Starting April 30, Londoners are able to view public transport information alongside fares and wait times on the Uber app, to see if taking the tube is quicker or cheaper than waiting.
The first, and perhaps only, think you’d think after hearing that news is 'Wouldn’t that result in fewer people getting Uber rides?' Public transport is often a lot cheaper than hailing an Uber, even in an expensive city like London, and if the Uber app presents its users with a choice, they’ll likely choose the cheaper option.
Uber’s pitching the function as a way to reduce car ownership, as well as clean up London’s air, but as with any corporate attempt at philanthropy, you have to take those claims with a massive pinch of salt. Instead, Uber could be playing the long game to assert its ride-hailing dominance for good.
What’s changed with Uber?
When the London Public Transport update rolls out to Uber users across London, a new option will be available once you select a destination, which will use information from Transport for London (TfL) to tell you the best public transport route to get to where you want to be.
The app will aggregate information from buses, trains, trams, shuttles, the London underground, rail lines and even boats on the river Thames to tell you the quickest, or cheapest, way of getting to your destination. The app will also provide walking directions between stations if you need to transfer at any point.
The purpose of this all is to replace your car with your phone – if Uber can’t get you hailing cabs, it at least wants you to use its app for however you will travel. The company is also presenting it as an ‘eco-initiative’, so prospective Uber customers could get the bus or tube instead of getting a driver to ferry them about the city.
Of course, getting your customers to use a competing service isn’t a great business strategy, but the London Public Transport feature is likely just the first step in a longer plan by Uber.
This kind of service is already offered by Uber in Denver, in the US, but London has a population over 11 times higher, so it’s a whole new ball game when it comes to the amount of information the app is required to process.
Patching up a rocky relationship
Over the past few years, Uber has been fighting hard to continue operations in London. It’s had to defend itself against a wave of accusations of unlawful behavior in the way it pays and manages its staff, unsafe environments for passengers in vehicles, and tough working environments for its drivers.
At times it’s looked like Uber drivers wouldn’t be able to operate in London, and while the company has managed to overturn any ban presented so far, it’s still on rocky grounds with the Mayor of London’s office and TfL.
However by encouraging users to take public transport when possible, Uber is extending an olive branch to those parties, and showing them that it’s happy to work with the city’s entities to do what’s best for the customers.
If TfL and the Mayor’s office accept this olive branch, and tensions between the parties relax, it could be hugely beneficial for Uber – an end to, or relaxing of, the hostilities and legal proceedings could save it a lot of money and hassle.
Uber is using TfL’s live travel information as part of the update, but over 675 other apps do too, so that doesn’t point to a special relationship in any way.
In addition, while it’s certainly a valuable gesture on Uber’s part, it’s not necessarily one that could cause the ride-hailing firm much difficulty. If you’re visiting the app it’s because you already know you want to get a lift to your destination, and you’d visit others like Google Maps or CityMapper if you wanted to know which tube line to get. The potential number of lost customers is probably, in reality, pretty small.
Becoming the go-to travel app
As well as relaxing hostilities, Uber’s addition of public transport information to its app could be part of a long game the company has begun – one to transform the Uber app from a simple ride-hailing app, into the go-to service for intra-city travel.
If Uber can get people to use its app as a way to find any kind of transport, and draw users away from Google Maps and CityMapper for these functions, it can slowly start to increase its market share, and open itself to a new audience, who typically wouldn’t hail an Uber.
This would increase Uber’s user base significantly, and a fair chunk of that audience would likely start using the ride-sharing part of the app if the various taxi options were presented alongside public transport choices, especially for journeys with many transfers or for customers in a rush.
Other apps work similar – Google Maps, for example, lets you explore different modes of transport for a journey including walking, driving, public transport, or hailing a cab using an app. Presumably Uber’s app will work similarly in the future, but unlike Google, Uber will make money off customers who decide to catch a cab.
Of course, this is all speculation and guesswork – but it makes no business sense for Uber to intentionally try to cut down its user base, so the update is likely part of a larger plan the company has.
Uber Technologies Inc is planning to integrate into its app the bus and Tube timetables of Transport for London, the government body in charge of the capital's transport network, the Financial Times reported on Tuesday, citing people familiar with the matter.
The move would put Uber into direct competition with venture capital-backed start-up Citymapper, the report said.
Uber did not immediately respond to Reuters request for comment outside regular business hours.
Uber Technologies Inc said that growth in bookings for its ride-hailing and delivery services rose 6 percent in the latest quarter, the third quarter in a row that growth has remained in the single digits after double-digit growth for all of last year.
The San Francisco-based firm lost $1.07 billion for the three months ending Sept. 30, a 20 percent increase from the previous quarter but down 27 percent from a year ago, when the company posted its biggest publicly reported quarterly loss on the heels of the departure of Uber co-founder and former Chief Executive Travis Kalanick.
Uber is seeking to expand in freight hauling, food delivery and electric bikes and scooters as growth in its now decade-old ride-hailing business dwindles. The company, valued at $76 billion, faces pressure to show it can still grow enough to become profitable and satisfy investors in an initial public offering planned for some time next year.
Its adjusted loss before interest, taxes, depreciation and amortization was $592 million, down from $614 million last quarter and $1.02 billion a year ago.
"We had another strong quarter for a business of our size and global scope," said Nelson Chai, Uber's chief financial officer, who joined in September after the job had been vacant for three years. He emphasized the "high-potential markets in India and the Middle East where we continue to solidify our leadership position."
But broader economic conditions and sustained losses could push Uber to merge with rivals in India and the Middle East, particularly as Uber and India-based Ola share an investor in SoftBank Group Corp (9984.T).
Uber's gross bookings were $12.7 billion, up 6 percent from the previous quarter and up 41 percent from a year ago. In late 2016, Uber's quarterly bookings growth approached 30 percent, and in early 2017 it still sustained double-digit growth quarter-over-quarter. At the start of this year, however, bookings growth slid into the single digits.
Revenue for the quarter was $2.95 billion, a 5 percent boost from the previous quarter and up 38 percent from a year ago. That trailed the second-quarter year-over-year revenue increase of 63 percent.
As a private company, Uber is not required to publicly disclose financials, but last year started releasing selected figures.
Ride-hailing firm Uber Technologies Inc has agreed to sell its Southeast Asian business to bigger regional rival Grab, the firms said on Monday, marking the U.S. company’s second retreat from an Asian market.
The industry’s first big consolidation in Southeast Asia, home to about 640 million people, puts pressure on Indonesia’s Go-Jek, which is backed by Alphabet Inc’s (GOOGL.O) Google and China’s Tencent Holdings Ltd. A shake-up in Asia’s fiercely competitive ride-hailing industry became likely earlier this year when Japan-based SoftBank Group Corp’s (9984.T) Vision Fund made a multi-billion dollar investment in Uber.
“It was really a very independent decision by both companies,” Grab President Ming Maa told Reuters, adding that SoftBank CEO Masayoshi Son was “highly supportive”.
Uber will take a 27.5 percent stake in Singapore-based Grab and Uber CEO Dara Khosrowshahi will join Grab’s board. Grab was last valued at an estimated $6 billion.
“It will help us double down on our plans for growth as we invest heavily in our products and technology,” Khosrowshahi said in a statement.
For Grab, the deal will help its meal-delivery service, which will now merge with Uber Eats, compete with Go-Jek, according to a person close to Grab. Go-Jek is a dominant player in Indonesia, the region’s biggest economy, and has rapidly expanded beyond ride hailing to digital payments, food delivery, on-demand cleaning and massage.
“Go-Jek is such a different app, with different behaviors, it is something I can’t see Grab competing with well in Indonesia for a long time, like at least a year,” said Vinnie Lauria, partner at Southeast Asia’s Golden Gate Ventures.
Ride-hailing companies throughout Asia have relied heavily on discounts and promotions, driving down profit margins and increasing pressure for consolidation. Uber, which is preparing for a potential initial public offering in 2019, lost $4.5 billion last year and is facing fierce competition as well as a regulatory crackdown in Europe. Uber invested $700 million in its Southeast Asia business, less than the $2 billion it burned through in China before ceding its operations there to Didi.
Uber anticipated making more deals with rivals, but said it had no plans to do another sale in which it consolidates its operations in exchange for a minority stake in a rival.
“It is fair to ask whether consolidation is now the strategy of the day, given this is the third deal of its kind ... The answer is no,” Khosrowshahi said in a note to employees that was shared with Reuters.
“One of the potential dangers of our global strategy is that we take on too many battles across too many fronts and with too many competitors.”
A source familiar with Uber’s strategy said the company was going to step up its battle with Ola in India, another competitive and costly market where rivals have heavily subsidized rides in an effort to gain market share. Uber has close to 60 percent of the market there, by some estimates.
India accounts for more than 10 percent of Uber’s trips globally, but the company is not making money there yet.
“Southeast Asia was really difficult for Uber. In India, that competition is not across so many different fronts,” Lauria said.
Uber previously retreated from China and Russia under former CEO Travis Kalanick. The deal with Grab is the first operations sale by Khosrowshahi, who started in September. Rajeev Misra, chief executive of SoftBank’s Vision Fund, had urged the company to focus less on Asia and more on profitable markets such as Latin America, according to a person familiar with the matter.
He saw opportunities for mergers and joint ventures between SoftBank-backed ride-hailing companies, particularly for collaborating on R&D, but the investor would never get actively involved with management decisions, the person said. SoftBank is also one of the main investors in other ride-hailing firms including China’s Didi Chuxing and India’s Ola.
Uber includes the United States, Australia, New Zealand and Latin America among its core markets – regions where it has more than 50 percent market share and is profitable or sees a path to profitability.
A Grab spokeswoman said all Uber employees in its Southeast Asia operations would be offered employment in Grab.
Uber Technologies Inc should be classified as a transport service and regulated like other taxi operators, the European Union's top court said in a landmark ruling on Wednesday that could impact other online businesses in Europe.
Uber, which allows passengers to summon a ride through an app on their smartphones, has transformed the taxi industry since its launch in 2011 and now operates in more than 600 cities globally. In the latest of a series of legal battles, Uber had argued it was simply a digital app that acted as an intermediary between drivers and customers looking for a ride and so should fall under lighter EU rules for online services.
"The service provided by Uber connecting individuals with non-professional drivers is covered by services in the field of transport," the European Court of Justice (ECJ) said. "Member states can, therefore, regulate the conditions for providing that service," it said.
The case follows a complaint from a professional taxi drivers' association in Barcelona that Uber's activities in Spain amounted to misleading practices and unfair competition from Uber's use of non-professional drivers - a service Uber calls UberPOP and which has since been suspended in Spain and other countries.
Uber has taken the fight to regulators and established taxi and cab companies, expanding from a Silicon Valley startup to a business with a valuation of $68 billion. The company is planning an initial public offering in 2019.
The European case had been widely watched as an indicator of how the burgeoning gig economy, which also features the likes of food-delivery company Deliveroo, would be regulated in Europe. The ECJ said Uber "exercises decisive influence over the conditions under which the drivers provide their service" and that without the Uber mobile app "persons who wish to make an urban journey would not use the services provided by those drivers."
The decision is unlikely to have an immediate impact on Uber's operations in Europe, where it has cut back its use of unlicensed services such as UberPOP and adheres to local transportation laws.
"This ruling will not change things in most EU countries where we already operate under transportation law," an Uber spokeswoman said in a statement. "As our new CEO has said, it is appropriate to regulate services such as Uber and so we will continue the dialogue with cities across Europe. This is the approach we'll take to ensure everyone can get a reliable ride at the tap of a button."
Following changes in top leadership and a series of legal battles, Uber recently adopted a more conciliatory approach under its new chief executive, Dara Khosrowshahi, who took the job in August.
In a tweet Wednesday, Khosrowshahi said that the ruling was "not a setback, since we've already changed our approach in the EU to follow transportation laws and work with professional drivers."
He said Uber will "keep talking with EU governments to enable affordable transportation services for millions more Europeans." Khosrowshahi in October met with regulators in London, where Uber is in the middle of a legal battle over its right to operate in its most important European market. Bernardine Adkins, head of EU, trade and competition law at Gowling WLG, said the ruling provided "vital clarity to its (Uber's) position within the marketplace."
"Uber's control over its drivers, its ability to set prices and the fact its electronic service is inseparable from its ultimate consumer experience means it is more than simply a platform connecting drivers to passengers."
TAXI LOBBY CHEERS
IRU, the world road transport organisation, which includes taxi associations, cheered the ruling as finally offering a level playing field for providers of the same service.
"In the area of mobility, the taxi and for-hire sector was one of the first to embrace innovation and new technologies," said Oleg Kamberski, head of passenger transport at IRU. "Finding a solution that allows both traditional and new transport service providers to compete in a fair way while meeting the service quality standards became necessary."
EU law protects online services from undue restrictions and national governments must notify the European Commission of any measures regulating them so it can ensure they are not discriminatory or disproportionate.
Transport, however, is excluded from this. The tech industry said the ruling would impact the next generation of startups more than Uber itself.
"We regret the judgment effectively threatens the application of harmonized EU rules to online intermediaries," said Jakob Kucharczyk, vice president of competition and EU regulatory policy at the Computer and Communications Industry Association. "The purpose of those rules is to make sure online innovators can achieve greater scalability and competitiveness in the EU, unfettered from undue national restrictions," he added.
"This is a blow to the EU's ambition of building an integrated digital single market."
Creative Media Works, operating as BBM Messenger, has partnered with Uber, the world's largest on-demand ride-sharing company, to launch the Uber ride-on-demand service within BBM Messenger. Users around the world will have access to this new service, including Indonesia - BBM’s largest market - Africa, Asia, Europe, North America, and the Middle East.
The tie-up between two of the world’s leading technology platforms means that BBM Messenger users – both Android and iOS - can book an Uber ride via the Uber icon in the BBM Discover menu, without leaving the BBM app or having to have the stand-alone Uber app on their phone.
BBM Discover is a high-valued space within BBM Messenger, designed for high impact and reach while giving partners access to the power of social chat. Uber Ride sits as an icon within BBM Discover’s existing ecosystem of content and services.
When launched from the Discover menu, the new Uber service asks riders to sign in with their mobile number or connect with a social media account. Once riders log in, the service accesses their profile and settings, automatically detects their location, and loads a map. Riders simply enter their destination, tap the Request Uber button as well as payment option, and wait for their ride to arrive.
Chan Park, General Manager, South East Asia, Uber, says: “Millions of people around the world use BBM Messenger to stay in touch. This partnership means they will now be able to request an Uber from within the BBM ecosystem. A safe, reliable and affordable ride is now at the fingertips of even more people.”
“We are excited to be working with BBM Messenger - our first partner in Asia Pacific to use the m.uber platform to request an Uber ride for their users without ever having to leave the BBM app. With this partnership, BBM users can quickly request an Uber ride via BBM despite variations in quality of location, network speed, or device features.”
Chan added that the collaboration enables millions of BBM users globally to access safe, reliable transportation at the push of a button - whenever and wherever they are.
Compatible with all modern browsers, m.uber is a web client for the global market that offers an app-like experience regardless of location, network speed, and device.
“Uber has grown to play such a key role in so many parts of the world today. We’re happy to connect our millions of active users with the service, giving them an easy and reliable transportation option at their fingertips within the BBM eco-system,” said Matthew Talbot, CEO of Creative Media Works, the company which operates and runs BBM globally.
An Uber driver Abdoulie Jagne, has been arrested in Georgia, U.S., after he was accused of raping a 16-year-old female passenger earlier in the week. The 58-year-old Jagne, who was arrested on Thursday, was booked into the Gwinnett County Jail in north central Georgia.
Authorities told Fox 5 Atlanta that Jagne could face more charges. The teen told police she had been drinking at a bar with friends on Sunday night, WSB-TV Atlanta reported.
One of the girl’s friends then called an Uber ride for her, and that’s when Jagne picked her up, authorities told the station. The driver allegedly committed the crime after stopping the vehicle along an unincorporated road. The girl told police she was dropped off at a nearby apartment complex, where she started banging on several doors, seeking help.
Police found the teen to be intoxicated, with her pants around her ankles, Fox 5 Atlanta reported. She was transported to a nearby hospital for treatment. Uber officials told the paper that Jagne had worked for the company for a couple of months. They released the following statement. “What’s reported here is horrifying beyond words. Our thoughts are with the rider and her family during this time. This driver has been permanently removed from the app.”