Shaun Lowthorpe, Business editor
Thursday, June 12, 2014
Black cab drivers “cannot be allowed to stand in the way of innovation” according to Institute of Directors director general
Taxi drivers converged on Trafalgar Square in their vehicles on Wednesday to stage a major protest over a mobile phone app for booking private journeys in and around London.
Black cab and licensed taxi drivers were on a go-slow protest in the centre of the capital to show their opposition to Uber, a new app that allows customers to book and track vehicles.
Unions and groups representing taxi drivers have warned that the move is leading to unlicensed drivers being contacted, with no checks on whether they are legitimate.
Protesters in Trafalgar Square chanted “Boris, Boris, Boris, out, out, out”, while taxi drivers beeped their horns as demonstrators held placards.
But Simon Walker, Director General of the Institute of Directors, said cab drivers needed to move with the times.
“Black cabs have been a symbol of London for many decades, known across the world. But symbols, no matter how iconic, cannot be allowed to stand in the way of innovation,” he said. “Uber and its rival apps are an example of the positive disruption new technology brings, offering consumers new choices about how to travel.
“The cab drivers protesting this week will not be able to prevent technological innovation any more than the machine-breakers of the 19th century could stop the spread of the power loom. Even if the High Court finds the taxi apps in technical breach of the rules, this will not be the end of the matter. The law must, and will, change to allow us to secure all of the undoubted gains that digital technology can bring.
“The battle over taxi apps gets to the heart of what creative destruction means. As a nation, we have to decide whether we want to open ourselves up to more choice and competition, or protect existing industries at the expense of consumers.”
David Sales, Regional Chairman across the East of England said: “Many companies in the East of England are doing the same as Uber, creating new apps and new technologies that will rewrite and challenge existing industries in the UK and across the world. They are creating our industries of the future and we applaud them.”
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