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Google Backed Uber Taxis Hits MCR

David Blake finds little controversy in chat with MCR boss

Written by . Published on May 11th 2014.

Google Backed Uber Taxis Hits MCR

UBER TAXIS haven’t so much been ruffling feathers across the globe, rather ripping them out.

"Apps are a natural progession, apps make everything easier for everyone. Soon there'll be no need to carry money anywhere."

The San-Francisco based app-only taxi service has induced black-cab gridlock protests in London and further demonstrations from drivers in cities across the world: Sydney, New York, Toronto, Berlin, Paris and Brussels.

Tensions in Paris lead to violent clashes between local cabbies and app-based drivers. Missiles through windows, injured passengers, wine down shirts. Even strikes - ok that's not too surprising.

Launched in 2010, the 'pick-up' service that isn't Tinder or Grindr now operates in more than 100 cities around 30 countries across six continents. Uber targeted the London 2012 Olympics as the time to penetrate the British Isles, next came Dublin, now it's Manchester.

"The growth has been incredible," says Max Lines, General Manager of Uber's new Manchester wing, based at Centurion House on Deansgate. "The ultimate mission plan is for Uber to be present in every major city across the world."

The Uber appThe Uber app

Uber's app allows the user to order a cab at the click of a button, see how long the car will take to arrive, see who the driver is and even track the progress of the car via a map.

Uber's main draw though is the ability to pay for the cab via your phone. No cash, no card, no stops at the ATM.

"When you download the app you're asked to enter your card details," explains Lines. "When you arrive it'll inform you of the charge, the route you've taken and will debit the amount straight from your bank account.

"It just takes all the hassle away from ordering a cab. A few clicks of a button and the car is on its way to you. No 'it's just round the corner' from some lady in an office, you see it approaching. Quick, easy, simple."

So what’s the issue? Taxi smartphone apps are certainly nothing new. Manchester based Street Cars have been using an app-based service to great effect in the city for months.

The contentions in other cities range from licencing grey areas, 'illegally cheap prices', sharing rides and the use of smart phones by drivers to calculate fares. Certain UK regulations stipulate that it is illegal for private hire drivers to use taximeters.

U.S. Uber protestU.S. Uber protest

Some local media reports would have you believe similar clashes are about to take to the streets of Manchester, the cabs vs. the apps, utter bloody 'fury' apparently.

Sensationalist codswallop.

“They are playing by the rules to be fair,” said Jessica Spencer, Street Car’s Account Manager. “Manchester City Council have strict parameters, firm but fair. Uber have adapted their usual operation to suit that. We welcome a bit of healthy competition.”

“They're taking advantage of a trend, one we've been seeing this past couple of years with our own app,” Spencer continued. “Technology is king.”

No rioting Manchester cabbies then.

"It will always cause jarring when a new competitor enters the market," says Lines. "Especially if the market has been stable for some time. But in my own experience of Manchester we've had no problems, the council have been very welcoming and like the app element.

"In terms of competition it's a good thing. Everyone ups their game which ultimately means better service and pricing for the customer and also gives the drivers more choice of who to work for."

Another factor causing contention in other Uber cities is the poaching of drivers, with drivers from other firms using the app as a means to fill quiet periods.

"It doesn't work like that in Manchester, because of regulations they just work for us," Lines explains.

"That doesn't mean that you can't have another job. I was picked up by an Uber driver this morning who was also a Royal Mail manager. He works for Uber for a few hours a day to supplement his income. He's fully licensed. It works perfectly for him."

Musician Bipolar Sunshine with Uber in NQMusician Bipolar Sunshine with Uber in NQ

What does give Uber an upper hand, however, is monumental investment from Google’s tech investment wing, the biggest singular investment to date from the tech giant with £150m in late 2013. Uber is now valued at somewhere in the region of £2 billion.

On top of that, Google have started to integrate Uber into the Google Maps function. The idea being, in years to come, that Google may realize its vision for driverless transport services. G-Uber perhaps.

Much like the Amazon delivery drone, the driverless services idea is some way off, but intriguing nonetheless.

Google integration could scarcely be better news for Uber, particularly when you consider 80% of new smartphones come with Google Maps as standard. It's easy to see why traditional cabbies are worried. Progress marches on, further technological adaption, more of society swung to the smartphone.

Lines reckons it's inevitable. "Apps are a natural progession, apps make everything easier for everyone. All you need is in your pocket. Soon there'll be no need to carry money anywhere."

Manchester only currently have the basic UberX classManchester only currently have the basic UberX class

What could slow Uber down in Manchester though is coverage. "Right now we're just focusing on the city centre," says Lines, "But we've picked up from Chorlton, MediaCity, Fallowfield."

So what if I wanted to go to Rochdale? "The driver doesn't have to accept the job, it's their choice, but I don't see why a driver would say no. They're not going to want to turn down jobs."

Of course, one way for traditional taxis to compete is to lower prices. Customers in London have reacted to disputes by stating that they wouldn't have to move to an app if Hackney Carriage's weren't so extortionate.

"Currently we're around 40% cheaper than hailing a cab on the street and stay competitve around the other private hire firms in Manchester." Lines says. However, Uber does operate price spikes when demand is up and cars are low, 2am on a Sunday for example.

There will be inevitable cries in the city of an American company based in San Francisco with bottomless funding stealing profits from local drivers working for local firms. Still, consumer choice and innovation wins through. Local providers have apps too. The technology is there.

Though, with all this talk of all taxi services moving entirely to app and driverless services, nobody has yet explained what happens when your battery dies.


Download the Uber app here.


The Uber appUber app

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21 comments so far, continue the conversation, write a comment.

Stephen BurrowsMay 11th 2014.

Non-story MC - Streetcars, Manchester Cars and Mantax have all been doing this for quite a while, so your article is a complete waste of time.

5 Responses: Reply To This...
Jonathan Schofield - editorMay 11th 2014.

Stephen you seem to have wasted your time reading it and then getting so weirdly angry - I hope the rest of your Sunday gets better. Although maybe you didn't read the article properly because it clearly states that other operators have been doing the same with Apps. Given the Google funding, given the argument and conflict caused in other places, given the distortions in the local press I think the article is very worthwhile.

AnonymousMay 11th 2014.

Isn't the article about a new operator rather than the ability to pay by app? Thats how I read it anyway...

AnonymousMay 12th 2014.

Stephen, I found this article very useful. I hope you cheer up a little. The article wasn't a waste of time for me. But thanks for your contribution.

AnonMay 12th 2014.

Classic imbecilic rant from someone who hasn't even read the article properly. Quotes from article: 'Taxi smartphone apps are certainly nothing new. Manchester based Street Cars have been using an app-based service to great effect in the city for months.' 'Local providers have apps too. The technology is there'.

AnonymousMay 18th 2014.

Street cars and Manchester Cars have apps fine, but they also have a radio circuit which allows customers to ring for a car, speak to the switch that's the difference Jonathan this "app" only company is actually new to the trade

mike_aMay 11th 2014.

Been using the app over the weekend and found it to be reliable. I had previously downloaded the Manchester Cars app and always had to resort to having to call them to book due to it not being very good. Also helped that journeys with Uber over this weekend are free (up to £15)!

AnonymousMay 12th 2014.

Couldn't get a taxi at any point this weekend. There were never any drivers available and that was at off peak times.

1 Response: Reply To This...
AnonymousMay 18th 2014.

Nice to hear that, but they have got you to upload an app with promises of what?

AnonymousMay 12th 2014.

I have been using Uber for a few weeks now, and this weekend was the first time I had trouble getting a car. I imagine it was because it was the launch weekend so all journeys were free. I had no problem getting one from Fallowfield on a Friday night at 9.30pm a couple of weeks ago, and it only cost me £7 to get to town. That is £3 cheaper At least than a normal taxi fare! I love Uber, really glad it has come to Manchester!

JimMay 12th 2014.

Not used them yet but seem like a good idea. I'll test drive them next weekend.

TimbucMay 13th 2014.

If you do sign up then use this code to get free credit - uberblackcabkiller.

UbermepleaseMay 15th 2014.

You can sign up right now with promo code “UBERMEPLEASE” and get $10 off your first UBER ride! uber.com/…/ubermeplease…

ReallyMay 17th 2014.

Just five problems with Uber. First, you've got to give them your card details to store before you book a car. Fine, if the information is stored securely and their servers never get hacked. Second, the amount you are charged is determined by Uber. Remember, they have your card details and can charge what they like. So, you have to trust Uber not to overcharge you and also you have to trust that the driver doesn't say to Uber that you changed your journey from that originally agreed. Third, the driver probably hasn't been tested on his knowledge of the area. Great if he has a satnav and the satnav works, and the passenger has the correct details for the journey, but who really trusts satnavs? Four, the photograph. Who is to know that the photo isn't of his third cousin twice removed? Who checks? Five, what if something goes wrong and you need to claim. Who takes the responsibility? Not Uber. All in all, a dodgy proposition for the potential passengers and one which should be policed by the council but the licensing officers would rather leave that to someone else, anyone else - even Uber. It looks like a case of caveat emptor, let the buyer beware, and the wonderful unregulated free market will ensure pie in the sky for us all.

2 Responses: Reply To This...
Not reallyMay 18th 2014.

These are mostly made-up "problems". How is the issue of credit card security any more of a concern than it is for any of the multitude of services that you give you credit card details to? Millions of people trust sat navs, ridiculous 'issue'. I smell a desperate attempt at smearing.

AnonymousJune 11th 2014.

A private hire car drove into my car in Manchester. A few days later, a Pakistani man came to my house offering me money for the damage. He wasn't the insured driver so I refused the offer.

Lee SeagerJune 11th 2014.

Manchester has been crying out for a firm like uber for years.the private hire and hackney trade have really brought this on themselves with their over charging and terrible attiude towards customers.this is a great service and the only people who will be worried about uber will be hackney carriage owners and private hire operators who've had it their own way for years by over charging their driver's for radio money , i really hope uber detroy blackcabs and most private hire operators ,ive drove private hire for ten years and blackcab for 5years and what an horrible corrupt buisness it is .thank god uber have landed in our great city,and with it come's great savings for the the customer who,ve been ripped off and abused for years.hallijuh happy days

1 Response: Reply To This...
Calum McGJune 11th 2014.

"the private hire and hackney trade have really brought this on themselves with their over charging and terrible attiude towards customers" - As a regular Street Cars customer, I challenge this comment. They provide a superb, reliable service at a fair price. For now, I don't need Uber.

Lee SeagerJune 11th 2014.

We,ll ali mcg you,ve just been lucky that you've had a driver like me,or your just saying that because you've an interest in that firm.

1 Response: Reply To This...
Calum McGJune 11th 2014.

As I say, I am a customer of the firm and have been for several years (3+). I have no interest in the firm but thank you for trying to cast doubt on as to why I should think them good.

Lee SeagerJune 11th 2014.

The earth's flat.maybe all those students who,ve entered my cab are all wrong ,and none off them get charged 10/20 pounds to cross town ,or not taken too where want to go because its none far enough,and when they flag a blackcab with its for hire light they have a 10 minute interview at the side of the road until the driver decides if he can be bothered with these pesky customers ,like i say ali the earth's flat

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