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December 2017

Here’s hoping everyone has a safe and prosperous holiday season

Much about Uber in the news these days, some of it great for that company, some hugely negative, but all very interesting reading.

I see driverless cars are being tested by Uber in Stratford, Ontario. That’s nice. I know Stratford and it is a lovely town without a huge amount of vehicular traffic to get in the way of driverless cars. I’m sure the researchers and developers of this technology will learn much on its relatively quiet streets.

I see Uber is planning on buying something like 24,000 driverless cars in the near future.

But I predict it will still be a while before we actually see fleets of driverless cars and trucks on the road. Ditto for electric powered cars. There are major hurdles for developers of this technology to overcome before we can see anything approaching general acceptance.

I can see hybrid electric/gasoline vehicles coming into general use in the fairly near future as long as huge taxpayer subsidies for their purchase remain in place.

Electric sort of makes sense to me in urban environments where virtually the only use cars are put to is driving a few kilometres back and forth to work and the shopping mall, if you have a convenient, cost effective, charging station at home.

But if you want to drive, say to Ottawa, or Montreal, or Florida, then electric is a significant problem due to limited range and very long recharge times. Some kind of huge breakthrough in battery technology will have to occur for electric cars (and trucks) to be viable.

Or maybe a workable, cost effective battery changing process can be developed. Go to a refueling station, pull out the dead battery and slap in a charged one and off you go, as one of my friends suggests. We’ll see.

But on the down side Uber is justly taking flack for failing to disclose for a year that its customer records were hacked and the hackers were paid off $100,000 to return the millions of hacked files.

Of course there is no guarantee those files weren’t simply copied and sold off to someone else in the meantime. Plus Uber still won’t come clean on how many of those hacked files affected their Canadian clients. I wonder why not be upfront with us? What are they hiding? Oh, Canadian law doesn’t require companies to disclose hacks when they happen. Being legal doesn’t make it right and if I was an Uber customer I’d be both really ticked off and very afraid for my personal information. It is long past high time for Uber to inform its customers about the risk they are in, and shame on how the company handled this mess.

Then there are the little matters of multi million dollar fines in the US, imposed because Uber failed to conduct required driver background checks.

If you hadn’t heard, Uber was fined $8.9 million by the State of Colorado for using 57 disqualified drivers and Massachusetts found more than 8,000 Uber and Lyft drivers failed background checks there.

Makes you wonder how good the background checks Uber is doing in Toronto and other Canadian cities are. Supposedly some 50,000 Uber drivers have had checks in Toronto alone. I kind of wonder if these checks are all on file with Municipal Licensing and Standards, as is required by City bylaw.

Also I wonder who verified that these checks accurately reflect the identities and qualifications of each and every Uber driver on the road. MLS required police checks for all taxi drivers and quite a few applicants for taxi driver licenses were denied a license either by staff or through Toronto Licensing Tribunal hearings. Others had conditions placed on their licenses for varying periods of time. It wasn’t a perfect system but it sure as heck was better than the mash up Uber has in place to protect public safety.

Gee, Mayor Tory. Are you still in love with Uber and its technology? How about its corporate ethical foundations?

On another matter, an old friend recently asked what the future of the taxi business in Toronto is. After passing along my standard disclaimer that my crystal ball is cloudy, I did suggest it may be in transporting the disabled. As far as I can see the only people making anything approaching acceptable money driving cab these days are those doing WheelTrans contract runs.

Readers of this column may recall about two years ago I strongly suggested it could well be in all drivers’ best interests to be properly trained and get the accessible endorsement on their licenses.

Well, now Co-Op is offering an internal accessible training program and just this month Scarborough City Cab announced it is offering an accessible training program for all vehicle for hire drivers.

My contact at SCC told me by email, “I heard the Co-op one was internal. They and Centennial College and we were the only three applicantsÉ WheelTrans sedan contract drivers are not required by Municipal Code to have an endorsement. I think it is safe to say we were the first to offer the course.”

So once again I sincerely suggest to all that having this endorsement is very likely a very, very good idea.

To one and all, no matter what your religion may be, I wish you a very Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year. I hope everyone has a safe and prosperous holiday season.

© 2017 Taxi News

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