11. April 2013–
San Francisco-headquartered private driver startup Uber is testing its occasionally controversial lower-priced taxi hailing service for the first time in Europe, in Paris.
According to the company's blog, Uber Taxi will be available in Paris in limited form from today.
Uber, currently in about 35 cities worldwide, lets customers summon a driver, track progress, pay for the ride and give feedback from within its mobile apps. It's best-known for its private driver service – an elegant black car and premium service, usually for between 15 and 20 per cent more than the cost of a normal cab.
Uber Taxi, already up-and-running in several cities in the US, offers a similar service but with normal taxi cabs at their normal rates.
It hasn't been a smooth roll-out for Uber in every city. The company had to shut down Uber Taxi in New York in October (though the road has since been cleared for a one-year trial of taxi-hailing apps in the city). In Washington DC, a city bill passed last year to approve the service followed "months of legal and political wrangling".
Will we see Uber Taxi in other cities in Europe soon?
This is the first test for the Uber Taxi service in Europe (though moto taxis have been available in Paris since last August). The services Uber offers in each city depend on that city's individual needs so this doesn't necessarily flag a wider roll-out:
"We'll have to evaluate the market," Uber VP of Global Operations Ryan Graves told us in February, when we asked if Uber planned to bring lower-cost services to Berlin.
"It's possible. In the US, we have a number of experiences at different price points whether it's taxi or hybrid cars, which we call UberX or town cars or SUVs. We definitely want to have an option for everyone."
Uber will have done its homework on possible regulatory hiccups before launching Uber Taxi in Paris. The bigger and more pedestrian challenge will be making sure drivers and customers sign-up and stick with the service (especially, as The Rude Baguette points out, since there's a wide range of other public transportation options).