Declaring its independence from the traditional Lincoln Town Car (sorry, couldn’t resist), Uber is going beyond black cars this Fourth of July, bringing its up until now secret “Uber X” project public.
“Uber X” will allow Uber partners to use its dispatching software in order to dole out vehicles beyond Lincoln Town Cars, giving passengers a choice between Toyota Prius Hybrids and SUVs like the Cadillac Escalade, etc.
“Our motto is ‘Everyone’s Private Driver’,” CEO Travis Kalanick tells me, explaining that the law in California doesn’t specify a car type for “limo” companies. A “limo” company must have a TCP license in order to transport people for money, but isn’t necessarily committed to using limos and/or the traditional black cars we’ve associated with the service.
Already at least one Uber partner has traded in their Town Cars for hybrids Kalanick says, which is probably a smart plan considering Lincoln stopped making the Town Car model in 2011.
When asked whether this was a reaction to inevitably scarcity of Town Cars post-discontinuation, Kalanick said absolutely not, “This is the first expansion of the platform. It’s ice cream trucks next week, it was BBQ in Austin for SXSW. Uber is ultimately a cross between lifestyle and logistics. Lifestyle is ‘Give me what I want’, logistics is ‘How do I get it?’”.
Kalanick wouldn’t reveal further details about the company’s plans for expansion or whether an API was coming out soon.
When asked if the new vehicle types would essentially make Uber a taxi dispatch service like GetTaxi or MyTaxi, Kalanick also said no, “The difference is that you can also hail a taxi, with an Uber you have a pre-arranged situation, you have the driver’s name and phone number.”
Still, this loose definition leaves open the possibility for taxi services eventually converting to Ubers. In fact, the company works with taxis in Chicago. “We have hundreds of taxis on the system,” Kalanick says.
The pricing for Uber X rides will be a $5 base fee, with a $3.25 per-mile charge there afterward. This is 35% cheaper than Uber’s current black car rates and will open the service up to a more price-conscious clientele.
While the Uber X launch means that the service as of Wednesday will have rates competitive to taxis and ride sharing services like Lyft, Kalanick emphasizes that all Uber partners old and new have commercial insurance and commercial licences. “It remains to be seen whether regulators will crack down [on ridesharing], If they don’t, Uber is more than happy to play in the space.”