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Why was Uber and Autocab’s departing ‘Local Cab’ offering seen as controversial by some in the UK?

Updated: Nov 12, 2023



Uber, the global ride-hailing company, announced this week that it will end its Local Cab service in the UK on 11 December 2023. The service, which was launched in 2021, allowed Uber users to book rides from local private hire and taxi operators that use Autocab's booking and dispatch technology.


Autocab is a UK-based company that provides software solutions to the taxi industry and operates a referral network called iGo, where operators can send and receive jobs to each other.

The partnership between Uber and Autocab was seen as a way for Uber to expand its presence in the UK. By using Autocab's iGo network, Uber could offer its app to customers in towns and cities where it does not have its own drivers. The partnership also aimed to benefit local operators by giving them access to more customers and earning opportunities.


However, the partnership faced criticism and controversy from various stakeholders. Some local authorities, such as Oxford City Council, expressed concerns about Uber's legal status and licensing in the regions where it offered Local Cab.


The council's deputy leader, Tom Hayes, described Uber's service as "murky" and said that the council had not licensed Uber in the city to support the local taxi trade. Some taxi drivers and unions also opposed the partnership, fearing that Uber would undercut their fares and standards, and eventually take over the market. One taxi driver in Oxford said that Uber was "trying to sneak in through the back door" and that he would not accept any jobs from Uber's app.

Uber did not have a licence to operate in some of the towns and cities where it offered Local Cab service through its partnership with Autocab. This was seen by some in the industry as a way of bypassing the local regulations and authorities that govern the private hire and taxi industry.


Uber’s arrival in new markets was perceived as a threat by the existing local operators not on the Local Cab platform. There was fear that Local Cab would undercut their prices, take away their customers, and eventually dominate the market.


Local Cab had been introduced in over 65 towns and cities in the UK since its pilot in May 2021. Uber did not disclose the specific reason for ending the Local Cab service in the UK, but said that Autocab's core business was unaffected and does continue to grow.


Autocab also announced that it would launch the Local Cab service internationally, where it said there was a more favourable market fit. The company said that it was working on launching the service in several countries and that it would reveal the initial partnerships in the New Year.

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