Will the recent High Court Uber ruling eventually help Google launch driverless cars and what can history tell us about technological change and the law?

by Professor Simon Deakin, Centre for Business Research & Christopher Markou, Faculty of Law, University of Cambridge

In a major victory for the ride-sharing company Uber, the High Court has handed down a long-awaited ruling that Uber’s smartphone app does not function as a taximeter, contrary to the position of Transport for London (TfL) who brought the case on behalf of the City’s highly regulated taxi operators.

In this CBR podcast Simon Deakin, Professor of Law at the University of Cambridge, and the Director of the Centre for Business Research, looks back at what legal history and Luddism can teach us about how technology and the law interact when society is going through periods of intense technological change.

While Christopher Markou, a PhD student at the Faculty of Law, University of Cambridge, discusses the implications of this ruling for others globally and a possible appeal by the TfL.

Listen to the podcast

Deakin says: “We can’t foresee all the consequences of a radical new technology but there is power to control corporate activity, through the legal infrastructure that the state provides. Luddism may have failed to prevent the rise of the factory but Luddism did help to bring about the response to industrial capitalism which was the Welfare State, so we shouldn’t simply accept the social effects of technological change where they are negative. The lesson of the Luddities is that we need to have an open debate about this and that protest has its place.”

Markou says: “It you look at where Uber has grown out of, it has grown out of Google Ventures. I think Uber has a lot of money invested in its business model, and it has also invested in driverless cars. We might eventually see that growing out of the Uber ruling, is a more general permission to operate other devices out of smartphones and apps, so we might see driverless vehicles that we summon in this way too. This might bypass a lot of the problems we see on checks on drivers. That is where Google see their business model heading.”

Read Markou’s essay, A Taximeter by Another Name (pdf, 101KB)

Read Deakin’s essay, On Uber & Luddism (pdf, 125KB)

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.