Technology

Uber boss Travis Kalanick: I'm no bully

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Media captionRory Cellan-Jones talks to Uber co-founder Travis Kalanick

The boss of the rapidly-expanding taxi service Uber has told the BBC he is not bullying local taxi firms and drivers.

"There's probably some misunderstanding of who I am and how I roll," Travis Kalanick told BBC World Service technology programme Tech Tent.

His firm has been criticised for what some have described as aggressive business practices in cities around the world.

"That's just simply not the case," he said. "We have worked with regulators."

He also dismissed claims he had been rude about taxi drivers at a technology conference, saying he had been misquoted.

"I've never been derogatory towards taxi drivers," he said.

"In the US there's basically a cartel of taxi companies, I was referring to them."

Choice

Since being founded in San Francisco in 2009, Uber has grown into a huge ridesharing enterprise - with services now offered in more than 200 cities.

Unlike a traditional minicab firm, there are no human operators available to take your booking on the phone at their offices.

Instead, once a user requests a lift through an app, the process is completely automated by Uber's software which allocates the booking to the driver best-placed to take it on.

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Image caption Uber drivers do not need the Knowledge - a test all London black-cab drivers must pass

But in many cities, most notably in London and Los Angeles, local cab firms and drivers have staged protests against the service.

In London specifically, black-cab drivers argue that Uber drivers do not have the same regulatory restrictions imposed on them, creating an uneven playing field.

Among other differences, Uber drivers do not need to pass the Knowledge, a world famous test of the ins-and-outs of London's old streets.

Black-cab drivers argue that the Knowledge ensures the best possible route to destinations, rather than relying, as Uber drivers do, on a sat nav.

"The Knowledge is the best in the business," Mr Kalanick said, but added he did not think it was essential.

"But you will not get anybody who has Knowledge-level skills in a minicab, it's simply not possible. But the consumer should have that choice.

"If they can get a reliable ride that's half the price of a black cab, shouldn't they be able to have that choice?"

The full interview with Travis Kalanick can be heard on this week's edition of Tech Tent on the BBC World Service.at 15:00 BST on Friday.

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