This morning at TechCrunch Disrupt, I interviewed Uber CEO Kalanick backstage and got him to elaborate on a few things he mentioned during his interview earlier in the day — mainly on competition that Uber is seeing from new low-cost ride-sharing services like Sidecar and Lyft. One key takeaway is that Uber, too, could introduce its own ride-sharing model, likely testing it out in one of the 17 cities it operates in, along with other low-cost models.
“We do the Uber black car service in every city, but we also do low-cost Uber. That could be UberX, which is like all-hybrid, a similar service to Black in that it’s not a taxi, but it’s a low-cost version of what we do,” Kalanick said. “But we’re also doing taxis as well, so we’re playing with different services.”
One of those services will follow the same ride-sharing model that’s being pioneered by services like Sidecar and Zimride’s Lyft. I asked Kalanick how serious he was about going that route and starting to aggregate inventory of rides from regular drivers and their own cars. And found out that Kalanick and Uber are very serious about ride-sharing.
“That’s for real. If somebody’s out there and has a competitive advantage in getting supply, that’s a problem. I’m not going to just let that happen without doing something about it,” he said. “So we take it seriously.”
In part, that’s because Uber is seeing more competition pop up from startups — although Kalanick says its UberX service probably does more rides per day than Lyft. But the availability of ride-sharing follows a trend of going down-market, as Uber wants to offer a low-cost option in all of the cities it operates in. To that end, Uber launched its UberX hybrid service in San Francisco, as well as Uber Taxi in both Chicago and New York and moto taxis in Paris. As a result, it wouldn’t be too surprising to see Uber launch ride-sharing in specific markets to run tests and see how it does.
“Uber started at the high end originally, but the question is can you create a low-cost Uber?” Kalanick said. “Uber has to become a low-cost Uber as well.”
All that said, those ride-sharing companies might not see immediate competition in their initial markets. Uber could launch as its low-cost option in any number of other markets. “When you’re in 17 cities, you can conduct experiments,” Kalanick told me. “You can be a laboratory scientist and conduct experiments around the world and see what happens in different cities.”
Anyway, check out the video for yourself above.