This Valentine's Day may be the last holiday Western students get to spend with Uber in London.
In a close 7–6 vote at a city council meeting last week, London councillors voted for a new bylaw which will mandate Uber to install cameras in their vehicles. London is the first city in the world to make such a requirement of the company.
Safety concerns and bringing parity between taxi cabs and Uber vehicles are cited as reasons for the cameras. The London Taxi Association, which represents taxi owners and drivers in the city, has been a vocal critic of Uber operations in the city and has advocated for the in-car cameras to become mandatory for Uber as they are for taxi vehicles.
Mayor Matt Brown and councillors Mo Salih, Jesse Helmer, Maureen Cassidy, Phil Squire and Virginia Ridley voted against the motion.
Uber has cited their driver, rider and street safety measures as the reason why their cars don't need cameras.
The decision isn't set in stone, as council will hold a final vote on the bylaw on Feb. 14. Uber has responded by threatening to leave the city if the camera requirement is put in place.
An online petition started by the company is urging the city council to reconsider its decision and has been signed by more than 8,000 people at the time of publication.
"This requirement would force us to shut down operations in London," the petition description reads. "The story of Uber is really a story of London and the people who keep it moving. There are nearly 1,000 driver-partners in London who rely on Uber to earn an income."
Ward 6 councillor — Western's ward — Phil Squire, voted against the bylaw and wants Uber to stay in the city.
“I wasn’t satisfied that the safety issue was enough to justify requiring them to have cameras in their vehicles," Squire said.
Students at Western agreed with Squire's sentiments and have expressed their desire for Uber to stay.
Jamie Cleary, University Students' Council vice-president, has advocated for Uber to stay in London for months.
“Students love taking Uber. They love the affordability factor and also the fact that you can use your phone and the technology-enabled aspect of it all work really well for students," Cleary said.
Laura Watson, a second-year BMOS student, said she doesn't have any safety concerns with Uber, especially now that Uber drivers are insured. She also noted that Uber drivers are more compelled to provide clients with a positive experience than taxi drivers as they receive ratings from each client.
”They want to give you a positive [experience], versus I’ve found a lot of taxi drivers just don’t care," Watson said.
The decision comes as a surprise since in November 2016, city council had passed bylaw changes which would have allowed Uber to operate in the city without cameras.
According to the London Free Press, taxi drivers are threatening to pull their cabs off London streets if city council buckles under Uber pressure to change regulations.
Students who expressed their wish for Uber to stay cited the convenience and benefits of cheaper rides.
“I think it’s good, it’s better than taking taxis, much cheaper," said Olivia Bechberger, a third-year biological sciences student. "For the most part it’s safe from what I’ve experienced.”
Squire said he spoke with Uber representatives recently and they assured him that they will leave London if cameras are mandated.
“Uber is a larger multinational corporation and quite frankly whether they’re in London or not is not a make or break for their business model," Squire said.
With files from Grace To.
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