Urban transportation company Uber just announced a brand-new offering for Paris called UberPOP — and it looks a lot like Lyft. It’s a cheaper ride-sharing service built right into the Uber app. Everybody can become a driver.
While UberX is already available in Paris, it is more or less similar to the traditional Uber offering with mid-range black cars (think Audi A4 and Peugeot 508). If you want a top-of-the-line Mercedes and Audi car, you need to order an Uber.
In other words, when you order an UberX, you still get luxurious cars as the French law doesn’t allow black car drivers to drive small cars. UberX is still restricted to professional drivers in Paris — the service is a bit cheaper, but not cheap.
Instead of recruiting non-professional UberX drivers like in California, and forcing them to use big cars in Paris like other UberX drivers, the company chose to create a brand new service, UberPOP. This way, the company can allow smaller cars and cut prices again.
For example, to go from Opéra to Hôtel de Ville, you will pay €7 with UberPOP instead of €10 with UberX and €14 with Uber — UberPOP is 30 percent cheaper than UberX in this case. The service will be available tomorrow.
UberPOP might be a real-world test for other cities, including in the U.S. While France is a very particular market because of its legislation, separating ride-sharing drivers who don’t have a taxi or limo license from professional drivers from the UberX program might make things clearer for the customer and allow the company to cut prices again.
To become a driver, you will have to be at least 21 with a 3-year-old driver’s license. You bring your own car. You also must pass a background check. As a customer, you can expect a Volkswagen Polo or a Citroën C3 (pictured above) and bottled water. Passengers are encouraged to sit up front. It remains to be seen whether Uber can keep the same service quality with ride-sharing drivers.
Uber is available in two cities in France: Paris and Lyon. But London and Paris are the two biggest markets in the world for the company if you exclude the U.S. As Lyft, Sidecar and other ride-sharing alternatives are only available in the U.S., Uber takes great pleasure in saying that it is the first company to provide a ride-sharing offering outside of the U.S. It’s probably not 100 percent true as there are small local competitors.
The news comes after a few weeks of intense protests against Uber, LeCab, Chauffeur-privé and other urban transportation services. First, these services are now supposed to wait 15 minutes in France before letting a customer in the car. From first-hand experience, Uber doesn’t currently comply with the new law.
Moreover, protesting taxi drivers recently attacked multiple black cars near the airport. Cab drivers still think that the 15-minute rule is not enough. They want a 30-minute delay, minimum fares of $82 (€60) and a driver recruitment ban.
With UberPOP, it’s unclear whether the service will take on and be able to recruit enough drivers. But there is one thing for sure, cab drivers won’t be happy.
(Photo credit: InSapphoWeTrust)