Uber says that the average waiting time for a ride in London is between three and four minutes, making it half the average time that it takes for an ambulance to arrive.
The London Ambulance Service (LAS) has a response time target of eight minutes. For Category A calls (the most serious category, like a gun shot to the torso), 75% of these are met within that time-frame. It varies between boroughs, but shows that overall, Uber is twice as fast — sometimes by an even greater margin.
If you don’t know Uber by now, it’s the ubiquitous car-booking service that carries out millions of trips every year; in five UK cities. In London, around half a million people use the app, CEO Travis Kalanick says — and he expects to have 42,000 drivers in the country’s capital by March 2016. An Uber spokesperson explained to Business Insider in an email that the company currently has over 10,000 drivers in London.
Compare those numbers with London’s ambulance service, which saves peoples’ lives rather than takes them to dinners or nightclubs, and the gulf is remarkable. For some perspective, the LAS employs about 5,000 staff at 70 stations.
It’s worth pointing out that in London, Uber has to contend with 500,000 people, while the LAS serves the city’s entire population. It has to deal with over 1.5 million calls for assistance every year. What’s more, it has faced brutal cuts, while Uber is turning over billions.
Also, the situation is similar in New York. This post stems from a Medium piece, which talks about how Uber is changing the way we travel — and suggests it can impact how we save lives. Author Minqui Jiang talks about possible improvements to the US city’s emergency operation (and is worth a read). The crux of it is, similarly to its British counterpart, Uber is much faster than ambulances.
Overall, the figures point out two things: Uber’s searing growth and popularity; and the strain on one of the NHS’ vital components. In 2013, ITV reported that ambulance response times were on the rise across the country.
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