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Uber drivers in London can once again focus on the road.

After much uncertainty, Uber has won a court battle allowing it to continue operating in the U.K. capital.

Safety First
45,000 Uber drivers and 3.5 million regular passengers make London one of Uber's most important markets. But in recent years the company found itself at odds with Transport for London (TfL), the body that oversees transit in the city.

In 2017, the regulator deemed Uber wasn't "fit and proper" (British for not safe enough) to operate in London. TfL refused to renew the company's operator license, citing Uber's "lack of corporate responsibility" to complete driver background checks and report criminal offenses.

Uber was granted a 15-month license in June of 2018, but last November TfL again refused to renew Uber's license amid a fresh batch of safety concerns.  Chief among them was a tech glitch that allowed unauthorized drivers to swap photos with those of real drivers on the app, allowing for fraudulent pickups.

Uber was permitted to continue operating during the various appeals processes but under a thick London fog of uncertainty. 

Yesterday the court granted an 18-month license with 21 stipulations.  The judge noted Uber "does not have a perfect record but it has been an improving picture."

A Bumpy Ride
Uber's victory in London is a much-needed win:

  • Coronavirus lockdowns led to a 75% drop in bookings for its core ride-share business in Q2.
  • On the R&D front, Uber has sunk $2.5 billion into its self-driving car project with seemingly little impact.  A fresh report Monday claims the company's self-driving car "doesn't drive well" and "struggles with simple routes and simple maneuvers."
  • Uber's issues in England aren't over either. Rival apps such as India's Ola and Estonia's Bolt are surging in popularity while new downloads of Uber are falling.

Takeaway: Uber has squared away its London licensing issues, but the world's leading rideshare company is not out of the woods.