Last year, yet another terror alert was sparked after a car drove into pedestrians on London’s Exhibition Road. It is thought the driver had executed an illegal left turn from the Cromwell Road and become disorientated at the “shared space” layout of Exhibition Road. He was driving a Toyota Prius, which meant the immediate suspicion was that he was driving for driver and rider matching service Uber. And he was indeed driving for them.
Moreover, he had three punters in the back of the Prius. The terror alert went off when he tried to leave the scene after the collision, and had to be restrained. At the time, I asked “Why [leg it]? 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?” Now we know why.
As the Mail has reported, “An Uber driver who sparked a major terror alert when he ploughed into a crowd of tourists had been driving around London uninsured and without a licence for two years … Tanzanian Juma Omar, 48, floored the throttle of his Toyota Prius outside the Natural History Museum and careered over the pavement, sending pedestrians flying into the air as others ran screaming from his path”. No insurance for two years.
Then comes the part that Uber cheerleaders will find hard to excuse. “He claimed the brakes had failed, but he was convicted of dangerous driving by a jury at the Old Bailey … The court heard Omar came to Britain as an asylum seeker in 1995, but was told to get out [of] the country in 1998 … Omar applied for a replacement passport in another man's name and used that identity to pass his driving test”. And it gets worse.
“He got a job with Uber using the fake documents and did not have insurance when hit the pedestrians in on October 7 last year … Up to 11 people suffered non-life threatening injuries and Omar was wrestled to the floor and detained by members of the public”. Omar has been jailed for 15 months. He may well be deported after that. But in the meantime, there are more of those difficult questions for Uber to answer.
Over two years before the Exhibition Road crash, we read “The Guardian demonstrated that a driver was able to pick up a paying customer having provided fake insurance paperwork via i[Uber’s] computerised system. Some drivers fear that breaches in the technology could put customers’ safety at risk”. Well, Omar breached it. And it certainly put others’ safety at risk. Also, the Met has warned about this, as I’ve told previously.
Uber vehicles have been used for illegal activity. Their drivers feature disproportionately in accident statistics. There have been a series of sex attacks by their drivers, some of which the company has failed to report to Police. And as the LCDC has discovered, Uber threw 199 drivers off its London roster in less than a month this Summer. 199 of them during the first three week period of the company’s new licence.
All of which begs the question as to why Uber managed to get that new licence in the first place. The established cab and private hire trades deserve to have that answered. And ultimately, so do all Londoners. Where is the control being exercised here?
The bad news keeps coming up Uber. It can no longer be dismissed as a coincidence.
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