The battle over the future of the taxi

Uber Taxi app wm

Uber was the first; there were many that followed: Hailo, GetTaxi, Taxi Magic, Flywheel, Lyft, Sidecar. There's a lot of heat around apps that let users order a taxi, car service, or just get a lift from someone nearby in exchange for cash. The startups are battling each other for territory around the world, even as they face off with local regulators in an effort to modernize this ossified, bureaucratic corner of the transit industry.

40 updates and 989 comments below.

Aug 06 12:22a

Save money on Uber by sharing rides with strangers

Uber wants you to get into an unfamiliar car with a total stranger. But that may be a price worth paying for a cheaper ride. The company's new UberPool feature will notify users if it discovers a "co-rider" with similar travel plans, and will also provide the other person's first name and information as to who will be collected first. The two passengers can then split the fare.

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May 20 10:01a

New York City's taxi policy chief just defected to Uber

Ashwini Chhabra, deputy commissioner of policy and planning at the New York City Taxi and Limousine Commission, will be joining Uber as the startup's first head of policy development and community engagement.

The Commission has had an at-times adversarial relationship with Uber, which launched its yellow cab-hailing app in New York City without approval and had to pull it back. Since then, the commission has affirmed its belief that hailing apps are good for New Yorkers, but forced Uber to...

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Jan 13 6:17a

Uber car attacked as Paris taxi strike turns violent

A major protest organized by French taxi drivers turned violent Monday, as demonstrators attacked Uber cars outside Paris' two main airports. As Le Monde reports, the nationwide demonstrations were organized by five major taxi unions, which are protesting the "unfair competition" that Uber and other chauffeur services pose. Kat Borlongan, co-founder of consulting firm Five by Five, was traveling from the Charles de Gaulle airport Monday morning when her Uber car was attacked by protesters....

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Nov 25 8:38a

Uber aims to attract new drivers with Toyota and GM car discounts

Uber drivers that walk into a Toyota or General Motors dealership will get as much as $7,500 off their next car. According to a report today in the Wall Street Journal, the cab-hailing app is partnering with the two manufacturers to offer Uber drivers on-the-spot discounts and more favorable terms for financing on their next car purchase. The exact terms of the deal are still unclear, but apparently some drivers have already taken Uber up on the offer. The piece highlights one driver,...

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Aug 23 12:02p

Google Ventures reportedly invests $250 million in Uber

Uber has squirmed its way through a number of obstinate legal blockades to continue offering its on-demand taxi services, and it looks like the effort is paying off: according to a public filing spotted by All Things D, Uber is now valued at around $3.5 billion. And it appears that Google has taken notice in a big way — both ATD and TechCrunch are reporting that Google Ventures, an investment arm of Google, has invested around $250 million into the startup. TechCrunch reports that it's Google...

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Aug 08 4:59p

Taxi hailing apps off to slow start in New York, but could still accelerate

Some of the first data on New York City's nascent taxi e-hail program was released earlier this week, and the headline stat painted a grim picture: only 0.25 percent of all taxi trips were e-hails, and just 17 percent of electronic cab requests resulted in an actual ride. New Yorkers should be careful, however, before they write off the program — and apps like Hailo and Uber — as a bad fit for the city.

Taxi and Limousine Commission (TLC) chair David Yassky defended the e-hail program,...

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Jun 25 3:01p

Los Angeles deals setback to Uber, other ride-sharing apps with cease and desist order

For every step of progress made by the ride-sharing industry in metropolitan havens like New York City, companies like Uber, Lyft, and SideCar continue to meet stiff resistance elsewhere. Take the city of Los Angeles for example, which just sided with traditional taxi operators by delivering sharply worded cease and desist letters to all three startups. The orders — signed by LA taxicab administrator Thomas M. Drischler — warn each company that their respective business is "operating an...

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Jun 12 7:21p

FTC backs Uber in dispute with DC Taxicab Commission (Update)

The Federal Trade Commission is siding with Uber in its struggle to operate legally in Washington, DC. In December, the DC City Council decided to rewrite its taxi laws so that companies like Uber — which use mobile apps to hail cabs, black cars and other transportation — could bring their businesses to the district. And in January, the City Council passed an amendment to essentially legalize Uber's e-hail app. But in May, the DC Taxicab Commission proposed new restrictions on car-booking...

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May 14 8:46p

Hailo app begins offering taxi rides in New York City

Hailo has become the second startup after Uber to offer taxi hailing through an app in New York City, the company announced today. The companies are both part of a year-long pilot program run by the city's Taxi and Limousine Commission that will determine the regulations surrounding the use of smartphone apps in the taxi industry. Such apps were technically illegal at this time last year, so the companies have had a long wait. Hailo even prematurely offered its service to some users before...

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May 01 10:59a

New York City's taxi e-hail program grows as Hailo joins the fray

Less than a week after Uber became the first participant in New York City's e-hail taxi program, it's already facing competition. Hailo's CEO Jay Bregman just confirmed on stage at TechCrunch's Disrupt event that NYC's Taxi and Limousine Commission has given his company the necessary go-ahead to join the pilot. Updates to the Hailo apps for iOS and Android will be released today, according to TechCrunch, enabling New Yorkers to request a yellow cab with their smartphone.

The quick approval...

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Apr 30 9:13p

Uber taxi-hailing service comes back to New York City

Just a few days after Uber got the official go-ahead to operate under a New York City pilot program for taxi-hailing apps, the UberTAXI service has gone live. There are a few limitations at present, however. The app doesn't support automatic payments, so you'll have to remember to pay your driver the regular way, and Uber warns that cabs may be in short supply to begin with. You'll also have to explicitly request a taxi rather than a black car, and you won't be able to use UberTAXI to travel...

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Apr 26 4:51p

After long battle, Uber becomes first taxi app to get approved in New York City

Looks like New York City isn't going to hold a grudge against Uber for attempting to launch its taxi-hailing service without permission last summer. The San Francisco startup just became the first company to be approved under New York's new pilot program, which will allow selected companies to offer smartphone apps that let customers hail a cab from their phones.

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Apr 23 5:25p

Uber wins in NYC lawsuit filed by limo lobby, clearing the way for city to test e-hail apps

A court ruling in Manhattan today represents one more incremental step in the drawn-out battle between transit regulators, established interests, and companies that hope to change the way the taxi industry works. Technically, it was the New York City Taxi and Limousine Commission (TLC) that won today. But it's also a triumph for Uber, Hailo, and similar startups that hope to bring hail-by-smartphone taxi service despite fierce opposition from established members of the city's complex transit...

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Apr 12 1:12p

Uber will 'aggressively' pursue carpooling model, but only where lawmakers say it's okay

Uber just announced it will "aggressively roll out" carpooling, or ridesharing, in the face of increasing competition from startups that offer it as an ultra-cheap transportation option. Uber started as a service for professional taxi and livery drivers, who use the app to find passengers in real time. By contrast, ridesharing essentially lets anyone be a taxi driver: just sign up with an app like Sidecar or Lyft, and anyone with a vehicle and car insurance can start picking up passengers for...

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Mar 25 1:36p

Uber releases first Windows Phone and BlackBerry 7 apps, redesigns Android offering

Windows Phone users now have a native app to reserve cabs and black cars using Uber. The new app, released today for Windows Phone 7.8 and Windows Phone 8, allows users in cities where Uber operates to track nearby cars available for hire, set a pickup, and pay using a credit card, just like the Android and iPhone apps that have been out for quite some time. Before today, Windows Phone users had to use a mobile website to take advantage of Uber's services. Beyond Windows Phone, the company...

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Mar 15 1:22p

After suing Austin for the right to operate, SideCar expands ride-sharing to Brooklyn, Boston, and Chicago

To launch a taxi or ride-sharing app is to live in constant legal peril. Uber, one of the forerunners in the taxi app business, is slogging through lawsuits in New York, San Francisco, Chicago, and other cities — most recently, Boston Cab Dispatch filed suit and accused Uber of "running roughshod through the city of Boston." While the taxi lobby has been vocal in opposing its new competitor, ride-sharing services like SideCar face different challenges. Unlike Uber, SideCar doesn't rely on...

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Feb 14 7:53p

Black car industry files last-minute injunction against NYC e-hailing app pilot program

Organizations representing the black car industry have filed legislation against a New York City pilot program for e-hailing apps just one day before it was due to begin. The program was approved in December, and will allow for hailing cabs within a 1.5 mile-radius, or a half-mile radius in Manhattan below 59th Street. It was the result of a compromise after sustained lobbying by the black car industry; the TLC had intended to conduct a straight vote on permanent rules.

But the Livery...

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Feb 07 3:16p

Taxi race: can Uber and Hailo deliver a real-time revolution?

Naval Ravikant is the cofounder of the startup network AngelList and a small investor in Uber, the app that lets you order a car service or taxi from your phone. He uses Uber X to get to work, Flywheel for long trips to the outer part of San Francisco, Lyft for short hops, and Uber Black for groups and special occasions. He’s selling his cars, he told The Verge.

Each of these companies has a slightly different take, and not all will survive. But these apps could double or triple the size of...

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Jan 31 5:36p

California suspends $20,000 fine against Uber as it reexamines ride-sharing rules

California's Public Utilities Commission has continued its reconciliation with ride-sharing startups. After suspending a $20,000 citation against Lyft, the CPUC has done the same for Uber, saying that the company can continue to operate and won't have to immediately pay the $20,000 it racked up for "public safety violations." In the meantime, regulators will reexamine California's transportation rules, determining how to fit startups into the existing framework of insurance requirements,...

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Jan 30 5:21p

Ride-sharing startup Lyft reaches agreement with California regulators, readies Los Angeles launch

Last year three ride-sharing services received cease-and-desist orders from the California Public Utilities Commission, but today one of the services — Lyft — announced it has reached an agreement with the state's regulators. Lyft made the announcement in a blog post, stating that the interim agreement allows Lyft to continue operation while the CPUC continues developing new regulations for ride-sharing applications and services.

The CPUC's original concerns had stemmed from the fact that...

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Jan 14 1:14p

Uber bringing taxi service to Washington, DC after winning City Council fight

After winning a political battle in Washington, DC last month, controversial taxi startup Uber has announced it will be adding taxi service to its existing livery cars in the city. In a blog post, Uber praised the DC City Council's decision, saying that it would begin offering a pilot program for taxis starting today. For now, black car service will remain the default, and Uber says few taxis will be available at first as the company "curates" existing cabs. Otherwise, it'll operate like...

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Dec 25 10:40a

Uber losing its edge in taxi app wars as competitor Hailo reportedly raises big bucks

San Francisco startup Uber has had two advantages in the great battle of the taxi apps: money and notoriety. That may be about to change. Rival startup Hailo has raised $30 million from high profile investors, reports All Things D, which would bring its total funding up to $50 million, narrowly surpassing Uber's reported $49.5 million.

The new money sets the stage for a high stakes showdown. Riders in Boston and Chicago, where both Uber and Hailo already operate, are likely to see huge...

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Dec 23 2:45a

How to regulate Uber and Airbnb with their own data

Apps like Uber and Airbnb haven't just sparked concern among the taxi and hotel industries they disrupt — city regulators have been cracking down on the info-centric services despite the lack of precedent for how best to deal with them. Now Tim Wu, author of The Master Switch and recent On The Verge guest, has taken to the New York Times to put forward his solution. In short, he suggests that cities should require companies to provide apps which leverage the data they collect to highlight...

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Dec 13 11:42a

NYC regulators approve limited pilot program for taxi hailing apps like Uber

Drivers and passengers in New York City can now use smartphone apps to hail nearby street cabs, thanks to a one-year pilot program that was just approved by the Taxi and Limousine Commission. The vote represents a partial victory for startups like Uber, Hailo, and Get Taxi, which had been lobbying New York City regulators to change the rules for months.

The pilot program allows for passengers to use apps to hail street cabs that are within a half-mile radius in Manhattan below 59th Street,...

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Dec 12 5:58p

NYC officials may delay widespread smartphone taxi hailing, propose limited pilot instead

After suggestions that New York City would adapt its rules to allow customers to hail taxis using smartphone apps like Uber, it looks like some members of the local Taxi & Limousine Commission are getting cold feet. According to The New York Times, a vote tomorrow addressing the matter will likely concern a possible pilot program — not a change to the rules that govern taxi use in the city. The commission was expected to make a decision on whether or not to change the rules to permit hailing...

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Dec 04 7:09p

Uber wins unanimously in Washington, DC, which is now rewriting its taxi laws

Uber just won a showdown in Washington, D.C., one of the many cities where the traditional taxi and livery industry has revolted against the smartphone-native newcomer. After a drawn-out fight, the City Council unanimously passed the "Public Vehicle-for-Hire Innovation Amendment Act" this afternoon, which explicitly sanctions and regulates "digital dispatch" companies like Uber.

Uber's opponents in DC and other cities objected to the maverick startup, saying its unconventional business model...

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Nov 16 2:03a

Proposed taxi regulations take aim at Uber and other 'rogue' services

Regulators from the US, Canada, and Australia are releasing guidelines on Friday for dealing with taxi apps like Uber and Zimride, reports The Wall Street Journal. While the rules would still have to be adopted by local governments, they would curtail the use of GPS as a substitute for a taxi meter, bar drivers without proper licensing from offering rides for pay, and prohibit charging extra during peak demand.

Is the IATR protecting consumers or the taxi industry?

The International...

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Nov 14 8:27p

Uber, Lyft, and Sidecar hit with $20,000 citations from California utilities commission

Transportations services like Lyft and Sidecar came under fire from the California Public Utilities Commission (CPUC) last month, and now citations are being issued — to the tune of $20,000 each. Today CPUC stated that it has issued citations to Uber, Lyft, and Sidecar for alleged "public safety violations," giving each company 20 days to pay the fee or file an appeal. According to the agency, the three services are "charter-party" carriers that must obtain its authorization before taking to...

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Nov 05 3:37p

Uber offering free rides to voting locations during Presidential Election

In what appears to be an attempt to save face after drastically raising its black car service rates following Hurricane Sandy, Uber has announced that it will be giving new users free trips to voting stations on November 6th. Through the partnership with Rock the Vote, first-time Uber users can travel to or from their local polling locations free of charge. Of course, there are a few caveats: the ride(s) must begin or end at polling stations, they have to occur during voting hours, and the...

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Oct 29 11:50p

NYC regulators propose rules for taxi apps

The New York Taxi and Limousine Commission (TLC) is releasing a list of proposed rule changes that would permit the use of smartphone apps to hail and pay for taxicabs, provided they work with the city’s own computerized payment and trip data system. The proposal comes two weeks after regulatory disputes forced the upstart Uber to end its own taxi service in the city.

Every app would need to be licensed

The proposals would require any e-hail app to obtain a one-year, renewable license from...

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Oct 26 12:14p

Uber co-founder takes to the skies with BlackJet private plane service

If you enjoy Uber's black-car service and want the experience the same level of luxury when travelling longer distances, BlackJet may be just the thing for you and your deep pockets. Led by Uber co-founder Garrett Camp, BlackJet lets travellers book flights on other people's private planes in order to avoid crowded airport terminals and slow-moving security checkpoints. According to AllThingsD, membership for the exclusive service is "a couple thousand dollars," with flights ranging from $950...

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Oct 25 8:46a

Are Uber and other 'disruptive' startups cutting red tape or stripping consumer protections?

When Uber taxi service came to New York, it was easy to consider it a scrappy underdog, fighting the city's opaque and complex regulations. But Paul Carr of PandoDaily sees it and similar "disruptive" startups differently: by disregarding rules designed to prevent price gouging or unlicensed cabs, CEO Travis Kalanick is signaling that the success of Uber is more important than the well-being of its customers or other citizens.

The rise of internet startups has certainly led to plenty of new...

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Oct 17 9:15p

Uber launches taxi service in San Francisco after New York retreat

Uber admitted just yesterday that it was dropping the taxi component of its service for New York residents due to regulatory disputes, but that's not stopping the company from moving forward: it's launching a similar service in San Francisco today. According to a post on the company's blog, the San Francisco Uber Taxi will let customers hail cabs with their iOS or Android device, just as they currently do for the company's other car services. The cost for a given ride will be generated from...

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Oct 16 10:37a

Uber quietly shutting down taxis in New York after fight with regulators (update: Uber confirms)

Uber's "damn the man" strategy may have backfired. The San Francisco-based startup took a chance when it launched its taxi-hailing service in New York against the wishes of the local Taxi & Limousine Commission, hoping that the regulators would bend — or that customers would love Uber Taxi so much that the TLC would have to give it a pass. The goal was to be the first mover in a hotly-contested new market. However, after just over one month of operation, Uber is now asking taxi drivers to...

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Sep 07 3:13p

Uber the outlaw: a rogue startup fights the taxi power

It was a drizzly Wednesday afternoon, and the central holding lot at LaGuardia Airport was packed with six dense lines of yellow cabs feeding into the airport taxi line, stopping and starting according to some inscrutable algorithm. Nicole Benman, a thin brunette in a light blue T-shirt emblazoned with a serifed ‘U’, was brisk-walking alongside one of the cabs as it inched forward. "Have you heard about Uber?" she asked the driver through his slightly-lowered passenger window. "You get a free...

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Sep 04 8:26p

Taxicab association issues fear mongering warning about 'rogue apps' like Uber

The Taxicab, Limousine & Paratransit Association, a global trade group that represents more than 1,000 taxicab companies, limo and car services, airport shuttle fleets, and other transportation services, just issued a strong warning against apps like Uber that let customers order a cab from their phones. Apps like Uber, GroundLink, and Get Taxi are "rogue services" that are a danger to public safety and equal access transportation, the group said in a statement released today.

No service is...

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Aug 15 8:57p

Massachusetts to let Uber drivers back on the streets of Boston

Less than a day after we first heard that Massachusetts was blocking Uber from operating in Boston, the Office of Consumer Affairs and Business Regulation has reversed its decision. The service, if you're not familiar, is a private taxi service that works by smartphone: the user calls the taxi via a smartphone app, but critically an Uber app is also used by the driver to determine the distance driven for billing purposes. It's that last detail that caused a problem for the Commonwealth, which...

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Boston blocks Uber car service, citing lack of GPS mileage standards

Uber, the smartphone-dispatched private taxi service, isn't such a hit with local governments: the company narrowly avoided being priced into oblivion in Washington, DC, and this month it's being challenged in Boston. The reason might seem odd: according to the Commonwealth of Massachusetts Division of Standards, which held a hearing (PDF), the company's use of GPS-equipped smartphones is the culprit. Despite admitting that GPS positioning is reasonably accurate and has been in wide use for...

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Jul 11 4:14p

Uber bringing on-demand ice cream trucks to select cities on Friday only

Uber's app normally lets users hire cars from their phone, but on Friday you'll be able to hire something much more fun — an ice cream truck. As a way of celebrating National Ice Cream Month, an ice cream cone icon is being added to the app, which lets you request an ice cream truck to a specific location. You'll be given a timeframe for when the truck should arrive, and your credit card will be billed $12 for a bundle of five ice creams. What kind of frozen treats will be available depends...

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Jul 03 6:54a

Uber adding low-cost hybrid cars to its luxury fleet

Uber, the app that lets you hire a luxury cab from your phone, is adding hybrid cars that will cost up to 35 percent less than its current fleet. The new service, called Uber X, will still be around 10 to 25 percent more expensive than a regular taxi, but far cheaper than the 40 to 100 percent premium that customers are charged for a traditional town car. Travis Kalanick, the company's chief executive, tells The New York Times that the hybrid cars are "the first big step Uber is taking to go...

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Apr 18 1:56p

Uber launches lower-priced Taxi service in Chicago

Uber, the company whose app allows users to book, pay for and track a private car service for a premium price, is launching a new, cheaper variant in Chicago dubbed Uber Taxi. Chicago already has Uber's regular car service, which usually costs about 50 percent more than a cab, but the city also has a plethora of taxis (unlike, say, New York). While Uber says its service is seeing 30 to 40 percent growth month over month in the Windy City, its main competition in the market is far fiercer than...

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