Uber’s taxi-booking app is legal in London, the UK High Court has ruled in a case brought against the US company by Transport for London (TfL.) The central issue was whether Uber’s app running on a smartphone constituted a “taximeter,” the device used by London cabs to calculate the fare for a journey. Only black-cab drivers that pass The Knowledge, a detailed test of familiarity with London’s routes, are allowed to use a taximeter.
As The Guardian reports, the judge in the case, Lord Justice Ouseley, ruled that “while the smartphone with the driver’s app may be essential to enable the calculation of fares, that did not make it a device ‘for’ calculating fares, which would breach the taximeter prohibition.” Since Uber’s app running on a smartphone did not constitute a taximeter, it therefore did not fall foul of Section 11 of the Private Hire Vehicles Act 1998, which sets down that only black cabs may use taximeters. Had Uber lost this case, it would have posed major problems to running its service in London.
Although Uber has won this battle, many others remain. As Ars reported, London’s Mayor, Boris Johnson, has said that regulations will be brought in requiring Uber drivers to pass a Knowledge-like test, albeit not as demanding as the exam for would-be black-cab drivers. Johnson is also pushing for new legislation that would place a cap on the number of private-hire drivers like Uber.