Uber, a private car service that originated in San Francisco, has today announced the launch of a taxi booking service in Sydney.
Claiming to make catching a taxi in Sydney easier and cheaper than regularly hailing or booking cabs, Uber Taxi connects users with a pre-selected range of taxi drivers through the company's smartphone app for iPhone and Android devices.
The Uber Taxi system integrates a taxi driver rating system and live vehicle tracking but Uber doesn't actually employ its own taxi drivers or own the fleet of cars used. It simply connects passengers with licenced taxi drivers who are using the app.
Uber Australia's General Manager, David Rohrsheim, said in a media statement that the Uber Taxi service is a natural follow up to the company's existing private car options.
"We’ve taken the elegant, intelligent system that has been the foundation of our growth in private hire cars, and adapted it to the needs of taxi drivers."
"Uber is the cheapest way to book and pay for a taxi. Uber Taxi trips have a flat $2 fee, lower than the taxi network bookings, and no credit card surcharge."
The Uber app allows passengers to see exactly where the taxi is once they've made a booking and users don't have to physically pay at the end of a trip. The fee is automatically deducted from a credit card registered in the Uber app once the trip is completed.
Rohrsheim told GoodGearGuide that Uber personally meets with every taxi driver that uses the Uber network, checking their licence and registering a photograph on the Uber system.
"We work with regular taxi drivers in Sydney and we give them an Uber iPhone. When they're available and not on a break or a regular job, they log into our system and can accept Uber taxi bookings," he explained.
"We meet every with driver, get their documents take a photo to put into our system."
Rohrsheim said the company would not reveal how many taxi drivers use the Uber network at launch in Sydney but stressed meeting with every driver takes plenty of time.
"We can't divulge how many drivers we have but I can tell you we have been busy. We meet all the drivers and that takes time."
"We are accepting all taxis right now, and we believe there are good taxi drivers in every network. We will rely on client ratings to assess our drivers, so every driver has a chance to work with us."
Uber does not have a policy on which taxi vehicles are used for its service but Rohrsheim said that "most of the taxis on Uber are currently silver service vehicles."
Uber charges a $2 service fee for all bookings, but the rest of the fee is based on the actual taxi metre price.
"If you make a telephone booking for a taxi you pay $2.40 so we are immediately cheaper. Then once you take the ride we won't charge you an extra surcharge for the credit card."
"The low price will attract attention, but what we are most excited about is the booking process. You can see the car coming to you on the map in our app and once the trip is complete you just get out of the car and the receipt will be emailed to you."
The Uber Taxi service is available now in Sydney and the company will waive the $2.00 service fee for the first 60 days as part of a promotional offer.
The Uber taxi service complements the company's existing private hire car service, which launched in November last year.