Ride-hailing company Uber has bought British minicab software company Autocab, which provides technology such as the dispatch app iGo
The purchase will allow Uber to offer users journeys in towns such as Oxford, Doncaster and Aberdeen where it does not currently operate. Rather than booking an Uber car in those towns, riders opening the app will be able to book a minicab from a local outfit instead.
Autocab will continue to operate as an independent business after the acquisition.
The iGo app service allows minicab companies across the UK to pool their customers’ bases. It has been promoted to independent companies as a way for them to compete with apps such as Lyft, MyTaxi and Uber.
Each month hundreds of thousands of riders use the app in cities that it does not currently serve, including 67,000 in Oxford, 25,700 in Exeter and 23,700 in Doncaster.
An Uber statement said: “Through Autocab’s iGo marketplace, Uber will be able to connect these riders with local operators who choose to take their booking. In turn, operators should be able to expand their operations and offer more earnings opportunities to local drivers. Uber will also explore providing drivers with additional revenue opportunities related to its platform for other services, such as delivery.”
Safa Alkateb, Autocab’s chief executive, said: “Autocab has been working with local operators across the world to provide the technology to make them more efficient and open up a marketplace to provide more trips. Working with Uber we can scale up our ambitions, providing hundreds of thousands of additional trips for our customers, and help cement the place of licensed operators in their local community.”
Jamie Heywood, Uber’s regional general manager for northern and eastern Europe, said: “Autocab has worked successfully with taxi and private-hire operators around the world for more than 30 years and Uber has a lot to learn from their experience. We look forward to working with the Autocab team to help local operators grow and provide drivers with genuine earnings opportunities.”
Uber has not expanded to a new British town since 2016. The UK is a heavily regulated market and the company has had to legally set itself up as a minicab firm in each town and city in which it operates. This gives councils the power to approve or reject Uber’s application to operate in their jurisdiction, as well as apply other limits. Autocab’s partnerships with independent minicab operators will enable Uber to sidestep some of those requirements.
In November 2019, a ruling by Transport for found that Uber was not a “fit and proper” body to act as a private hire operator in London was upheld. The ruling is currently suspended pending appeal.
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