I’m as irritated by Uber as the French seem to be — though I wouldn’t go as far as they did last week in arresting the ride-sharing company’s managers. Uber has hit official resistance everywhere from Johannesburg to São Paulo; but a disruptive free-market technology so readily adopted by users that its name has entered global language is bound to win the argument in the end. The only question is whether it will be overtaken by something better.
I certainly hope so. Deep in Clapham, a fellow dinner guest offered to call ‘an Uber’ to take us back north of the river. Sure enough, a scholarly-looking fellow with a clean car was there in moments. So far so good — until the driver said: ‘You go to Birmingham, yes?’ Heavens no, Mayfair please, I replied: but he was a stranger to London landmarks as well as his own satnav, and we’d have passed Heathrow if I hadn’t started shouting at him. As with many digital ventures, what’s needed is the taxi equivalent of ‘bricks and clicks’, a balance of old and new technologies: the über-trendy app, but ‘the knowledge’ as well.