THE ARRIVAL of controversial Silicon Valley technology firm in Leeds will trigger a wave of unrest in the private car hire industry, according to the head of a leading Leeds operator.
David Richmond, chairman of Arrow Cabs, said he expects to see protests by unsettled drivers in response to new entrant Uber.
The US company launched its UberX product in Leeds on Friday, its third English city behind London and Manchester.
Uber cuts out the middleman by enabling users to book and pay for a private hire car directly through a mobile phone app.
Its phenomenal rise has provoked multiple disputes with regulators and taxi firms around the world.
Mr Richmond said: “Until it settles down I think Uber will have a substantial impact in terms of unrest within the industry.”
The unrest will generate publicity, which will lead to more downloads of the Uber mobile app, he said.
Mr Richmond added: “There will be a movement of drivers. Drivers will become unsettled. Some will do go-slows, demonstrations, all sorts of different things, all giving Uber oxygen.”
But within a few months, the market will settle and Uber will become a medium-sized firm, oprating mainly in the city centre, said Mr Richmond.
He said: “When you speak to the majority of taxi companies, they see Uber as a threat to their very existence. The Arrow view is the opposite. Arrow welcomes Uber to the city.”
Mr Richmond said Uber will help his firm by making credit card payments via mobile app the norm in an industry largely driven by cash. He said the Uber pricing model lacks transparency, unlike Arrow, which yesterday launched a new fixed-fare app.
Mr Richmond added that the UK private hire market is more sophisticated than the US and has seen greater investment in booking and despatch systems.
The former Leeds Utd director added: “Companies like ours are embedded in the community. We live here, we employ people here, we support charities here. You have somebody to phone, somebody to speak to, somebody to complain to.
“When it comes down to it, people want to deal with a local business rather than a faceless multinational.”