French taxi drivers should embrace Uber-style technology: minister

  • TECH
  • Monday, 01 Feb 2016

A French flag is seen on a striking taxi as drivers block traffic during a demonstration at Porte Maillot during a national protest about competition from private car ride firms like Uber, in Paris, France, January 26, 2016. Picture taken January 26, 2016. REUTERS/Charles Platiau

PARIS/MARSEILLE: France's economy minister urged licensed taxi drivers to embrace modern methods such as GPS-based mobile phone applications that have helped rival car ride services such as Uber grow at their expense. 

The appeal came as anti-Uber protests by traditional taxi drivers snarled traffic for days, despite government efforts to resolve a row that has come to symbolise the challenge such industries face in the Internet age. 

Emmanuel Macron, a minister who spearheaded reforms such as the liberalistion of bus transport, said the industry should adopt Internet-based reservation systems of the kind exploited by Uber drivers. 

Rules introduced two years ago to combat the proliferation of unregulated drivers should be better enforced as well as rules that confine Uber cab drivers to pre-booked business, Macron said. 

More open geolocation systems and mobile-phone applications have been embraced by licensed taxi drivers in other European countries such as Ireland, where the California-based Uber is also trying to make inroads with its own mobile phone app. 

"There are plenty of ways of ensuring the law is respected ... and also ensuring that geolocation systems are more open to all," Macron told public radion station France Bleu Provence. 

"Nobody has exclusive rights to such systems and they must be opened to taxi drivers. That's what I plan to put on the table and hope to discuss within the next two weeks with representatives of the sector as a whole." 

France like many other countries in Europe and elsewhere have banned the UberPOP service that matched customers with unlicensed drivers who were mostly private car owners seeking to top up their monthly income by offering car rides. 

It also introduced rules in 2014 that among other things oblige other registered Uber drivers to return to base after each trip and conduct only pre-booked business, in contrast to traditional taxi drivers who are allowed to cruise the streets in search of hail-down business. 

Taxi drivers, whose protests involve partial blockages of roads around Paris and other cities, say the laws are being flouted and their livelihoods and investment in expensive licenses are in danger. 

Protesting taxi drivers interviewed by local TV stations said the rules adopted in 2014 were unenforceable and the government should either ban or impose punitive taxes on unfair competitors. — Reuters

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