With Watch GT, Huawei ditches Google for its own OS

With Watch GT, Huawei ditches Google for its own OS

LG’s strange new hybrid Watch W7 marked a small but important victory for Wear OS. But this morning in London, Google lost a key ally in the smartwatch wars — for this model, at least. Huawei’s latest wearable, the Watch GT ditches the Google operating system for its own in-house brew, LiteOS.

The move marks a blow for Google’s struggling wearable operating system. The company has made a point of avoiding fragmentation for Wear OS, a decision that may ultimately haunt the company as manufacturers like Samsung, Fitbit and now Huawei go it on their own.

Each manufacturer has their own reasons, of course, but Huawei, the decision is pretty straightforward. Namely, the company wants to squeeze as much battery out of this as possible. That’s in keeping with a day’s announcements that also included a phone that can charge other phones, mind.

Here, that means some pretty outrageous claims. Huawei says the thing gets two weeks on a charge with standard use, which seems downright silly compared to the competition. If you turn off all of the distractions, meanwhile, you can apparently get up to 30 days, which is essentially Kindle territory we’re talking about here.

The watch is a bit beefy, as you no doubt expected. That’s going to be a bit of a drawback, given the watch’s focus on fitness. As is the fact that, well, most of the competition has also made fitness the centerpiece of their products — Apple and Fitbit are going to be tough to topple.

There’s continuous heart rate monitoring on-board, along with a built-in tri-GPS system for more accurate run tracking. As with its new phone, the Huawei looks firmly aimed at Samsung’s marketshare in the watch category, and that’s apparently meant leaving Wear OS in the dust. 


Source: Tech Crunch

UK Uber drivers to stage 24 hour strike over pay and conditions

UK Uber drivers to stage 24 hour strike over pay and conditions

A UK union that represents the interests of Uber drivers has called a 24 hour strike for tomorrow.

Ride-hailing giant Uber may not be comfortable thinking of the people who do the driving on its platform as workers but, in 2016, a UK employment tribunal ruled against its classification of a group of then current and former drivers as independent contractors after they brought a legal challenge; and again in 2017 when Uber lost its first appeal against the tribunal ruling.

Though Uber’s appeal continues.

Today one of the unions that campaigns on behalf of individuals providing labor on so-called ‘gig economy’ platforms, the Independent Workers Union of Great Britain (IWGB), announced the strike action by Uber drivers.

It said Uber drivers are demanding an end to unfair deactivations (described by the union as ‘de facto dismissals’); an increase in fares to £2 per mile (vs the current rate of £1.25p/m in London); a 10% reduction in commissions paid by drivers to Uber (currently 25% for UberX); and calling for Uber to immediately apply the tribunal judgement and implement “employment conditions that respect worker rights for drivers, including the payment of at least the minimum wage and paid holidays”.

The union argues Uber drivers should be classified as Limb (b) workers under UK law, rather than ‘independent contractors’ as the company claims.

It’s asking Uber users to respect the strike and not use the app tomorrow.

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The chair of the IWGB’s United Private Hire Drivers branch is James Farrar, who was one of the former Uber drivers who brought the 2016 tribunal action against the company.

Commenting in a statement he said: “After years of watching take home pay plummet and with management bullying of workers on the rise, workers have been left with no choice but to take strike action. We ask the public to please support drivers by not crossing the digital picket line by not using the app during strike time.”

The 24 hour strike will take place on October 9, from 1pm, in London, Birmingham and Nottingham.

The IWGB said participating drivers will stage protests outside Uber’s offices in all three cities at the start of the strike.

In a response statement emailed to TechCrunch an Uber spokesperson told us:

“We are always looking to make improvements to ensure drivers have the best possible experience and can make the most of their time driving on the app. That’s why over the last few months we’ve introduced dozens of new features, including sickness, injury, maternity and paternity protections. An academic study last month found that drivers in London make an average of £11 an hour, after accounting for all of their costs and Uber’s service fee. We continue to look at ways to help drivers increase their earnings and our door is always open if anyone wants to speak to us about any issues they’re having.”

A company spokesman also flagged up a number of changes Uber has made in the UK since the tribunal ruling, including expanding a free insurance product it offers to drivers and couriers including sickness, injury and maternity & paternity payments across Europe.

The spokesman also pointed to a number of other changes it’s made, such as to paid waiting times, in-app tipping, and discounted access to savings products such as pensions and free skills courses.

He also flagged Uber’s recent launch of a new driver app with real-time earnings tracking and access to data insights intended to help drivers boost their earnings; and a 24/7 telephone support line for drivers and passengers (which was actually a requirement of London’s transport regulator).

The company also says it has formalized how it listens to and responds to driver feedback in every city it operates in — albeit, not well enough to steer off this latest strike.

All the changes it flags might well be positive steps in terms of improving Uber drivers’ lot but if UK judges continue to find these folks should in fact be classified as workers Uber will find itself having to shell out a whole lot more money to keep operating in Europe.

The company has previously said that if it had to provide all the ~50,000 ‘self-employed’ Uber drivers on its platform in the UK with workers’ rights it would cost its business “tens of millions” of pounds.

Uber’s next appeal against the tribunal judgement will be heard later this month, on 30 and 31 October. 


Source: Tech Crunch

With a new CEO and CTO in place, proptech startup Goodlord raises further £7M

With a new CEO and CTO in place, proptech startup Goodlord raises further £7M

London ‘proptech’ startup Goodlord, which offers cloud-based software to help estate agents, landlords and tenants manage the rental process, has raised £7 million in Series B funding. The round is led by Finch Capital, with participation from existing investor Rocket Internet/GFC, and is roughly equal in size to Goodlord’s Series A in 2017. However, it would be fair to say a lot has happened since then.

In January, we reported that Goodlord had let go of nearly 40 employees, and that co-founder and CEO Richard White was leaving the company (we also speculated that the company’s CTO had departed, too, which proved to be correct). In signs of a potential turnaround, Goodlord then announced a new CEO later that month: serial entrepreneur and investor William Reeve (pictured), a veteran of the London tech scene, would now head up the property technology startup.

As I wrote at the time, Reeve’s appointment could be viewed as somewhat of a coup for Goodlord and showed how seriously its backers — which, along with Rocket Internet (and now Finch), also includes LocalGlobe and Ribbit Capital — were treating their investment and the turn-around/refocus of the company. With today’s Series B and news that Reeve has appointed a new CTO, Donovan Frew, that effort seems to be paying off.

Founded in 2014, unlike other startups in the rental market space that want to essentially destroy traditional brick ‘n mortar letting agents with an online equivalent, Goodlord’s Software-as-a-Service is designed to support all stakeholders, including traditional high-street letting agents, as well as landlords and, of course, tenants.

The Goodlord SaaS enables letting agents to “digitize” the moving-in process, including utilizing e-signatures and collecting rental payments online. In addition, the company sells landlord insurance, and has been working on other related products, such as rental guarantees, and “tenant passports.”

If Goodlord can reach enough scale, it wants to let tenants easily take their rental transaction history and landlord references with them when moving from one rental property to another as proof that they are a trustworthy tenant.

Meanwhile, the company says new funding will be used to build new products, grow its customer base, and invest in the further development of its proprietary technology to continue to make “renting simple and more transparent for letting agents, tenants and landlords”.


Source: Tech Crunch

Mosaic Ventures, the London-based Series A investor, has closed a second fund at $150M

Mosaic Ventures, the London-based Series A investor, has closed a second fund at 0M

Well, that was quick: A little over two months since we reported that Mosaic Ventures was in the middle of raising a second fund, TechCrunch can reveal that fund two has in fact now closed, as the London-based venture capital firm looks to double down on backing “Europe’s most ambitious entrepreneurs”.

We began hearing from sources late last week that news was imminent, and in a call on Saturday morning Mosaic founding partners Simon Levene and Toby Coppel confirmed the details. Fund two totals $150 million, as per an earlier SEC filing, and will be used to continue the firm’s Series A remit, which will see it back 5-10 new companies each year, as lead or co-lead, typically with a $3-7 million first check.

Four years since launching, Mosaic has invested in over 20 startups, and in a range of sectors. These include blockchain/crypto startups Blockstream and Blockchain (the firm remains bullish with regards to the space), fintech startup Habito, open source drone company Auterion, period tracking app Clue, and data startup Infosum. The firm has also invested directly in deep tech company builder Entrepreneur First, alongside Reid Hofflan with Greylock, a deal Mosaic helped instigate.

“I think what we do is very unique,” says Coppel, when I ask how the VC differentiates itself from competing early-stage firms in London and Europe, especially since — only just on fund two — it is somewhat unproven. “What we do is focus very much at the early-stage, Series A, where founders have built an early product, they’re a long way ahead of themselves in terms of building out their team and their got-to-market. We roll up our sleeves and get stuck in with them in many of the foundational pieces of building a company. That’s our entire focus”.

He also argues that when Mosaic write a cheque, the firm’s interests are more aligned with the founders it backs than larger venture capital firms.

“Given our fund size and the cheques we write at Series A, we think working with us is a very strong choice because of our experience and because we are willing to take risk and because of our network and so forth. And we’ll give everything — we’re entrepreneurs ourselves. As you say, it is early for Mosaic and therefore whatever we do at this point we are going to give 150 percent.

“There are firms that are much bigger in terms of fund size and for them, often writing a $3 million cheque is not the same, it’s a very small part of their fund, you don’t necessarily get the same focus and effort and alignment. And I think that is what sets us apart”.

To that end, Levene and Coppel, who both built much of their career in Silicon Valley, most notably in senior positions at Yahoo, tell me that Mosaic will continue to invest thematically, specifically outlining five areas. They are: “blockchain, crypto and the decentralized web” (it’s the decentralised aspect of blockchain where no one vendor needs to own or have control over the platform, that the pair say is attractive), “computational health”, “machine intelligence”, “mobility and location services”, and “finance 2.0”.

Elaborating on how Mosaic views health tech, Coppel says that over the next five to ten years the cost of sensors that enable “continuous bio tracking” will continue to drop and therefore we’ll all be collecting huge amounts of data from our bodies, such as our metabolism or cardiovascular systems, so that we can monitor our own health. Combined with various “-omics data” and that the fact that sequencing the genome can be done for less than $100, we’ll be able to generate new drugs or help adapt personalised treatments based on that data. “When you’re collecting all that data it creates significant new things and opportunities in new areas. That’s the transformation that healthcare is going to go through,” he says.

Regards “finance 2.0,” Levene and Coppel don’t entirely disagree with my assertion that much of the low and mid-hanging fruit in fintech has already been picked (Coppel himself was an early investor in Transferwise), as the banks and financial services continue to be unbundled. However, they say there are still opportunities to build “best-of-breed services” both for consumers and businesses.

“Insurance is one of those,” says Coppel. “Today the experience is pretty poor because most insurance companies have gone through channels and therefore they’re not consumer-centric. But also the underlying insurance product itself hasn’t really been geared for trust where they’ve created these products that have suited their own internal risk models not necessarily what the customers need. So there is a whole series of opportunities to reinvent the core underlying… risk and protection product to tailor it to the customer’s needs”.

Pressed to be more specific, he says that today many people are overinsured in the wrong products, such as phone insurance, and underinsured in what really matters, such as life insurance or critical illness insurance.

Another area Mosaic is eyeing up is SME financing, where the “attack vector” could be building a great accounting or invoicing product, and then by using the data passed through those services, offering more flexible business financing.

A common thread throughout a number of Mosaic’s existing portfolio — and just about any VC firm these days — is machine learning, and the Mosaic founders says they remain firm in their belief that the impact of machine learning will be pervasive across all industries and businesses. “We’ve gone deep into machine learning and machine intelligence-based businesses,” adds Levene. “Obviously there’s the investment in EF… that, if you like, is an index of that whole sector. At least half a dozen of the portfolio have a strong machine learning vector as to how they are attacking a particular vertical”.

On that note — and given that AI is an area where Europe and the U.K. in particular excels — I turn the topic to Brexit and ask the pair what they make of the current Brexit mess (actually, I used a far less polite word).

“Entrepreneurs at this point still don’t understand what Brexit means,” says Coppel. “It hasn’t come to fruition and most entrepreneurs are focused on the next week, the next month, the next quarter, rather than what’s going to happen in a year and a half to the U.K. economy. That’s certainly true of the early-stage companies. [For] the later stage companies, there are some more significant decisions. It’s not easy to move hundreds of people around.

“We don’t really know what Brexit means yet and it obviously creates havoc for people who are trying to plan. But at this point we haven’t seen any evidence from entrepreneurs saying ‘I’m not going to start my company in London, I’m going to start my company in Barcelona or Berlin’ and we haven’t seen companies move from London to the continent because of Brexit. Could we see that in six months from now? Possibly”.

Adds Levene, less optimistically: “The biggest single risk that we foresee is… if it changes the hiring market. If you don’t have access to 300 million people you can bring on your books tomorrow. If you have to go through a visa process that is cumbersome, that would stymie startups being able to hire talent quickly and scale up. So the capital follows talent and if we put up the walls around immigration then that’s going to be a problem”.

I suggest that, given the current trajectory and the music coming from the U.K. government, whatever the immigration mechanism put in place post-Brexit, it won’t be as optimal for U.K. startups as the status quo. Levene doesn’t refute my logic. “It’s shooting ourselves in the foot,” he says, “and it’s not just in tech but I think it’s also going to be in other verticals… So I think the government is gonna have a reckoning if they create friction for hiring, not just in tech but in many other industries”.


Source: Tech Crunch

Backstage Capital to launch accelerator in Detroit

Backstage Capital to launch accelerator in Detroit

On the heels of Backstage Capital’s announcement to launch an accelerator for startups led by underrepresented founders, the venture capital firm has selected its fourth location. Backstage Capital decided on three of the cities ahead of time and held a public vote to determine the fourth. Well, the results are in and Backstage Capital has landed on Detroit, Mich. for the accelerator’s fourth location.

“It’s a rising standout for entrepreneurs in the Midwest,” the firm writes on its site. “Innovation and technology in the city are booming, and Detroit startups are attracting capital from Silicon Valley as well as local investors and government.”

Backstage Capital is also going to run accelerators in Los Angeles, Philadelphia and London. Through Backstage Capital’s accelerator, the firm will invest $100,000 in each company in exchange for five percent equity. Unlike other Silicon Valley accelerators, there won’t be a demo day because it “seems a little like standardized testing,” Backstage Capital Founder and Managing Partner Arlan Hamilton said at TechCrunch Disrupt San Francisco last month. The deadline to apply is October 15.

Backstage Capital’s mission is to provide early seed funding to founders who are women, people of color, and/or LGBTQ — groups that are vastly underrepresented in Silicon Valley. A few months ago, Backstage Capital launched a $36 million fund. Since receiving its first check from a limited partner in 2015, Backstage Capital has invested in 100 companies — writing checks anywhere between $25,000 and $100,000. You can read more about the accelerator below.


Source: Tech Crunch

Despite minimum wage increase, some Amazon workers say losing stock options and bonuses means they will make less

Despite minimum wage increase, some Amazon workers say losing stock options and bonuses means they will make less

Amazon’s announcement this week that it will raise its minimum wage for workers in the United States and United Kingdom earned it a wave of positive publicity, but backlash is already growing as reports emerge that its new pay structure will do away with monthly bonuses and stock option awards. In blog posts about the wage increase (slightly different ones were posted on its U.S. and U.K. sites), Amazon said it would replace its restricted stock unit [RSU] program with a direct stock purchase plan before the end of next year, and that the net effect of its changes would be “significantly more total compensation for employees,” but did not mention monthly bonuses.

According to Amazon employees who spoke to Yahoo News, however, monthly bonuses will end on November 1. Some workers who have been with the company for more than two years were already earning nearly $15 before the raise, but the publication reports that these workers “could lose thousands of dollars that they would have collected from the stock and monthly-bonus programs,” which include one called Variable Compensation Pay (VCP). Under VCP, workers who hit certain goals could earn up to 8% of their monthly income, with an average employee earning about $1,800 to $3,000 a year in bonuses, according to one of Yahoo News’ sources.

The pay structure change will also hurt many employees in the UK, the GMB, a major trade union, told the Guardian. The GMB says Amazon’s changes to its stock option and bonus programs could cost thousands of workers £1,500 in one year, amounting to “a stealth tax on its own wage increase.”

Amazon is increasing its minimum hourly wage in the U.S. from $7.25  to $15 an hour. In the UK, the minimum wage will increase from £8.30 to £10.50 for workers in London and from £8 to £9.50 outside of the capital. In its announcement on October 2, Amazon said “the net effect of this change and the new higher cash compensation is significantly more total compensation for employees, without any vesting requirements, and with more predictability.” Before the wage increase, Amazon faced mounting criticism after workers complained of poor labor conditions at its warehouses and low wages.

The Guardian reports that warehouse workers in the UK now receive one share of Amazon stock, currently worth about $1,953 (or £1,509), at the end of every year, along with one additional share every five years. According to the GMB, they can cash in those shares tax-free after holding onto them for two years. Therefore, the payout they would lose would be worth about half the £3,120 pay increase expected by the average Amazon warehouse worker outside of London, who earn about £17,000 a year, the union said. Furthermore, the GMB claimed workers will no longer get cash bonuses for meeting targets during the Christmas shopping period, but Amazon told the Guardian that no such bonus program exists.

TechCrunch has contacted Amazon for more information. In email sent to Yahoo News, CNBC and other media, an Amazon spokesperson said “The significant increase in hourly cash wages more than compensates for the phase out of incentive pay and RSUs. We can confirm that all hourly Operations and Customer Service employees will see an increase in their total compensation as a result of this announcement. In addition, because it’s no longer incentive-based, the compensation will be more immediate and predictable.”


Source: Tech Crunch

Mario Kart VR lands in the US

Mario Kart VR lands in the US
Mario Kart VR has already graced Japan and London…now it's making a pitstop in the US. Yes, you can (finally) immerse yourself in the cartoonish karting action — while sitting in a physical vehicle with pedals and a steering wheel — at Washington…
Source: Engadget

Big cameras and big rivalries take center stage at Photokina

Big cameras and big rivalries take center stage at Photokina

Photokina is underway in London and the theme of the show is “large.” Unusually for an industry that is trending towards the compact, the cameras on stage at this show sport big sensors, big lenses, and big price tags. But though they may not be for the average shooter, these cameras are impressive pieces of hardware that hint at things to come for the industry as a whole.

The most exciting announcement is perhaps that from Panasonic, which surprised everyone with the S1 and S1R, a pair of not-quite-final full frame cameras that aim to steal a bit of the thunder from Canon and Nikon’s entries into the mirrorless full frame world.

Panasonic’s cameras have generally had impressive video performance, and these are no exception. They’ll shoot 4K at 60 FPS, which in a compact body like that shown is going to be extremely valuable to videographers. Meanwhile the S1R, with 47 megapixels to the S1’s 24, will be optimized for stills. Both will have dual card slots (which Canon and Nikon declined to add to their newest gear), weather sealing, and in-body image stabilization.

The timing and inclusion of so many desired features indicates either that Panasonic was clued in to what photographers wanted all along, or they waited for the other guys to move and then promised the things their competitors wouldn’t or couldn’t. Whatever the case, the S1 and S1R are sure to make a splash, whatever their prices.

Panasonic was also part of an announcement that may have larger long-term implications: a lens mount collaboration with Leica and Sigma aimed at maximum flexibility for the emerging mirrorless full-frame and medium format market. L-mount lenses will work on any of the group’s devices (including the S1 and S1R) and should help promote usage across the board.

Leica, for its part, announced the S3, a new version of its medium format S series that switches over to the L-mount system as well as bumping a few specs. No price yet but if you have to ask, you probably can’t afford it.

Sigma had no camera to show, but announced it would be taking its Foveon sensor tech to full frame and that upcoming bodies would be using the L mount as well.

This Fuji looks small here, but it’s no lightweight. It’s only small in comparison to previous medium format cameras.

Fujifilm made its own push on the medium format front with the new GFX 50R, which sticks a larger than full frame (but smaller than “traditional” medium format) sensor inside an impressively small body. That’s not to say it’s insubstantial: Fuji’s cameras are generally quite hefty, and the 50R is no exception, but it’s much smaller and lighter than its predecessor and, surprisingly, costs $2,000 less at $4,499 for the body.

The theme, as you can see, is big and expensive. But the subtext is that these cameras are not only capable of extraordinary imagery, but they don’t have to be enormous to do it. This combination of versatility with portability is one of the strengths of the latest generation of cameras, and clearly Fuji, Panasonic and Leica are eager to show that it extends to the pro-level, multi-thousand dollar bodies as well as the consumer and enthusiast lineup.


Source: Tech Crunch

License caps and CCTV among ride-hailing rule changes urged in report to UK gov’t

License caps and CCTV among ride-hailing rule changes urged in report to UK gov’t

Uber and similar services could be facing caps on the number of licenses for vehicles that can operate ride-hailing services in London and other UK cities under rule changes being recommended to the government.

CCTV being universally installed inside licensed taxis and private hire vehicles for safety purposes is another suggestion.

A working group in the UK’s Department for Transport has published a report urging a number of changes intended to modernize the rules around taxis and private hire vehicles to take account of app-based technology changes which have piled extra pressure on already long outdated rules.

In addition to suggesting that local licensing authorities should have the power to cap vehicle licenses, the report includes a number of other recommendations that could also have an impact on ride-hailing businesses, such as calling for drivers to be able to speak and write English to a standard that would include being able to deal with “emergency and other challenging situations”; and suggesting CCTV should be universally installed in both taxis and PHVs (“subject to strict data protection measures”) — to mitigate safety concerns for passengers and drivers.

The report supports maintaining the current two-tier system, so keeping a distinction between ‘plying for hire’ and ‘prebooking’, although it notes that technological advancement has “blurred the distinction between the two trades” — and so suggests the introduction of a statutory definition of both.

“This definition should include reviewing the use of technology and vehicle ‘clustering’ as well as ensuring taxis retain the sole right to be hailed on streets or at ranks. Government should convene a panel of regulatory experts to explore and draft the definition,” it suggests.

Legislation for national minimum standards for taxi and PHV licensing — for drivers, vehicles and operators — is another recommendation, though with licensing authorities left free to set additional higher standards if they wish.

The report, which has 34 recommendations in all, also floats the idea that how companies treat drivers, in terms of pay and working conditions, should be taken into account by licensing authorities when they are determining whether or not to grant a license.

The issues of pay and exploitation by gig economy platform operators has risen up the political agenda in the UK in recent years — following criticism over safety and a number of legal challenges related to employment rights, such as a 2016 employment tribunal ruling against Uber. (Its first appeal also failed.)

“The low pay and exploitation of some, but not all, drivers is a source of concern,” the report notes. “Licensing authorities should take into account any evidence of a person or business flouting employment law, and with it the integrity of the National Living Wage, as part of their test of whether that person or business is ‘fit and proper’ to be a PHV or taxi operator.”

UK MP Frank Field, who this summer published a critical report on working conditions for Deliveroo riders, said the recommendations in the working group’s report put Uber “on notice”.

“In my view, operators like Uber will need to initiate major improvements in their drivers’ pay and conditions if they are to be deemed ‘fit and proper’,” he said in a response statement. “The company has been put on notice by this report.”

Though the report’s recommendation on this front do not go far enough for some. Also responding in a statement, the IWGB UPHD’s branch chair, James Farrar — who was one of the former Uber drivers who successfully challenged the company at an employment tribunal — criticized the lack of specific minimum wage guarantees for drivers.

“While the report has some good recommendations, it fails to deal with the most pressing issue for minicab drivers — the chronic violation of minimum wage laws by private hire companies such as Uber,” he said. “By proposing to give local authorities the power to cap vehicle licenses rather than driver licenses, the recommendations risk giving more power to large fleet owners like Addison Lee, while putting vulnerable workers in an even more precarious position.

“Just days after the New York City Council took concrete action to guarantee the minimum wage, this report falls short of what’s needed to tackle the ongoing abuses of companies operating in the so-called ‘gig economy’.”

We’ve reached out to Uber for comment on the report.

Field added that he would be pushing for additional debate in parliament on the issues raised and to “encourage the government to safeguard drivers’ living standards by putting this report into action”.

“In the meantime, individual licensing authorities have an important part to play by following New York’s lead in using their licensing policies to guarantee living wage rates for drivers,” he also said.

London’s transport regulator, TfL, has been lobbying for licensing authorities to be given the power cap the number of private hire vehicles in circulation for several years, as the popularity of ride-hailing has led to a spike in for-hire car numbers on London’s streets, making it more difficult for TfL to manage knock-on issues such as congestion and air quality (which are policy priorities for London’s current mayor).

And while TfL can’t itself (yet) impose an overall cap on PHV numbers it has proposed and enacted a number of regulatory tweaks, such as English language proficiency tests for drivers — changes that companies such as Uber have typically sought to push back against.

Earlier this year TfL also published a policy statement, setting out a safety-first approach to regulating ride-sharing. And, most famously, it withdrew Uber’s licence to operate in 2017.

Though the company has since successfully appealed, after making a number of changes to how it operates in the UK, gaining a provisional 15-month license to operate in London this summer. But clearly any return to Uber’s ‘bad old days‘ would be dealt very short shrift.

In the UK primary legislation would be required to enable local licensing authorities to be able to cap PHV licenses themselves. But the government is now being urged to do so by the DfT’s own working group, ramping up the pressure for it act — though with the caveat that any such local caps should be subject to “a public interest test” to prove need.

“This can help authorities to solve challenges around congestion, air quality and parking and ensure appropriate provision of taxi and private hire services for passengers, while maintaining drivers’ working conditions,” the report suggests.

Elsewhere, the report recommends additional changes to rules to improve access to wheelchair accessible vehicles; beef up enforcement against those that flout rules; as well as to support disability awareness training for drivers.

The report also calls on the government to urgently review the evidence and case for restricting the number of hours that taxi and PHV drivers can drive on the same safety grounds that restrict hours for bus and lorry drivers.

It also suggests a mandatory national database of all licensed taxi and PHV drivers, vehicles and operators, be established — to support stronger enforcement, generally, across all its recommended rule tweaks.

It’s not yet clear how the government will respond to the report, nor whether it will end up taking forward all or only some of the recommendations.

Although it’s under increased pressure to act to update regulations in this area, with the working group critically flagging ministers’ failure to act following a Law Commission review the government commissioned, back in 2011, writing: “It is deeply regrettable that the Government has not yet responded to the report and draft bill which the Commission subsequently published in 2014. Had the government acted sooner the concerns that led to the formation of this Group may have been avoided.”


Source: Tech Crunch