Taxi-industry-disruptor-in-chief Uber is beefing up its presence in the UK, quite literally, today, after it introduced UberXL — its service offering larger capacity cars — in capital city London and Manchester.
The service allows Uber customers to summon cars with up to six seats in London, while those in Manchester can order cars that hold up to eight people. Uber warned customers that service will initially be limited, as is often the case for its new launches and expansions.
UberXL, which is ordered in exactly the same way as the regular service and is now available as an option inside the Uber app for iOS and Android, is priced at £2.15 per mile. The minimum fare for a ride is £7 in London and £5 in Manchester.
The new option makes it easier for customers traveling in groups to hail a taxi and get around with far greater convenience. While that might sound incremental, we at TechCrunch ran into complications ferrying large numbers of people around London for after-show activities at our Disrupt Europe event this week, which gave me a new level of appreciation for UberXL.
London being London, there are plenty of options for would-be taxi passengers, and not just from the tech startup would. Uber is rivaled by fellow smartphone booking app Hailo, but there are private booking companies like Addison Lee — which pick up customers within a similar timeframe — and, of course, London’s ubiquitous black taxis and minicab firms.
It’s been more than two years since Uber came to London, and this year it began to make its presence felt after London taxi drivers staged a protest in May to display their objection to the fact that the U.S. firm uses a smartphone app and not a meter to calculate fares. That technicality aside, the presence of Uber and its arsenal of funding, is clearly a concern for those who make their living transporting the public around in London, and the rest of the UK.
With another service on the road from today, Uber is ratcheting up the taxi wars by a few more degrees. That additional choice is great for consumers, but it gives greater cause from concern for those inside the taxi industry that Uber is trying to disrupt.