A new ride-hailing technology challenger is moving into the gap left by the revoking of Uber’s London license. New York start-up Via, that attracted a $50 million investment from German auto-making giant Mercedes Benz last year, will launch in London next week. The company has been waiting for year to receive a private hire license from Transport for London (TfL).
The latest technology in the world of app-based alternatives to traditional taxis suffered a setback when London mayor Sadiq Khan revoked Uber’s license to operate in the city last September amid accusations the US company was taking insufficient measures to protect both its drivers and their passengers. However, while Uber still hopes to make a comeback in the capital, if and when it does return it will face competition from rivals that have taken advantage of its absence.
ViaVan, as the London-based service will be known, is based on a car-pooling model comparable to UberPool. Passengers going in the same direction travel together and can fill free seats along the way. The model is designed to both bring down individual travel costs while contributing positively towards congestion and pollution levels. As well as bringing down expenses for those using the service Via also claims that it takes a smaller commission on fares from its drivers in comparison to peers such as Lyft.
ViaVan is the company’s European brand, with the model already successfully operating in Amsterdam. In the US cities of New York, Chicago and Washington DC the brand is simply Via. European ViaVan is a joint venture with Mercedes following its investment. The company already facilitates around 1.5 million car-pooled rides a month and expects to continue to grow quickly. Chief Executive Chris Snyder told The Telegraph that several thousand drivers had already signed up ahead of the London launch.
Snyder also claims the company have established a ‘very productive relationship’ with TfL over the past few months. The agency is wary of ride-hailing apps and their implications on public safety in the wake of well-publicised problems around Uber’s operations in the capital.
The taxi market in London is both very lucrative and highly competitive. The locally iconic black cabs, mini cab companies and new app-based services are all competing hard for market share. However, with backing from a company like Mercedes ViaVan will be optimistic it is up to the challenge.