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NOT A TAXI: What’s the difference between private hire vehicles and ridehail?

The distinction between a private hire vehicle and a ridehail car is marginal to say the least, but there are small operational differences despite falling under the same private hire operation regulatory requirements.

A private hire vehicle (PHV), often referred to as a minicab in the UK, must be pre-booked through a licensed private hire operator. These vehicles cannot be hailed on the street or use taxi ranks. The booking is made through a centralised system, usually by phone or online, and the fare is typically agreed upon before the journey starts. Private hire vehicles are subject to specific licensing and regulatory standards which vary by region, including vehicle inspections, driver background checks, and insurance requirements.

On the other hand, a ride-hail car operates under a slightly different model, primarily facilitated by app-based platforms such as Uber, Bolt or FREENOW. While they share some similarities with private hire vehicles in that they cannot be hailed off the street, the major difference lies in the booking process and pricing. Ride-hail cars are requested via a mobile app, which uses GPS to connect passengers with nearby drivers. The fare is calculated based on the distance and time of the journey, often with dynamic pricing that can fluctuate based on demand.

Both types of services have to adhere to local regulatory standards, but the emergence of ride-hailing apps has introduced new dimensions of competition to the private hire sector. The ease of use, real-time tracking, and cashless payment options offered by ride-hail services have many traditional private hire operator offices to close as people moved away from phone call bookings.

Taxis differ significantly from both private hire vehicles and ride-hail cars in terms of their operational flexibility and regulatory requirements.

Taxis, often referred to as Hackney carriages or black cabs, enjoy a distinctive status and set of privileges. Taxis can be hailed directly on the street. You can flag them down when you see them driving by, unlike private hire vehicles and ride-hail cars which must be pre-booked.

Taxis are also allowed to queue at designated taxi ranks across cities and towns, ready to pick up passengers on a first-come, first-served basis.

Taxi drivers are usually subject to more stringent licensing requirements. In London, for example, drivers must pass the famous "Knowledge of London" test, which requires an in-depth understanding of the city’s streets and routes. This rigorous training ensures that taxi drivers have a high level of expertise.

In some cities taxis must meet specific vehicle standards, including being wheelchair accessible and having a turning circle that can navigate tight city streets.


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