In the escalating turf war between Transport for London and taxi rivals Uber, the on-demand ride app has announced it's giving its drivers a free English language course. This is in response to TfL's declaration that all drivers from non-English-speaking countries had to pass a £200 exam to prove their competency - a decision that's been in and out of court over the last few months.
Uber doesn't think it's fair for drivers to have to take the test, claiming "TfL's plans threaten the livelihoods of thousands of drivers in London, while also stifling tech companies like Uber." In order to help their drivers do well on the exam if it does become mandatory, Uber has set them all up with free access to language-learning app Busuu, which normally costs £9.99 a month. Named after a language spoken by only 8 people in the world, Busuu claims that 22.5 hours of their paid service is equivalent to one college semester of language study.
Uber Partner Driver Krzysztof Walczuk seems in favour of the decision, saying: "The app is great! It’s good fun and I really like it. It has helped me to improve my English and how I communicate with riders. I use it between trips when it’s quiet, or at home when I have some time to myself. What’s great is that you don’t need anything, you just go to the app and it’s all there for you. You can fit it around your own schedule and learn when you want to."
There are, of course, similar apps offering this service for free (like Duolingo), but presumably "we're giving our drivers access to a free app" doesn't make such a great PR story. Personally, though, I think Uber are going in the wrong direction - I'd gladly pay more for drivers who don't talk. Anyone working on that?