Drivers like Hubert may be skeptical of the Uber deal, but within some unions there is real animosity toward the company. “We don’t expect anything from Uber. It’s a predatory multinational company that cares little about its workers or its customers and tries to impose its rules on the states where it operates,” said former taxi driver and union CGT Taxis secretary Karim Asnoun said. “It doesn’t respect anything, taxis are just a pawn in its strategy.” He added that the conditions of platforms such as Uber are very bad for drivers because their commissions are very high.
But Uber is trying to overcome their skepticism by offering positive incentives to encourage taxi drivers in Paris to sign up. “Taxis in Paris today don’t charge any commissions,” Asnoun said, adding that taxi drivers can receive a bonus of 1,000 euros (or $1,004) for joining the app. Uber declined to provide details on how long those incentives would last. Rewards are a normal part of Uber’s service when launching new features, Diaz said. “We’re obviously going to encourage … drivers to go into the app, try it out and see what it does for them.”
Those same conditions didn’t extend to all markets where Uber struck a deal. In Belgium, where Uber Taxi was also launched this month, Uber takes a 10 percent cut of new drivers’ earnings, said Tom Peeters, the BTB-ABVV’s federal deputy minister. in October. IT Taxi, Italy’s largest taxi dispatcher, also struck a deal with Uber in July 2022, but didn’t answer Wired’s questions about how much their 12,000 drivers paid Uber in commissions, or How the deal affected their income.
Diaz said Uber is already available in 225 cities around the world to book taxis. New York’s yellow cabs have been available on the app since September. In EMEA, taxis are available in 70 cities in 17 countries, but an Uber spokesman declined to say which ones. Diaz hopes to continue expanding Uber Taxi into new markets, including London, the company’s largest European market. “Incorporating black taxis into our app in London would be ideal for us,” she said.
However, after years of competition and court battles, there is still animosity between the British capital’s black cabs and Uber. “Uber is trying to destroy us,” said Grant Davis, president of the London Taxi Drivers’ Club, a black cab driver for 35 years. “We don’t need Uber, we have other apps like Free Now, we have Gett, there’s another new app coming online, it’s no commission, it’s owned by taxi drivers.” He added that these services charge About 10% commission.
Fragmented regulation across Europe has been a problem for Uber, and getting a taxi into a car can be complicated, especially when many cities such as London have strict rules about how much taxis are charged. Although Belgian taxi legislation changed in October in favor of Uber, there are still some local legislation that limits the company’s ambitions. In Barcelona, the regulations are still very, very strict,” Diaz said. “It’s an example of a place where rules like minimum waiting times still apply, which are very limited in terms of creating the services we want to create. The government of Catalonia, in the northeastern region of Spain, introduced new rules in 2019 requiring a 15-minute wait time between booking and picking up passengers. Uber is also preparing for EU-wide regulation, which New rules on who can be classified as self-employed are expected to be introduced.
These taxi deals could be a new way for Uber to pursue global ride-hailing dominance. But the arguments for and against the company’s integration of taxis into the app feel like an equally old battle to control the future of the industry. Diaz believes the future still favors Uber. “I come from a time when street hailing was common, and I knew what to do,” she said, while a new generation “expects things to happen on their phones—immediately, efficiently, sustainably.”
Paris taxi driver Hubert doesn’t deny that apps are the future of the taxi industry. Like London, Uber is competing in the French capital to help taxi drivers reach a wider audience. A French app called G7 has boosted his salary by 30 percent, he said; he claims a monthly subscription fee of 320 euros ($321) puts him under less pressure than Uber’s 25 percent commission. “The future is going digital,” Hubert said. But, he added, it doesn’t necessarily belong to Uber.