Transport for London (TfL) has applied to the High Court for a binding determination on whether smart phones comply with the current law on 'taximeters', which can only be used in London by taxis.
Recently vehicle hire companies such as Uber have used smart phones to tally fares by using GPS technology to measure the time and distance of a journey.
If the High Court rules they do count as a taximeter when the hearing takes place this summer, it will be in breach of the law and could deal a body blow to firms like Uber, who would have to find a new way to calculate fares.
TfL said the application had been served on Uber and the main trade bodies – the Licensed Taxi Drivers Association and the Licensed Private Hire Car Association – who will be entitled to respond.
TfL has already suggested that smart phones used by private hire drivers do not constitute the equipping of a vehicle with a 'taximeter' but acknowledged that the legislation in the area is unclear could be interpreted in various ways.
Leon Daniels, TfL's managing Director of Surface Transport, said: ‘We are now a step closer to securing a High Court declaration on the issue of taximeters and hope that London's taxi and private hire drivers and operators will work with us.
‘We welcome developments that make life easier for passengers. As in many other areas of transport and retail services, apps can offer passengers the potential of better and more convenient services, but their use must be legal and on the issue of taximeters the law is unclear. A binding High Court declaration will bring clarity on this issue for all parties.’
The move comes after protests from taxi drivers attacking the practices of Uber.