Contactless for cabbies? Too little, too late

This October, black cabs will digitise as they become equipped to take card payments and contactless. But will it be enough to survive?

Contactless for cabbies? Too little, too late

It seems that every month there is an announcement about a new way in which you can use contactless. Last month it was the expansion of contactless payments for travel across the UK, not only through the various transport networks in different cities, but through long distance travel within the country as well.

This month, it’s the turn of charities to enter the world of contactless following the news that we will soon be seeing contactless donation tins. Both of these announcements have got people excited. They both represent further strides in two different industries to not only eliminate cash and digitise their respective worlds, but also to make payments easier.

However, there was one other contactless announcement this month that is certainly long overdue. Transport for London announced that, starting from October this year, London’s black cabs will take card and contactless payments.

Hearing about being able to pay for travel in other cities with contactless had me excited. The news of contactless charity donation tins had me excited, if only at the thought of the possibilities it now opens for the charity sector. But black cabs taking card? Well, in my opinion, it’s just too little too late.

To be honest, I can’t even remember the last time I used a black cab. I do feel bad about that. Every time I hear about how Uber is putting this long serving army of drivers out of business, it saddens me. But not enough to stop me using Uber.

It’s not just because it can be cheaper. It’s the convenience of not even having to pull out your wallet. The amount of times I’ve felt so frustrated after taking a black cab, only to realise I had no cash on me meaning I either had to get out or divert to the nearest ATM, costing me yet more money.

At university, I remember many cab trips home where we furiously questioned the driver about why they can’t take card, and how much easier it would make our lives.

And that’s what Uber did. They made our lives so much simpler. And with their continuing proliferation, you’re almost guaranteed they will continue to do so.

We’ve seen it in almost every industry today. In the world of entertainment, Blockbuster played the same role as the black cabs whilst Netflix took the part of Uber. The result: blockbuster is gone, having failed to digitise, whilst Netflix got on the wave and surfed it.

Before the announcement, it was obvious that the iconic black cab was facing extinction. Now, it’s received a more than welcome boost that could prolong its existence. But will it be enough? I don’t believe it will.

Considering the technology will only begin in October, Uber still has many more months to expand its empire, and who knows what they can do with that time. Yes, the black cabs protests over the unfair treatment of the cab giant, especially regarding tax evasion, has not gone unnoticed and yes, it seems likely that TfL and the government will announce other measures in an attempt to save the fading cabbies.

But short of turfing Uber out completely, it won’t be enough. Card payments in black cabs five years ago and this would have been a whole other story. But now? Too little, too late.