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Coronavirus: NHS workers to get free Uber rides

Uber to give free rides and meals to NHS staff

Ride-hailing company Uber has announced it will give free rides to NHS staff travelling to work during the coronavirus crisis. 

A total of 200,000 free rides will be made available, as a thank you from the company to health workers.

All NHS workers need is a valid NHS or HSC email address, which they should link to an Uber account.

Uber to give free rides and meals to NHS staff

In the app, first tap on the menu at the top left, then tap ‘wallet’ and then ‘add promo code’.

This week’s Uber code for free rides is NHSAPRIL20, with codes updated every week.

Up to 10 rides can be claimed each week per account – there and back for every working day. The journey will be covered up to the value of £15. Beyond that, charges can be incurred.

Staff can visit uber.com/nhs for more information on the offer.

A free meal with a free ride

Uber to give free rides and meals to NHS staff

In addition to this, Uber is offering free meals to NHS staff with its Uber Eats food delivery arm. Up to 100,000 will be available, from the wide range of restaurants and convenience stores that use the service. Orders can be delivered to home, or even to a hospital ward. 

Email codes will be sent to NHS accounts linked with Uber Eats accounts. You can update your contact details and receive a code within 48 hours of doing so. The limit for food orders is five per week, per person.

Uber

In its email to account holders, Uber said “we want to help reduce the pressure on the heroes on the frontline of the coronavirus crisis.”

“So please share this email with anyone you know who works for the NHS. And while you’re at it, please thank them for all that they do.”

Is Uber worse for the environment than driving yourself?

Ride-hailing less eco friendly than driving

It’s claimed that ride-hailing, using companies like Uber, can be less eco-friendly than other means of getting to your destination, including driving yourself. That’s according to a report by the Union of Concerned Scientists (UCS).

As ride-hailing apps have proliferated over the last decade, some have called them the eco-conscious alternative to owning and running your own vehicle. In many circumstances, says the UCS, the contrary is the case. 

When is ride-hailing worse for the planet?

Uber London licence 2019

Ride-hailing has an initial problem compared with to personal motoring. It’s called ‘deadheading’. This is the mileage your driver covers when not driving you to your destination. As an example, an Uber might cover two miles to get to you, then shuttle you a further two miles, then take another two-mile journey to its next fare. That’s at least four miles of driving for that two-mile journey. 

Based on data from seven US metropolitan areas, ride-hailing can produce between 130 and 175 percent of the emissions emitted when driving oneself.

That also makes it much more polluting than getting the bus or train, at least in urban areas. Yet that’s where ride-hailing is most popular. 

‘A typical ride-hailing trip is about 69 percent more polluting than the trips it replaces, and can increase congestion during peak periods,’ the report reads.

Getting ride-hailing emissions down

Uber London emissions

There are two main ways of making sure that ride-hailing emissions are reduced, according to the report. Firstly, if your cab is electric, emissions are cut by more than half compared with driving a private vehicle. Less than one percent of Californian ride-hailing trips, based on mileage, were electric in 2018.

Secondly, there’s the act of pooling.This is when you share your ride with someone else, so their journey is also your journey. The California Air Resources Board reports that riders asked for pooled trips about 20 percent of the time, although that can extend journey distances.

Combine a pooled ride with an electric vehicle and the overall emissions cost is less than 30 percent of driving privately. ‘An electric, pooled ride-hailing trip can cut emissions by 68 percent compared with a private vehicle trip in the average car, or about 79 percent compared with a non-pooled ride-hailing trip,’ the report by the UCS reads.

By comparison, an EV ride, or a pooled EV ride, is more efficient than an urban bus ride. It’s also worth considering that you can reduce emissions if you combine your ride-hailing trip with a mass transit method like a bus or train.

Uber London emissions

What this does not address is congestion. Fifteen passengers on a single bus is less congesting for instance, than 15 passengers spread over seven EVs. Note, that scenario is the best we’ve stated so far: pooled EVs.

‘Electrifying ride-hailing and increasing the number of rides that are pooled are essential actions for managing the industry’s climate pollution,’ the report says.

‘For ride-hailing to contribute to better climate and congestion outcomes, trips must be pooled and electric, displace single-occupancy car trips more often, and encourage low-emissions modes such as mass transit, biking, and walking.’

Nissan partners with Uber to electrify London fleet

Nissan Leafs for Uber drivers

Nissan has signed a deal for up to 2,000 Leafs to be made available for Uber drivers in London. The move is a big step towards the ride-hailing company’s goal of making its entire London fleet electric from 2025.

The Leafs will be offered to app-using drivers as a part of the company’s ‘Clean Air Plan’, which launched a year ago. Nissan will also give Uber a dedicated EV education programme, a special price and a marketing plan to help accelerate EV uptake. At present, Uber has 45,000 drivers working in London. 

Nissan Leafs for Uber drivers

“Through innovation and collaboration, companies like Nissan and Uber can tackle the challenges of advancing personal urban mobility, whilst also improving air quality in our major cities,” said Andrew Humberstone, managing director of Nissan GB.

“As the UK’s best-selling EV, the Nissan Leaf is the perfect vehicle to support Uber’s ambition of a 100 percent electric fleet in London for 2025.”

The Clean Air Alan is designed to help Uber drivers move to EVs. A clean air fee of 15p per mile is added to all London journeys, which goes towards helping drivers with the cost of adopting one.

Uber London licence 2019

The company raised £80 million in the first year, while a further £200 million or more is expected over the coming years.

The plan is expected to save Uber drivers an average of £4,500 on the cost of switching to an EV. So far, 900,000 Uber journeys have been in EVs, an increase of 350 percent on 2018. On average, 500 drivers a week are using EVs exclusively. 

“Our bold vision for London is for every driver on the Uber app to use an all-electric vehicle by 2025,” said Jamie Heywood, regional manager for Uber in northern and eastern Europe.

Uber could now be banned from Birmingham

Uber London licence 2019

Uber’s licence renewal in Birmingham is being denied. This news comes as the dispute around the safety and security protocols of the ride-hailing company continues in London. Come February, Uber will no longer have a licence to operate in Birmingham.

Uber has applied for a five-year licence extension, however the council is waiting for the outcome of the London appeal before making a decision. The company has continued operating in London since November when its licence was stripped, while it opened the appeal process.

As the appeal continues, Uber will continue to operate in Birmingham, even beyond the end of January, albeit on an appeal-pending basis.

Uber London emissions

Birmingham has had little to no issues with Uber. However, if the company’s appeal fails and the ban in London is upheld, it will be considered a “matter of concern” in Birmingham.

Outside of London, Birmingham is one of Uber’s biggest markets. If the revocation of its licence becomes a trend that spreads beyond the capital, it could find itself in real trouble in the UK. Uber’s Manchester licence is due to expire in 2021, so the authorities will be watching the situation with interest.

Uber posted a third-quarter loss of $1.2billion in November. The ongoing battles around the safety of the service are causing real damage to both its reputation and its profitability.

Uber London emissions

In London, around 45,000 drivers are a part of the ride-hailing company’s fleet. The revocation of its London licence came in November of 2019. This, after what was described as a “pattern of failures” in its approach to safety. TfL claimed that 14,000 fraudulent unlicenced (and unchecked) trips were taken under the Uber banner in late 2018 and early 2019. 

“We recognise Uber has made improvements,” said Helen Chapman, director of licensing at TfL.

“It is [however] unacceptable that Uber has allowed passengers to get into minicabs with drivers who are potentially unlicensed and uninsured.”

Revealed: Britain’s favourite alternative to Uber

Audi E-Tron Addison Lee

With the demise of Uber in London on the horizon, commuters and tourists will be looking for a different solution. We recently rounded up some of the available taxi alternatives – now we can reveal which services are most popular.

The data comes from Taxi2Airport.com and is based on the online search volume each generates. It’s worth mentioning, however, that this is country-wide search data, not London-centric.

By some margin, Addison Lee leads, with an average 119,770 searches per month over a 12-month period. We noted Addison Lee as a premium alternative, with a reputation for higher pricing and a more corporate customer base. It has more than twice the online traffic of the second-placed taxi provider.

Addison Lee is the most popular uber alternative

In second is Blablacar, with 56,550 searches per month on average, while Viavan follows in third with 30,540. In fourth is long-standing Gett, with 13,780 country-wide searches.

Following fifth-placed MyTaxi’s 11,500 search figure are Bolt (10,650), Kabbee (5,870), Wheely (5,450) and Kapten (4,590), which we listed as options to fill to the potential vacuum left by Uber in London.

For now, though, it seems the alternative at the forefront of most British ride-hailers’ minds is Addison Lee. It even features in the lyrics of popular London musicians Not3s and J Hus (rhe former actually has a song titled ‘Addison Lee’).

Uber and out: the ride-hailing apps to use instead

Uber alternatives London

Whatever you think of Uber and how it operates, there are a great many people, both drivers and passengers, who rely upon it.

If you live in London, what alternatives to Uber are available if the ride-hailing service is banned? We round them up, from Kapten to Gett – not forgetting the good old-fashioned black cab.

KaptenUber alternatives London

Kapten is second only to Uber for popularity in London, and thus stands to benefit most from the ban (currently under appeal). “London doesn’t need Uber,” was Kapten’s response to the news.

“Customers and drivers need to ask themselves if they should use an app under the shadow of repeating safety issues, dodging regulations and toxic corporate culture,” said Kapten UK general manager, Mariusz Zabrocki.

“At Kapten, our main aim at this point is to make sure all drivers and riders affected by the potential ban know that the future needn’t look so bleak, as Kapten will be available.”

Kapten is originally a French firm, now joint-owned by Daimler and BMW. It’s a new player, having launched earlier this year. A ‘points’ system allows loyal users to accrue credit and use it for free rides.

BoltUber alternatives London

Bolt is another ride-sharing app that operates in the capital, launched earlier in 2019. It claims to cover the bases that Uber doesn’t.

“Recent events highlight the critical importance to public safety of, not just checking, but knowing who those drivers are and taking a deep interest in their overall wellbeing,” said a Bolt spokesperson.

“We spent a year working with Transport for London (TfL) on our successful London licence application and we continue to pay the utmost attention to the credentials of drivers we permit to use our platform. With more than 30,000 drivers carefully onboarded onto the platform, we have quickly become a trusted player in the capital.”

Bolt claims its rates are fairer to drivers and that its service is more reliable and safe for customers. There’s also the added bonus that all rides are offset to be carbon neutral.

The company had its own licensing controversies, however, with a stuttering attempted launch in 2017. Bolt drivers are also in the process of demanding a per-mile base rate of £2, up from the current £1.25.

GettUber alternatives London

Israeli-owned Gett is a comparatively long-standing operation in London. It launched in 2011 as straight alternative to the traditional black cab, to cut waiting times and allow advance ordering.

Like a cab, however, it is metered, with no minimum fares. It also works with existing licensed taxi drivers, including in areas outside London.

Ola

The true new kid on the block will be Ola. We say ‘will be’ because it launches in London in January 2020. It secured an operating licence over the summer after a limited launch in 2018. 

“Today, we are inviting the tens of thousands of drivers across London to register themselves on the Ola platform, as we prepare to launch in the city in the coming weeks,” said Simon Smith, international lead at Ola. Watch this space.

KabbeeUber alternatives London

Slightly different to the above services is Kabbee. Think of it as a Just Eat, CompareTheMarket or MoneySuperMarket of cab services. Seventy providers are listed, with around 10,000 London cabs on its books.

It also pitches itself as the much cheaper alternative to a traditional flag-down cab, and only keeps highly-rated services listed. On its website, it says you can ‘earn miles to enjoy credits, upgrades and other treats’.

Free Now

Free Now is a pan-European ride-hailing company that has more than 100,000 drivers on its books across 100 European cities. If you’re London-based, it has 17,000 black cabs on its books in the capital.

Like Uber, you tap to order and your ride should arrive shortly. The only difference is that pricing is generally fixed for these fully-licensed drivers, and doesn’t peak and trough with demand.

Pricier alternatives to UberVolkswagen Sharan Addison Lee

If your budget is higher, Wheely and Addison Lee bother offer a more premium taxi experience.

The former will chauffeur you in a Mercedes, while the latter is popular with corporate customers.

London public transportUber alternatives London

Of course, when in a real pinch (like if your phone battery has died), a black cab is always available. As is the underground and bus network. It’s always worth looking at prices and routes, to see if a tube or bus could work for you.

London buses have fixed pricing, and the tube network can easily get you further for less. So, even if Uber does leave London, you won’t be left stranded.

This is why Uber’s London licence ends TODAY

Uber London licence 2019

Ride-hailing service Uber has again lost its licence to operate in London. The decision comes after what Transport for London (TfL) calls a ‘pattern of failures’ in the company’s approach to safety. It also follows two extensions given to Uber after it first lost its licence in September 2017.

London is one of Uber’s top five markets in the world. Around 45,000 drivers make up the company’s capital-based fleet.

“I support the decision by TfL’s licensing officials today in relation to Uber and completely understand why the decision has been taken,” London Mayor Sadiq Khan said in a statement.

“Keeping Londoners safe is my absolute number-one priority, and TfL have identified a pattern of failure by Uber that has directly put passengers’ safety at risk.”

Why Uber has lost its licenceUber London licence 2019

TfL found that Uber does not take the necessary measures to ensure the legitimacy of its drivers, and therefore the safety of its customers.

Uber’s systems underwent a change that allowed unauthorised drivers to load their photos onto existing accounts. Effectively, that means legitimate drivers can ‘lend’ their account to somebody else, meaning anyone could be driving the cab.

Suspended or dismissed drivers have apparently been able to re-acquire an Uber account and carry passengers again, too.

According to TfL, a minimum of 14,000 fraudulent trips were carried out in London in late 2018 and early 2019.
“We recognise Uber has made improvements,” said Helen Chapman, director of licensing at TfL.

“It is [however] unacceptable that Uber has allowed passengers to get into minicabs with drivers who are potentially unlicensed and uninsured.”

Uber London licence 2019

Uber CEO Dara Khosrowshahi responded in a tweet, saying that “we understand we’re held to a high bar, as we should be. But this TfL decision is just wrong.”

“Over the last two years we have fundamentally changed how we operate in London. We have come very far — and we will keep going, for the millions of drivers and riders who rely on us.”

Uber will be appealing the decision and can continue to operate during the appeal process. 

Has Uber contributed to London’s pollution problem?

Uber London emissions

Uber and other taxi-hailing services have contributed to a spike in CO2 emissions in cities like London, a new report by the European Federation for Transport and Environment (T&E) claims.

The report quotes figures showing emissions rises that correlate with the increase in licensed private hire vehicles in London between 2012 and 2017. Private driver numbers doubled to 89,000 in this period.

Uber’s London driver count doubled from 25,000 in 2016 to 45,000 in 2018. It accounts for around half of all private hire vehicles (PHVs) in the capital.

Uber London emissions

In spite of the obstacles the company has faced recently, it alone has contributed to a 25 percent increase in PHV trips in the capital since launch. By comparison, in that same period, CO2 emissions are up 23 percent for the taxi and PHV industry. The findings also line up with similar results in major American cities.

Analysis of emissions and licence registration figures suggest that Uber’s taxi services could account for half a megatonne of CO2 – equivalent to an extra 250,000 private cars.

Also worrying is that French government data from 2017 shows 90 percent of registered PHVs were diesel. It’s the view of many organisations that Uber and its competitors should be encouraging the uptake of cleaner low- and zero-emission vehicles.

Uber London emissions

“Uber’s CEO tells us they ‘do the right thing, period.’ But the reality is that Uber is part of the traffic and pollution problem, adding car trips in our cities and adding to the climate and pollution crisis,” said Yoann Le Petit, new mobility expert at T&E.

“If it wants to become part of the solution, Uber needs to stop using petrol and diesel cars and rapidly shift to 100 percent electric rides. That’s the right thing to do, full stop.”

Uber London licence extended by two months

Uber London licence extended 2019

Ride-hailing service Uber has had its London licence extended for a further two months. Its existing 15-month extension expires tomorrow (Wednesday 25 September).

Transport for London (TfL) suspended Uber’s licence in 2017 due to safety concerns. A judge then granted the company the 15-month extension. That’s now been upped by a further two months while TfL gets further information on the company.

“Uber London Limited has been granted a two-month private hire operator licence to allow for scrutiny of additional information that we are requesting ahead of consideration of any potential further licensing application,” said TfL in a statement.

The Green Party’s Caroline Russell came out in support of scrutiny of the company, but criticised the uncertainty the situation is causing drivers.

“I welcome keeping pressure on Uber to be a fit and proper private hire operator, but drivers will be concerned for their future,” she said.

“The Mayor, and Government, must act decisively across the private hire and ‘gig economy’ to stop the exploitation of drivers, including bringing in a cap on numbers of vehicles licenced.”

Uber London licence extended 2019

The second extension isn’t without its conditions, though. Uber must meet new rules on passenger safety. Its licence renewal was rejected on safety grounds in 2017, in relation to insufficient background checks and driver vetting. Uber insists that it has made notable strides towards compliance.

“Over the past two years, we’ve launched a range of new safety features in the app, introduced better protections for drivers and our clean air plan is helping to tackle air pollution,” said Jamie Heywood, Uber’s regional general manager for northern and eastern Europe.

“[Uber will] continue to work closely with TfL and provide any additional requested information.”

Uber driver union criticises extension

Uber London licence extended 2019

The GMB union, representing Uber drivers, fears that Transport for London has put off decisive action. It says TfL has dragged out uncertainty and danger for drivers and passengers.

“Transport for London has simply kicked the can down the road and shown no regard for drivers or public safety,” claims regional officer for the GMB union Steve Garelick.

Around 45,000 drivers work for Uber in London – if the licence isn’t granted, that’s a lot of people out of work. London’s black cab contingent meanwhile will be rooting against the ride-hailing app. The cabbie community has been very critical of Uber’s practices, slating its lack of conformity with the rules with which all cabbies must.

Not least, too, because Uber has knocked the wind out of the black cab business with cheaper prices and one-click availability.

Uber’s self-driving Volvo is ready for action

Volvo and Uber partner on autonomous cars

Uber and Volvo have revealed the result of a collaborative project running since the two companies entered a joint engineering agreement in 2016. The self-driving Uber-branded Volvo XC90 is production-ready and could be sent into action now.

Does the Uber Volvo have a ‘driver’?

It seems redundant to ask whether the newly-announced self-driving Volvo has a driver but no, not exactly. What it does have is a ‘mission specialist’. That’s a specially-trained Uber employee that operates and oversees the car when in use in areas that allow autonomous cars to run.

Is it safe?

Volvo and Uber partner on autonomous cars

Volvo is arguably the best company to approach for an autonomous taxi. As such, a great deal has been made of the numerous backup systems that these vehicles will come with. These are redundancies that will safely run the vehicle, or bring it to a stop, in the event of something like steering, drive or brakes failing, including battery back-up power.

In fact, the XC90 was a chosen base for the project given its excellent arsenal of safety features and an impeccable safety record.

Sensors on top and built into the vehicle run Uber’s self-driving system, allowing it to operate in built-up and busy areas.

Tens of thousands of autonomous Uber Volvos to come

This is the first of a five-figure sum of drive-ready base vehicles to be delivered by Volvo for Uber’s self-driving service over the coming years.

“We believe autonomous-drive technology will allow us to further improve safety, the foundation of our company,” said Håkan Samuelsson, president and chief executive of Volvo Cars.

“By the middle of the next decade, we expect one-third of all cars we sell to be fully autonomous. Our agreement with Uber underlines our ambition to be the supplier of choice to the world’s leading ride-hailing companies.”

Volvo and Uber partner on autonomous cars

“Working in close cooperation with companies like Volvo is a key ingredient to effectively building a safe, scalable, self-driving fleet,” said Eric Meyhofer, CEO of Uber Advanced Technologies Group.

“Volvo has long been known for its commitment to safety, which is the cornerstone of its newest production-ready self-driving base vehicle. When paired with our self-driving technology, this vehicle will be a key ingredient in Uber’s autonomous product suite.”