Uber focuses on safety improvements as it battles to regain its London license

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Uber lost its operating license in London in September 2017, and now, is attempting to overturn that decision. Regulator Transport for London (TfL) previously told Uber that it is “not fit and proper to hold a private hire operator license,” citing a number of issues, including its approach to reporting serious criminal offenses. On Monday, June 25, the ridesharing giant will be making its appeal in Westminster Magistrates Court from today, highlighting the changes it’s made over the last several months.

This appeal is crucial for Uber, as the resulting decision will determine whether or not Uber will be able to hold an operator license and maintain its services in London. A number of changes  have been implemented since its license was first suspended last fall, with Uber’s United Kingdom general manager Tom Elvidge noting in an op-ed, “Over the past year we’ve been working hard to put right past mistakes as we’ve gone through a much-needed period of reflection and change.”

He continued, “Our new global CEO, Dara Khosrowshahi, is establishing a new culture and direction for the company from the top, while in the U.K. we’ve brought in three experienced independent directors to help us stay on the right track. If there are times when we fall short, we are committed to being open, taking responsibility for the problem, and fixing it.”

Notable changes include caps on driver hours, a 24/7 support line for the U.K.,  and the introduction of insurance offerings for drivers and couriers across Europe.

Since September, Uber has been keen to show itself as a responsible operator for the estimated 3.5 million Londoners who use the service, and the 40,000 drivers who make a living from it.

The company previously announced a number of measures, including how it reports suspected crimes to the police.

“While we previously encouraged and supported individuals to report to the police serious incidents related to a trip booked through our app, we will now proactively make the reports,” Elvidge wrote in a post explaining the changes at the time.

Elvidge promised that Uber will now “pass directly to the police information about any serious incident reported to us by riders,” adding that it will also do the same for drivers if they would like the company to make a complaint on their behalf rather than in person.

The new policy is already live in London with plans to launch it in other U.K. cities following discussions with local police departments.

As for the 24/7 helpline, Elvidge explained, “Whenever there’s an issue like an incorrect cancellation fee, riders and drivers alike often find it’s easy and simple to get it sorted through the app. But drivers and riders have told us that they would like the option to give us a call, especially if something more serious happens.” Uber will soon begin training new recruits for the service, which will launch “later this year.”

Other changes include the introduction in the Uber app of a live map for drivers so that a family member or friend can see where they are when they’re on the road, a feature already available to riders.

Uber’s announcement came the day after TfL unveiled a set of stringent guidelines for any app-based taxi service seeking licensing in the capital, with Uber already addressing some of them.

Despite TfL’s severe criticisms of the ridesharing service in 2017, Elvidge insisted “the safety of riders and drivers using Uber is a top priority.”

“Over the last few years, we’ve led the way with pioneering technology which enhances safety, like GPS tracking of every trip and our two-way rating system. But we recognize we can use our technology to go even further in setting a higher standard for private hire and other transport options.”

We’ll have to wait and see whether Uber’s efforts have been enough to persuade TfL to renew the company’s license.

Updated on June 25: Added news that Uber is in court appealing the decision to suspend its license in London. 

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