Let the big ride-share wars begin.
It’s no big secret that Uber wants to get into the ride-share game in an effort to compete directly with upstarts like Lyft and SideCar. After reaching a deal with the California Public Utilities Commission, the company announced its plans to allow unlicensed drivers to be part of its driver fleet, at least in San Francisco. Well, it’s launching its first offensive in that front, announcing today on its blog that it will begin on-boarding drivers to be part of its UBERx service.
The move is part of Uber’s efforts to make more low-cost options available to its users, especially in places where it’s seeing competition from existing ride-sharing services. Both Lyft and SideCar launched last year as apps that connect passengers with drivers who have a car and some spare time on their hands. Well, Uber is striking back, as it’s going to start courting regular unlicensed drivers to offer up rides on its platform as well.
While new UBERx drivers won’t need to be licensed as taxi or limo drivers under existing CPUC regulations, Uber will be checking to ensure that all those who take part in UBERx will pass the company’s screening tests, including a background check, in-person screening, and other quality-control requirements.
But there will be some advantages for new drivers who decide to join UBERx as opposed to one of the company’s competitors. Last month, Uber CEO Travis Kalanick said that Uber ride-sharing drivers will be able to make more money than on competing services because it can connect them with passengers more efficiently than other platforms.
As I reported last month, Kalanick thinks that will entice drivers to join its low-cost service:
“Obviously, Uber believes its system is far more efficient,” Kalanick told me. That means more rides per hour, and more cash in drivers’ pockets. All in all, he believes drivers will be able to collect 20-30 percent more per hour driving for Uber as opposed to one of the competing services. After gas, tolls, and whatever else, he estimates that could mean 40-60 percent more in take-home cash.
In addition to more take-home pay, Uber promises more flexibility and transparency than Lyft or SideCar. In its blog post, Uber said that it will pay its drivers real fares, not “donations” that passengers ultimately determine. It also said that drivers who are approved won’t be subject to schedules — that they can log on and take rides when they’re available, rather than conforming to someone else’s assignments.
For Uber passengers, the addition of new drivers should drive down the cost or rides and increase availability of UBERx rides. And for drivers, Uber offers an extensive network of existing users. And for San Francisco residents in general, more competition means more transportation alternatives, which means easier, cheaper ways to get around town.