Driverless cars to hit British roads in six months’ time but it’s a long road to travel before safety fears are left behind

Driverless cars are set to hit British roads at the start of next year as the Government announced it will allow the first trials of vehicles that owners can sit in as passive passengers.

Business Secretary Vince Cable this morning said he was keen for Britain to become a pioneer in the technology. It comes after the Government pledged in the Autumn Statement last year to ensure Britain’s ‘legislative and regulatory framework supports the world’s car companies to develop and test driverless cars in the UK.’

But despite the major boost for driverless technology, Britons it seems are not enamoured by the prospect. According to a new study from Churchill Car Insurance, 56 per cent of respondents said they would not purchase a computerised car while a quarter believe they will not be safe.

Driverless cars: The technology will be tested on British roads from next year

Driverless cars: The technology will be tested on British roads from next year

Malfunction is the biggest fear, with three in five of people fearing the computer may be unreliable in their autonomous vehicle.

More than half fear the lack of human control over the vehicle and a third fear cyber security problems such as hacking.

Nearly a third believe commuting times will increase, with only 17 per cent believing there will be a decrease.

Steve Barrett, head of Churchill Car Insurance, said: ‘Driverless cars have a long way to go before they win people’s confidence.

‘Education on issues such as safety standards, including computer ethics is needed, as well as a re-think on existing road rules and amendments to insurance regulation.

‘It is still early days however, so a certain amount of scepticism around such a significant development is to be expected. It is also still too early to be able to assess the implications a fully driverless car will have on insurance.’

AA president Edmund King said that a recent survey of more than 23,000 AA members showed 43 per cent did not agree that UK legislation should be amended to even allow trials of the technology.

Vince Cable: The Business Secretary wants Britain to be at the forefront of driverless technology

Vince Cable: The Business Secretary wants Britain to be at the forefront of driverless technology

Ministers have previously admitted the current Highway Code and rules of the road are inadequate for the new generation of vehicles which pilot themselves.

In the U.S. driverless cars are only allowed on roads in certain states if someone sits in the driver’s seat.

The vehicles work by using GPS technology to locate the vehicle’s position on an electronic map.

In June, Google – who have been at the forefront of driverless technology – unveiled its computerised ‘hands-free’ self-driving bubble car, which has no steering wheel, brake or accelerator pedals.

Google plans to have prototypes ready to test later this summer and says the goal is for the car to ‘shoulder the entire burden of driving’.

Business Secretary Vince Cable said: ‘The excellence of our scientists and engineers has established the UK as pioneers in the development of driverless vehicles through pilot projects.

‘Today’s announcement will see driverless cars take to our streets in less than six months, putting us at the forefront of this transformational technology and opening up new opportunities for our economy and society.’

He also announced that UK cities can now bid for a share of a £10million competition to host a driverless cars trial and up to three cities will be selected to host the trials from next year, as revealed in the Autumn Statement in December 2013.

Each project is expected to last between 18 and 36 months and start in January 2015.

Is security a threat to driverless cars?

Wil Rockall, director in KPMG’s cyber security team, said: ‘There is no doubt that self-drive cars are going to become a reality.  The technology is already available and, with test drives showing early signs of success, an unstoppable journey has started on what will become a well-travelled road.

‘For all the positives, the industry will need to be very alert to the risk of cyber manipulation and attack.

‘Self-drive cars will probably work through internet connectivity and, just as large volumes of electronic traffic can be routed to overwhelm websites, the opportunity for self-drive traffic being routed to create ‘spam jams’ or disruption is a very real prospect.

‘Yet the industry takes safety and security incredibly seriously. Doubtless, overrides could be built in so that drivers could shut down many of the car’s capabilities if hacked. That way, humans will still be able to ensure their cars don’t route them on the road to nowhere.’

Yo – Has the VC World gone Mad

image.jpgYo is an app that has recently been launched upon the World of smartphone users, another app in the many thousands that are already on offer.

So what does the Yo app do? All it does is send a message to someone else saying Yo?

Pretty pointless you may think but Yo has managed to raise over $1M in its initial finding round.

It seems that Venture Capitalists will invest in any Tech Start Up these days no matter how pointless their product offering appears.

Is it any wonder then that VCs seems to be falling over themselves to invest in Taxi Industry Tech Start Ups!

The Taxi industry is unique in the way in which our customers use our services, we pick them up from work, their home, a restaurant, the gym, basically anywhere that they might go in their daily life.

So what does this mean for the Tech start up? Well a lot of these Tech start ups are data harvesting, they are building up a picture of users lifestyles, from their usage of taxis they can determine what the passenger does, what they like, where they go, where they work, the can build up a customer profile of any user of these apps quite easily.

The thing that I find quite amazing but quite sad is that these VCs can obviously see the potential in both the taxi trade around the World and the data that they can harvest from the trade, they can see that there is a potential for substantial returns from investing in Taxi Tech start ups and hope to see their investment returned within quite a short period of time plus a healthy profit, the sad thing is that Taxi drivers do  not realise the potential within their own trade and are happy to sit back and let these VCs basically rape their own trade and reap the benefits.

Hailo in London alone managed to register 14,500 drivers, now whether all of these drivers actively used the app for extended periods or just for a short time, they have all used it to some extent. Now if those 14,500 drivers had put £125 each in a bucket they would have raised a similar sum to hail’s initial funding round from which they launched.

If drivers in London had raised enough money to build and launch their own app then Hailo would never have been the success that it achieved, in fact Hailo’s whole business around the World rested on their success in London, so the whole makeup of he Taxi trades around the World might have been slightly different with the Taxi trade taking control of its own future and destiny, rather the an allowing these VCs to enter the market band take control.

MBA Graduates Join Uber’s Cab Craze With Smartphone Start-Ups – And Bank $25M

As taxi hailing service Uber kicks-up global controversy, MBA graduates from INSEAD and Harvard have launched similar smartphone ventures – one raising more than $25M in funding.

 

© philipus - Fotolia.com

© philipus – Fotolia.com

London’s black cab drivers have made a reputation for themselves as cheeky-chappies full of tongue-in-cheek humour which impresses tourists, but even by Londoners’ standards, this was a particularly rude rant.

“Our beef with Uber is that these drivers have come straight into London, and have been licensed straight away by Transport for London,” Lloyd Baldwin, a black cab driver, told the BBC. “We’re regulated to within an inch of our lives.”

His distain was aimed at Uber, the smartphone start-up that has generated eye-watering valuations while kicking-up a political storm at the same time.

Uber’s app allows users to hail a taxi from any location with the swipe of a finger across a screen. The four-year-old firm is already valued at $18 billion.

The San Francisco-based company has expanded its operation into more than 100 cities across 30 countries.

The founders’ success is shrouded in controversy. Earlier this month, thousands of taxi drivers across Europe staged protests against their technological rival. Cabbies complain that Uber’s drivers use the software as a meter, which under current law is illegal for private hire vehicles, and that anyone with a Private Hire Vehicle (PHV) licence can sign up with them.

The confrontation highlights a decisive shift in the power base of the driving industry. Upstarts are clearly making their mark. Other start-ups including Lyft, Hallo and Sidecar have secured millions in funding for their fledgling taxi apps.

MBA students are also using taxi tech to stage their assault on the driving sector. Graduates from Europe’s INSEAD, and Harvard Business School, are entering the cab-hire craze.

GrabTaxi, hailed as Southeast Asia’s answer to Uber, was co-founded by a Harvard MBA graduate. GrabTaxi supporters argue that drivers no longer have to navigate through traffic-clogged streets that are common in Asian cities. This popularity allows the company to charge a commission with every booking.

“Our ultimate vision is to pioneer public transportation mobility for all,” the company said. “By combining top talent, disruptive technologies and innovation, a local start-up like us can surpass even the most developed countries.”

The disruptive start-up has joined a growing roster of tech companies looking to offer cheap taxi bookings to lure in customers who need a ride.

Anthony Tan, GrabTaxi’s Malaysian chief executive and co-founder, stumbled onto the idea while in business school. A Harvard colleague suggested he follow in the footsteps of his grandfather, who helped launch the Japanese automotive industry in Malaysia.

Anthony, along with Tan Hooi Ling, an MBA classmate, entered Harvard Business School’s 2011 Business Plan Contest, and finished as runners-up. With funding from Harvard and personal coffers, they launched their app in June 2012.

In the two years since, GrabTaxi has expanded into five more countries in 14 cities. The app has been downloaded more than 1.2 million times, and more than 250,000 people use it on a monthly basis.

The business is backed by GGV Capital, a Silicon Valley and Shanghai-based venture capital fund, which led a recent investment round that banked the founders more than $15 million in capital, on top of an earlier round of more than $10 million. The app is also backed by Brent Hurley and Steve Chen, the co-founders of YouTube.

GrabTaxi said it wants to “help bring Southeast Asians to the forefront of the technological development wave”. “We hope to one day become a successful example to others who wish to pursue this daunting road of technopreneurship,” the company said.

Uber has written the instruction manual on how to launch a successful tech start-up. But other entrepreneurs have plans to rival their disruption. A Berlin-based start-up firm has joined the flock.

Talixo, which has 30 taxi companies operating under its banner, is headed by three INSEAD MBA graduates. The founders claimed a slice of a €50,000 pot from the business school’s twice-yearly Venture Competition.

Founders Yvonne Gruendler, Sebastian Kleinau and Dominik Etzweiler used their €25,000 winnings to set-up the business, similar to GrabTaxi, last summer.

But Yvonne, who comes from the healthcare sector, says Talixo’s unique 50-50 split of taxis and limousines, and the ability to pre-book is what separates them from competitors.

“Most taxi companies have one type of vehicle, private hire pre-booking or standard taxis,” she says. “There’s a legal distinction between taxis and private hire vehicles, so with limousines there’s no regulation on pricing,” she added.

The fledgling firm focuses on B2B sales and corporate clients. Talixo has three separate categories for their limousine service: economy, business and first-class, and each has different perks, standards and prices.

All three MBAs worked on the project during business school. Sebastian and Dominik founded the company and Yvonne joined them soon after graduating.

Much like Uber did, the team plan to expand. Yvonne says they were attracted to Germany because of the ease with which they can expand across the country.

“We are looking at expansion right now and hope to be able to get fleets into other cities. The plan is to roll out across Germany and into the main cities,” she adds.

Black cab drivers may be in uproar, but Yvonne recognizes their expert knowledge, which she says isn’t guaranteed with standard mini-cab drivers.

“For most people, it’s a commodity: there’s no difference from one [taxi company] to another. But we have a difference in quality,” she adds.

Web App for Sherbet Radio

Screen Shot 2014-06-20 at 14.51.42We have had some drivers say that they cannot receive Sherbet Radio because they now have Windows based Smart Phones.

Tune In radio is available for Windows Phones although apparently there are problems installing the app on particular models.

With this in mind we have updated the stream details for our web app which should work on any device no matter what software platform it operates on.

The Web App should prompt you to save it to your home screen and will then appear on you screen in the same way as any other app.

I have been unable to test it on a windows phone as I do not have a device to test on so I would really appreciate if windows phone users could let me know whether or not it works.

The Web App is still branded as London Taxi Radio but both relay the same radio stream.

You can download the Web App by clicking here

The Real Story of the Yellow App

This is a story that many of us have been reluctant to tell as it could easily sound like sour grapes, but since Hailo have now taken the decision to service the Private Hire trade as well as “Black Cabs” we now feel that it is time for the trade to know the truth behind the Yellow App.

 

Hailo-Driver-Team

Hailo was launched to the trade as 3 Cabbies who had an idea and met with 3 entrepreneurs.

“The cabbies had already been operating their own web-based service, Taxilight, for a couple of years but wanted to move it on to a new level. The two groups clicked.

“We sat in a cafe in Charlotte Street,” says Russell, “and chatted for hours on end about the moans and groans of cabbies and customers, and after endless cups of teas and rounds of toast we shook hands on a new concept.”

From all of the press releases it would appear to the working taxi driver that the 3 drivers had the original idea! Many drivers who I have spoken to about Hailo seem to have also formed that impression, the real story of how Hailo came to reality is somewhat different.

Jay Bregman was bouncing his idea about some time before he met the Taxilight boys, his first port of call was to contact the guys who were involved with Tweet A London Cab (TLC) after they featured in this article on the 4th August 2010.

Richard Cudlip Takes up the Story

The day after the TLC article was published in the Guardian I received an email from Jay Bregman saying he was doing something in the Taxi/Tech arena and would like to meet TLC, within a week Lee and myself met Jay at the eCourier offices.

At that meeting he told us that he was “exiting” eCouriers and was already looking to start up his next business, using Tech to put people in Taxis. It was clear we had a lot of common ground and we agreed to talk further.

Soon after that initial contact, I attended another meeting with Jay and met Ron for the first time. We talked in more detail about what they were looking to do and I filled them in on what TLC was all about.

I was away for quite a bit of August but over the next few weeks Jay kept in touch,  they put together a discussion document that was designed to introduce them to the rest of the TLC team. That document was sent to us on 4th September. From that doc (which I’ve attached) it was clear that Jay & Ron were quite a long way down the line with their business plans, it already had a name, Cabbitt.

For the document that Richard refers to please click here

The members of TLC then met as a group to discuss if we wanted to talk further with Jay & Ron. Doubts existed at this stage, but mainly to do with most of us not knowing if we really wanted to turn TLC into a “proper” business. We decided it was worth pursuing so the whole team met Jay & Ron and they started work on some more detailed documentation to flesh out what the business would look like if TLC got involved.

TLC next met with Jay and Ron in mid October, this meeting was based on a more detailed document they sent us, and looked at some of the finer detail of how the business would be structured and run. This is where we talked about shares (5% of the London business was offered to TLC), targets (they wanted to create a business with £10m profit/year) and structure. They wanted to keep the London business separate and the intellectual property that was created in an offshore company. Nothing unusual in that, in a business sense, but was one of the first big warning signs. In this meeting Jay also let slip that they would be looking to “flip” the business (ie sell) after 3-5 years.

The members of TLC then spent the next few days or so wringing our hands trying to decide if we should go ahead. We formally turned them down on about the 20th October, they then came back to us with a general offer of consultancy roles rather than taking a share in the business and when we turned that down they then phoned Mark and I simultaneously offering us roles! That was around the 4th/5th November. I then met Jay one final time (at his request) to try and explain our reasons for turning them down. It was at that meeting that he asked if I knew any other groups of tech minded Cabbies and, almost in passing, I mentioned Taxilight. The rest, as they say, is history.

Below are the reasons that the members of TLC turned down Jay & Ron’s offer:

1. Ultimately I don’t think any of the TLC people really wanted to stop driving a cab and work for the new company full time.

2. The way they wanted to structure the company and the offer of 5% of only the London Company. It all just felt that we would be helping create something that might go worldwide but would not reap the full benefits.

3. Unrealistic targets for revenue and driver numbers. £10m profit/year equates to about £1bn worth of cab journeys!! They also thought they would be able to get 18,000 drivers using Hailo after 5 years. As we know, they may have 14,000 signed up now but only a fraction do any work on it!
4. Selling the company after 3-5 years. This just felt that they weren’t in it for the long term, would only worry about a short term profit on investment and gave us no protection about who might buy given our low share in the business. We didn’t want to build a business that might end up being owned by Addison Lee! Interestingly, given that none of the Taxilight guys are directors, they did offer TLC 2 seats on the board. But that was still a minority so would have left us with little control.
Richard Cudlip
In essence the guys and girls involved with TLC had the trades best interests at heart and did not feel that this deal was the best for the trade, they felt that losing control of the London Taxi Trades customer base was a real reality and they could not bring themselves to be a part of that no matter what or how much they were offered!

Unrealistic Expectations

As Richard explained, Jay & Ron wanted a £10M profit each year from this venture which would have meant that at least £1Bn of taxi journeys would have had to go through the system. If any driver was confused as to the extent of these guys intentions please let me spell it out for you.
The total amount in monetary terms of jobs undertaken by taxi drivers in London is approx £1bn-£1.3bn per year, so it would appear that these guys had every intention of taking control of the London Taxi Trade and its customer base.
Jay also wanted 18,000 taxi drivers to be using the system, they state that they now have 14,500 registered drivers but anyone with half a brain knows that the number of active drivers who undertake work on the system is much lower than that.
Most of my personal friends signed up for Hailo when they first launched but I can count on one hand the number of them who actually used the system, combine that with the number of drivers that Hailo excluded from using the system then it is blindingly obvious that there was not 14,500 drivers.
Shortly after the members of TLC turned down Jay Bregman’s offer he decided to contact me.
Screen Shot 2014-06-07 at 19.54.40
As I was already aware of the negotiations with TLC and their main reasons for turning down Jay’s offer I decided that I also could not be part of something that could potentially sell off our trade and hand over control to a company that would then be able to dictate to drivers how they work.
Richard’s final meeting with Jay must have taken place around this time and is where Richard mentioned Taxilight in passing and is obviously how Jay managed to make contact with Russ, Gary and Terry.
It has now become obvious that Jay and Ron were desperate to get cabbies on board.

“We could have the best 21st-century technical solution in the world but, unlike a lot of tech startups, this is grafting technology on to a 400-year-old industry. If you think for a minute that you can walk in and slap this technology [on] and get [drivers] all to say ‘wonderful, you saved our lives’, you are smoking dope,” he said. “You really do need to understand how that business operates, its mindset and how we can work best for [the drivers].”

The answer was delivered in the form of the three cab drivers – Russell Hall, Gary Jackson and Terry Runham – who had set up a company called Taxilight to arrange deals on journeys for the 40% of the time when black cabs are empty, typically on their way into London or returning home.

It would have been impossible for them to launch their offering on the London Taxi Trade without gaining some insider knowledge and getting some drivers on board who could dress it up and sell it to the trade, Russ, Gary & Terry must have fitted the bill for Jay & Ron.

I know most of the guys who were involved with TLC, and i know that they would have driven a very hard bargain, and it appears now, to be the case, that they were offered more than what the three cabbies managed to obtain.

You have to take your hats of to the members of TLC as they could quite easily have taken the “Queens Shilling” and they could all be living a lot easier life, with nice salaries and a promise of a payoff at the end, instead they all decided that they felt more comfortable driving a taxi with their integrity intact.

So as you can see, the truth is far from what has been portrayed in the press, the 3 amigos were not Jay’s first choice, or even his second choice, they became involved with Jay through a mention in passing by Richard Cudlip of the name Taxilight. There is no doubt in either Richard’s or my mind that the version of the story that 3 Taxi drivers with an idea found the backers to take their idea forward is false.

We already know that the 3 cabbies took their Taxilight idea to the Dragons Den and were turned down, had Hailo been their idea I am sure that the view of the dragons may well have been a lot more positive. The truth is that Jay and Ron’s plans for the app were quite advanced before they even met the 3 cabbies!

Outsiders Taking Control of our Trade

It has always been of great concern to me that outsiders such as those behind the yellow app could come into our trade, convince drivers to use their offering, capture our customer base and then dictate to drivers how they work.

Can you imagine if they had gained a substantial amount of our market, and drivers began to rely on the work, it would essentially mean that they had control of our trade. The app company would then be able to dictate to drivers as and when they work, they would want drivers to work the hours when the app was most busy so that their work was covered, this is a situation that we can never allow to become reality!

Hailo initially raised $3m which equates to roughly just under £1.8M, now taking that Hailo had 14500 registered drivers that means if each driver had thrown £125 into a bucket we could have developed our own app and Hailo would never have had such an impact on our trade.

As I said at the beginning of this article, we have been reluctant to tell this story for fear of it being considered as sour grapes which could not be further from the truth. We all hoped that they would prove us wrong and do something really good for the trade but unfortunately that has not been the case.

Since Hailo’s application for a Private Hire Operators License was leaked from TfL, which has now become known as Hailo’s Ratner moment, they have handed us an ideal opportunity to take back control of our trade and to carve a promising future for all drivers with the help of Technology.

There is no doubt that customers love the fact that they can Hail a taxi from their smartphone, especially in areas where taxis are not always so readily available so we need to embrace this technology and make sure that we have control of it to safeguard our future and that of future taxi drivers.

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