Plan were recently invited to take part in Pro Driver Congress Live, a one day conference that focused on threats and opportunities in the private hire and chauffeur markets.
Plan’s Sales Manager Daniel Severin lent his expert insight on two sessions, touching on the insurance implications of driverless cars – as well as a discussion on the issue of cross-border hiring. He was joined by an esteemed list of attendees on June 6th at the Renaissance Hotel in Heathrow, that included leading operators, app providers, employee status consultants, vehicle manufacturers and policy makers.
The conference schedule tackled the following list of topics:
Disrupting the disrupters
Ways in which established operators can and should respond to the challenge laid down by Uber were discussed. Interestingly, when surveyed, only 37% of the operators in the room felt that Uber had negatively impacted their business as opposed to 27% who felt the American firm had actually benefited them. Many in the audience highlighted how their innovative marketing techniques had been a source of inspiration.
TfL’s latest proposals regarding licensing costs were also raised. The audience unsurprisingly expressed the view that they’re not getting a fair deal from the regulator and that their latest proposals for the licence fee are unjust. The issue of cross-bordering hiring and what can be done were debated. It was felt by 71% of the audience that a national regulatory body would have certain benefits. Though concerns about increased costs were mentioned.
Ways in which smaller operators can harness the power of apps and online booking systems that have revolutionised the industry for many were promoted.
Employees, workers and the gig economy
With Uber’s employment tribunal appeal looming, this topic proved perhaps the most urgent matter of the day for the business owners in attendance. Many had their fears allayed by Gary Jacobs of Driverserv and David Harmer of Accounttax. Both agreed that the recent ruling in GMB’s favour against the American app-based firm hadn’t changed things a great deal as long as your working contracts and driver engagement practices are defendable. We will cover exactly what this means in detail in an upcoming blog.
Timescales for driverless technology, the likely impact on chauffeur and private hire firms, and unresolved practicalities with the technology were all mentioned in this lively debate.
Kevin Meeks, Head of Customer Relations at Volvo, talked the audience through the manufacturer’s plans for releasing autonomous vehicles. The Swedish firm believes that its vehicles will be ready to hit the roads in 2021. However, they will be autonomous, not driverless. Meeks was keen to highlight the difference between the two terms.
Volvo’s vehicles will still require a driver to be sat behind a steering wheel. The carmaker’s view is that, at least for the initial phase of integration, a human will operate the vehicle until it reaches a motorway. The computer will then take over and “give that time back” to the driver. However, they will still need to be alert and ready to act if necessary.
Daniel Severin highlighted that, although there is more to be done, legislators have at least begun the process of updating UK law to incorporate autonomous vehicles. He expressed the opinion that it may well be legalities that delay the cars from reaching our roads – rather than the technology.
The issue of how programmers inform the vehicles’ computers to act when making life and death decisions – without facing potential corporate manslaughter charges – remains unresolved.
Feedback from attendees at the London event was overwhelmingly positive. In this eventful, some would say turbulent period, many found the opportunity to listen to the opinions of some of the best informed minds in the industry very useful.
The next Pro Driver Congress Live event will be taking place on September 30th in Bolton. More information regarding the programme will be released nearer the time. For updates, we recommend regularly checking the Pro Driver Mag or following them on twitter.