Acrobatics and arguments at the Pro Driver Congress

I guess if I had to plan an entrance for a public speaking engagement, cartwheeling off the back of the stage as my chair leg collapsed would probably not have been my default choice to get things going. On the upside, it did get a round of applause from the audience after a bow and a good recovery. The Pro Driver Congress was in a new format, with a number of different questions being pitched to panels of interested industry parties in front of a fairly tough audience. The topics covered ranged from PCO new regulations, parking at Heathrow, the threat from Uber (inevitably), self-driving cars and the bit I took part in: “How technology can help you compete”. We lined up all the usual suspects from all the major software suppliers and aggregators. Unfortunately, instead of actually providing some new thinking on technology or ideas in the marketplace, it became a sales fest of “why my app is better than yours”. I raised an issue I’m particularly passionate about, which is how to use big data to make better business decisions. Unless you are a giant of the industry, crunching data to really understand the DNA of what is going on in your business is something you simply don’t have the resources to access. Solving this problem in a way that is economical and easy to interface with is, for the customer, a challenge that Magenta is determined to deliver on.

My experiences working with small to medium businesses in this sector is that they very much want to try new charging options, but the ability to model what this might look like before going live is an essential part of this process.

The section I found most interesting was the recent changes to regulations. The industry as a whole does not have a good track record of standing together and fighting what it perceives as unfair or biased regulation, although I think this is beginning to change as it dawns on companies that if they don’t work together they may well be regulated out of business. The two representatives from Transport for London (TfL) got a pretty tough ride from the audience, and this section alone could have easily continued for another hour or two with some interesting content.

What nobody said “live” but everybody I spoke to thought is that the current regulation changes are all about making sure Uber’s future is secure at the cost of all other considerations. When managing a complex traffic infrastructure like London’s, making decisions on what passenger focus groups thought (which was TFL’s answer to any questions) cannot be the only motivation for regulation changes.

TFL knows perfectly well they had no business giving Uber’s business model purchase in the UK without first changing the law on metering, and secondly making sure that the regulations worked equally for everyone. It will be interesting to see, now that all operators have to have staff on the phone to deal with customer issues as they happen, who will be the first company to be inspected to see if they are actually complying on 1st October …… I know which my money won’t be on!!

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