Rideshare operator Uber has made it so easy to get an affordable ride in an instant that it’s a big reason behind young people abandoning car ownership. It’s also been ruinous to traditional taxi companies, not just in Australia but around the world.
Yet despite dominating the rideshare market globally with more than 90 million users and being backed by some of the biggest venture capital investors in Silicon Valley, the company is still yet to produce a single dollar in profit.
In documents filed ahead of the company debuting on public markets earlier this year, the rideshare giant even conceded it may never turn a profit.
That task isn’t going to get any easier for Uber as rideshare rivals and traditional taxis continue to fight back through aggressive pricing, technological advances, and geographic expansion.
Uber-rival Ola is expanding to the last two capital cities where it doesn’t already operate as well as adding several regional centres to the list of places you can book a ride through the app.
If you’re in Newcastle, the Central Coast, Ballarat, Bendigo or Toowoomba, you’ll be able to book a ride via Ola before the end of the month.
The rideshare company also aims to have a presence in Hobart, Darwin, Wollongong, Townsville, Cairns and Mackay early next year.
Ola Australia and New Zealand managing director Simon Smith said the new locations are an “important step” in Ola’s long-term strategy.
“We’re committed to providing more choice for customers and opportunity for drivers across Australia so they can benefit from our offer of lower commissions and better value rides,” Mr Smith said.
“Providing a safe and affordable alternative for rideshare in eleven new cities and regional centres will benefit thousands of people, particularly as they travel the country over the summer holiday period.”
Of course, like Uber, Ola doesn’t really employ any drivers.
The drivers are classed as “contractors” and earn money on the rides they perform, but don’t have an actual salary or protections.
This is why you may see an Ola driver pull up with an Uber sticker on the back of their car and vice versa, many of the drivers work across multiple platforms to find passengers.
Ola can however brag about treating its drivers slightly better than its rival by charging less commission.
New drivers in the areas it plans to expand can make even more money for the rest of the year.
Ola has announced it will halve its usual commission to just 7.5 per cent for drivers who sign up in the new locations until midnight on New Year’s Eve in order to make sure there are plenty of cars available.
If you’re in one of the new locations and you sign up to ride with Ola, you’ll get 30 per cent off rides for the first two weeks, up to $10.
There’s also no surge pricing on Ola, meaning you won’t be stung by the controversial variable pricing sometimes used by Uber during busy times to get more drivers on the road.
Surge pricing for Uber has reached up to 8 times the normal amount in some cases.
But a lack of surge pricing could leave you stranded as drivers opt to make more money driving for Uber than Ola during a surge period.
If you want a reliable alternative it might be worth looking at traditional taxi networks, which having now given up on the fight to completely stamp out Uber, are looking to compete by using technology to offer similar conveniences.
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Australia’s biggest taxi network 13cabs, owned by transport company A2B Australia, which operates in Sydney, Melbourne, Brisbane, Adelaide, Hobart and Newcastle recently added a new feature called MyDriver, which allows users to save a preferred driver and book them again in the future and which none of its rideshare rivals currently support due to its casualised workforce.
A2B CEO Andrew Skelton said the new feature addresses “a gap in the market we’ve identified as critical to the personal transport sector”.
“We know the world is changing and our customers are constantly looking for services that are personalised and allow them to be in control of their travel experiences, that’s why we are competing fiercely with competitors to make sure these needs are met,” Mr Skelton said.
The feature allows you to save drivers to a bank of preferred drivers after you complete a ride with them. You can also block a driver if you have a poor experience.
Mr Skelton said it’s another example of why 13cabs was becoming known for its “technology innovations”.
The MyDriver feature will first be available to NSW customers who book a Silver Service cab, before rolling out across the other locations and tiers in the 13cabs network.
“We have transformed our organisation to house the technical expertise necessary to compete head-on with overseas competitors,” Mr Skelton said, citing the company’s Quick Ride with Apple Pay, Digital Pass cabcharges, and online booking and payment systems as other examples.
“We have truly raised the industry standard for the transport sector,” Mr Skelton said.
How do you like to get around when you need a ride? Let us know in the comments below.