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Uber meets old rival in new city as Ola announces its launch in London

Ola is launching in London in the coming weeks and has invited “tens of thousands” of Private Hire Vehicle (PHV) drivers to onboard themselves on the platform, the company said in a statement. Ola had received a 15-month long licence from Transport for London (TfL), the city’s transport regulator, on July 4, to operate PHV vehicles across the city.

“We are inviting the tens of thousands of PHV drivers across London to register themselves on the Ola platform, as we prepare to launch in the city in the coming weeks,” Simon Smith, Head of International, Ola, had said in a statement on November 26.

The ride-hailing firm launched its operations in the UK in August 2018, starting with Cardiff. It is currently operating in cities such as Birmingham, Bristol and Liverpool. 

Ola wants to onboard Black Cabs in London: Ola has reached out to the London Taxi Drivers’ Association (LTDA) and other groups so that it can list black cabs in London in the future, people familiar with the matter told MediaNama. However, the company is currently focusing only on its launch in London and not on onboarding black cabs, we were told.

Why this matters: Ola’s announcement comes only two days after Uber was stripped of its licence in London after Transport for London (TfL), the city’s transport authority, found that at least 14,000 trips were taken with drivers who had faked their identity on Uber’s app. TfL said that it identified a “pattern of failures” by Uber, which included unauthorised and unlicensed drivers taking rides via the app, that placed passengers and their safety at risk.

  • While Uber can appeal TfL’s decision, it currently doesn’t list black cabs in the city. In fact, Black cab drivers in London have staged several protests against Uber, and even slapped the company with a $650 million lawsuit.

Ola learns from Uber’s mistakes: It appears as if Ola has taken cues from TfL’s findings about Uber. In a statement, Ola said that its drivers would have to undergo a facial recognition system for continuous authentication, among other things. This seems to directly address TfL’s finding that unauthorised drivers could upload their photos to other Uber driver accounts.

  • Ola also said that it’ll carry out diver image verification against driving licence photographs to eliminate misrepresentation and re-entry of blocked drivers. TfL had found that some passenger journeys on Uber took place with unlicenced drivers.
  • Ola will also store digital copies of various documents including vehicle insurance certificate, MOT certificate, and driver’s licence. We have reached out to Ola to understand where these digital copies would be stored and how they’ll be protected.

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