not just bad for the drivers, and sometimes terminal for the unfortunate Prius, it’s downright dangerous for the punters. And there is an ideal way to resolve any dispute about this issue.
That would be to undertake that risk assessment. This is covered by Section 3 of the Regulators’ Code, issued by the then Department of Business, Innovation and Skills. At the time the Uber debate was coming to the boil last year, the minister in charge was Sajid Javid. And seasoned observers of the Uber scene will need no reminding that Javid has been well and truly implicated in the Cameron and Osborne “chumocracy”.

This will lead to the suspicion that Javid might not have been a totally disinterested party to this saga. Zelo Street draws no conclusion on that point, other that his department was apparently responsible for enforcing risk assessments on the likes of the Uber app, yet it did not. One would hope that whoever is in charge of the successor department to the BIS, the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy, will have a rethink.

In the meantime, the presence of Sajid Javid in this narrative might well mean he gets another broadside from the Daily Mail. It couldn’t happen to a more deserving chap.


A.Robot (Mrs) said...

Using their hands for the app is the least of Uber safety issues. much greater is the fact that, in London at least, almost all their drivers use the Toyota Prius. In a crowded city there are 2 main senses involved in avoiding physical threats: sight and sound. The Prius eliminates one of these at a stroke. A bloody great lorry broadcasts the fact that it's reversing at 2 mph by a series of beeps or a robotic announcement of the fact. Uber Prius drivers piss through London streets at 30 in near-total silence.
Rabid haters of metropolitan scum (yes, I'm looking at you, Alan) will delight in the resulting carnage. Others of us will just be particularly pissed off to have been hospitalised, not by salt-of-the-earth traditional racist bigot Thatcher-adoring cockney cabbies, but by the exploited employees of some spivocrat IT start-up teenagers.

Unknown said...

To Mrs A.Robot, you just described 24,000 London Taxi drivers as 'racist bigot Thatcher loving cockney cabbies' I'd like to point out that London Taxi drivers come from all sections of society, all nationalities, colours and religions, many of who weren't even alive when Margaret Thtcher was alive.
Out of 24,000 there will be a small minority of drivers as you describe but out of the many I've known over the years the majority are gentleman who are in fact 'salt of the earth'
You just insulted and labelled a whole section of society in one fell swoop, the actions of a true racist bigot. Now go and take a long hard look in the mirror.

Anonymous said...

This issue highlights two things:

1. The cramped mental processes of computer programmers. Which adds to their obvious difficulties with the English language. Not surprising really, considering their heads are filled with stunted algorithms and binary "answers".

2. The sheer stupidity and wilful ignorance of people like Javid (yes, he of the bulging eyes and shaved head - the only things missing are tattoos and body piercings). Doubtless he and his loopy ilk would project Uber slaves as self employed entrepreneurs. It's the new buzz, you know.

It's also a potent combination for gullible Only Fools And Horses dopes. Or MBA-waving mugs.

Anonymous said...

Well said MrLoopy52.

A.Robot (Mrs) said...

Ok, Mr L and chum.
Mea culpa for not having had space to give a more nuanced, balanced and po-faced description of the London cabbie community in all its infinite variety. My experience (anecdotal,yes, but then life does tend to be) is that a very high proportion of those who offer (usually unasked) their opinions conform to the description I 've given (plus foul-mouthed and aggressive). It's one of the reasons people prefer Uber; you don't have to venture into someone else's little Ukip domain. Maybe the good guys just keep quiet.
(The Thatcher ref was to give historical depth. However, if, as you claim, many London cabbies 'weren't even alive when Margaret Thatcher was alive', then they must be less than 4 years olds as the monstrous old bag failed to die until 2013).

MJW said...

It's worth noting that the black cabbies use apps now too. In fact when you consider it sensibly most forms of private hire and public transport on the roads have some kind of apps, even buses have some form of ticket machine or card reader they need to interact with (and some have hand held radios to communicate with control centres).

It's easy to look to local authorities like TfL (who only cover London) to take on legal responsibilities that belong to other organisations if you think those organisations aren't taking them seriously enough, but local authorities simply don't have the resources to do such things and nor should they. If transit authorities had to take on board these responsibilities where would it stop? Would they have to do full safety assessments on every black cab, mini cab and bus on their network? That would be approaching totalitarian levels of bureaucracy; these thing sound sensible until you think them through properly.

The black cabbies think everything would be better if their main competition was banned. Better for who? For them certainly. But it won't stop accidents, they will still happed, for a start I've seen plenty of dodgy shit from the black cabbies in London. It also won't stop the next John Worboys from crawling through the system.

As for Uber, I don't deny there are issues with the operating model, but some of the criticism is overdone. We can't stop technical progress because it makes older and more inefficient methods obsolete. Uber drivers should have the requisite protections their legal status obliges them, but if they are exploited they can go and work as mini cab drivers or study for the knowledge. They are not indentured labourers.

Anonymous said...


The problem is not "indentured labour" or adoption of new technology.

It is essentially CASUAL labour, the old builders "lump" or dockers "welt" updated.

Still, as long as it helps disguise unemployment and boost profits......what's to worry about?

Hans Wienhold said...

Here are some of my own comments on Uber's "distractive technology."