Tom Elvidge, General Manager of ride sharing startup Uber’s operations in London announced yesterday that the company is expanding its ride sharing service, UberPool, to the whole of zones one and two and Heathrow airport.
ftcamp=crm/email//nbe/techFT/product#axzz4AKHqpAXA”>the FT reported yesterday.
“More than 1m people in the capital drive to work each day so this larger zone gives more commuters the option to car pool rather than driving their own vehicle into town” Elvidge says, also pointing out that the move should help reduce congestion and pollution.
Not everyone is happy however, the FT revealed. Steve McNamara, General Secretary of the Licensed Taxi Driver’s Association complained that Transport for London’s failure to regulate or introduce legislation to cover ride sharing in the city has given Uber carte blanche to expand with impunity.
And the FT suggests the motoring industry as a whole is concerned about selling fewer cars not it is becoming easier and easier for commuters to leave their’s at home and hitch a ride to work with a fellow commuter.
Uber’s car-pooling service launched back in December last year, and was an instant success, with 45,000+ trips made in the first week alone, and nearly two thirds of Uber drivers saying they had completed at least one ride-sharing journey.
Up to 3 passengers can travel as part of a car-pool at any one time, and savings against UberX services are roughly 25%, according to the Guardian.
If you can’t beat ‘em, join ‘em
From a business perspective it has always seemed inevitable that Uber’s biggest problem was always going to be fending off competition from copycat services, and so it has proved to be, but now the car-makers, sensing a slowdown in consumer buying habits, are also getting involved.
Last week Volkswagen invested $300m into Gett, an Israeli based startup offering ride hailing services, whilst Toyota got into bed with Uber itself, announcing a strategic partnership. Earlier this year General Motors pumped $500m into Uber’s biggest rival, Lyft.
And just for good measure, the FT reveals, BMW and Mercedes have both launched car-pooling services, DriveNow and car2go respectively, Peugeot is looking closely at “mobility”, and just about everybody is trying to build an autonomous, self-driving vehicle.
30,000 people in London download Uber’s app every week; before the company arrived in London in 2012, Addison Lee, with 4,500 cars was making revenues of £90m per annum, and Hailo, the most successful ride-hailing app, had just 9,000 subscribers.
At first Uber marketed itself as a luxury chauffeur service, before introducing the cheaper UberX service in 2014, which contributed to a 25% rise in private- hire vehicles in London, or 13,000 extra cars over the next two years.
Uber may be renowned for its “act now, worry about the consequences later” approach to strategically growing its business (it launches in a new city every 5-6 days) which has led to controversy, including lawsuits and accusations drivers abusing their customers, but by embracing the sharing economy the company looks like it is now really starting to show its mettle.
It may be just be a glorified cab service, but it represents one of the best and most effective use of disruptive tech there has ever been, and crucially, its users seem to love it.
Will they love sharing the commute in to work with their neighbours, and being democratic over what radio station to listen to?
One thing’s for sure; it’s a problem every other taxi service and car manufacturer wishes they had.