Uber has transformed the taxi industry since it was founded in 2009, but the company’s history has been dogged by scandals, from reports of spying programmes and IP theft to sexual harassment lawsuits and underpayment of drivers. The company’s reputation reached a nadir under former CEO Travis Kalanick in 2017, after it responded to a strike by New York
Uber has transformed the taxi industry since it was founded in 2009, but the company’s history has been dogged by scandals, from reports of spying programmes and IP theft to sexual harassment lawsuits and underpayment of drivers.
The company’s reputation reached a nadir under former CEO Travis Kalanick in 2017, after it responded to a strike by New York taxi drivers over President Donald Trump’s so-called “travel ban” by switching off surge pricing in the area to attract more riders. The decision spawned a #DeleteUber campaign that the company claims led “hundreds of thousands” of people to stop using the app.
Read next: Latest Uber news
Uber has cleaned up somewhat under Kalanick’s successor Dara Khosrowshahi, but it remains a magnet for controversies that have kept the #DeleteUber hashtag alive and supported the emergence of a range of ride-hailing competitors.
Here are the best alternatives to Uber, both in the UK and abroad:
Xooox (pronounced “zooks”) is the latest ride-hailing app to take on Uber in the UK. The London-based startup’s USP is allowing licensed cab drivers and passengers to strike their own deal with no interference from algorithms.
Drivers can set their own prices, choose the jobs that suit them and define the distance they are willing to travel for a pick-up. Passengers can pick a cab based on the vehicle type, cost, emissions, ETA, boot space and wheelchair accessibility
The company claims that this model will extend access to ride-hailing to areas where most apps aren’t licensed, support regulators by providing them with access to a platform that records local taxi licenses, and reduce congestion caused by drivers cruising around to search for passengers.
Xooox will be available across the UK from 10 May 2019. Licensed taxi drivers and operators can download the app from Google Play and the Apple App Store.
Why this is the Uber alternative for you: You want humans to take decision-making control back from algorithms.
Wheely aims to add a touch of luxury to the ride-hailing market by offering “executive journeys” on-demand and in advance, which is ironically how Uber started out.
Customers can use the app to book a luxury car driven by a personal chauffeur, who must pass a stringent on-boarding procedure involving multiple tests to get a job at Wheely. The company claims that only 30 percent of driver candidates with a background in UberEXEC passes its entrance exams.
Wheely initially launched in London in 2012 as an Uber-style minicab operator, but pulled out of the market to reinvent itself as a “premium” ride-hailing service with a licence to operate in the capital until 2023.
The firm was founded in 2012 by Swiss/Russian entrepreneur Anton Chirkunov. It claims to generate $50 million in annual gross bookings and to employ roughly 2,500 drivers in London, Moscow, Saint Petersburg, Yekaterinburg, Kazan, Perm, Sochi and Krasnodar.
Why this is the Uber alternative for you: You like to travel in style
ViaVan is an on-demand carpooling service that bills itself as a more affordable and environmentally-friendly alternative to Uber.
The joint venture between Mercedes-Benz and US ride-sharing startup Via launched in London in April. Customers across fare zones 1 and 2 can use the app to find real-time matches with other riders heading their way and jump aboard to share the trip.
Individual rides are not offered, which reduces costs, emissions and congestion.
The company promises low fares, a safety-first ethos, and good treatment of drivers, claiming that it takes the smallest cut of any ride-hailing company in London. London is the second city in which the ViaVan is available, after Amsterdam, where the service launched in March.
“Londoners deserve innovative transportation solutions that are safe, convenient, and affordable,” said Chris Snyder, CEO of ViaVan. “ViaVan is a different kind of company: we have social responsibility built into our DNA. Our mission is to power truly dynamic mass transit systems, which reduce congestion in our cities while offering drivers the opportunity to earn a decent living.”
Why this is the Uber alternative for you: You like to be both green and thrifty when in central London
The UK taxi-hailing app Hailo merged with fellow European taxi-hailing app MyTaxi — which is owned by German automotive giant Daimler — in 2016. This creates what MyTaxi describes as “Europe’s largest taxi app”, with 100,000 registered taxi drivers in over 50 cities across nine countries, including 17,000 black cabs in London, its only UK city at the time of writing.
In practice the MyTaxi app is pretty similar to Uber in that you can get started quickly and order a taxi to your location and have it paid for using the app. The key difference is taxis are licensed and you won’t get stung with surge pricing at times of high demand.
In a very lightly veiled dig at Uber and other rivals, MyTaxi CEO Andrew Pinnington told Bloomberg Technology following the merger: “Unlike some of the other services, we work with the authorities,” he said. “Our phrase we use is we’re a constructive disruptor.”
Uber has been battling with incumbent taxi companies, including London’s black cabs, for years now, and although it introduced a taxi-hailing option for London black cabs, it removed the feature in March, with the company saying: “Since we first launched UberTAXI, hundreds of black cab drivers have taken tens of thousands of trips through the Uber app. However, in recent months, those numbers have tailed off.”
This opens the door to companies specialising in linking up riders and black cabs, but the question is whether enough consumers care.
Why this is the Uber alternative for you: Your uncle was a black cab driver
Israeli startup Gett differentiates itself from Uber and Lyft by offering completely flat pricing, and works with licensed taxi drivers.
Although it is admirable for companies like MyTaxi and Gett to not use surge pricing or unlicensed drivers this does have its competitive drawbacks. The hidden advantage of surge pricing is that it encourages more drivers to get into their cars at peak times in order to earn the extra money, meaning it is easier to get a cab using these services. MyTaxi and Gett facilitating normal taxis means these cars can dry up at peak times, as these drivers are more likely to be hailed down by people on the street.
Gett certainly hasn’t hit the popularity or levels of brand familiarity that Uber has in the UK yet but it is a serious competitor and is the only other ride-hailing service that operates in UK cities other than London, with users able to use Gett in Edinburgh, Manchester, Birmingham, Liverpool, Glasgow, Leeds, Oxford, Cambridge, Reading, Slough, Milton Keynes, Brighton, Bristol, Bath, Cardiff, Portsmouth, Bournemouth, Leicester, Coventry, Sheffield, Nottingham, Bradford, Hull, and Newcastle.
The company will also look to use the $300 million that Volkswagen Group invested in May 2016 to aid further expansion.
Why this is the Uber alternative for you: That 3.2x surge back from Shoreditch last weekend was the final straw
The biggest minicab company in the UK has been working hard to keep up with changing consumer habits when it comes to ordering cars since Uber appeared on the scene. It has since made sweeping changes to its mobile app and online ordering capabilities.
The Addison Lee app is now a handy fall back for when Uber is surging, or for booking airport transfers ahead of time, and is popular with corporate clients that want fixed pricing and support. For consumers, the app works in many of the same ways that consumers have become accustomed to in the age of ride-sharing, with no more calling a taxi dispatch office.
The downside of Addison Lee is that it is not available outside of London and can be pretty expensive.
Why this is the Uber alternative for you: It’s raining and it’s late and you are desperate
Ola is a ride-hailing company from India which has dominated its local market. It has already expanded to its first overseas market of Australia earlier this year and announced in August that it will be launching services in the UK.
The company announced on its website that it had obtained licences to operate in South Wales and Greater Manchester ahead of launching operations in South Wales by September. Ola will then seek to expand nationwide throughout the year.
The ride-hailing app includes its own private hire drivers, as well as black cabs.
The Indian company is keen to position itself as the anti-Uber when it comes to how it treats its drivers.
A company announcement reads: “Ola places drivers at the heart of its approach, providing the industry’s leading commissions, resulting in higher earnings and daily payments. Ola seeks to lead the industry with its approach to passenger safety including DBS screened drivers and processes such as 24/7 voice support, options to share ride details with emergency contacts and in-app emergency features.
“Ola is recognised for its collaborative approach, working with national governments and local authorities, to help solve transport mobility issues in innovative and meaningful ways.”
At the time of writing there was no Ola app available on the UK Apple App Store.
Why this is the Uber alternative for you: You believe them when they say they put drivers first
London minicab aggregator Kabbee claims to be up to 65 percent cheaper than a black cab. It pools cars from more than 70 providers, giving users access to 10,000 London cabs. All drivers are licensed and minicab fleets with poor ratings get struck off from the service. The service is currently only available in London though.
Why this is the Uber alternative for you: You are tight
The French carpooling startup is a bit different to the other alternatives on this list. Instead of hailing a ride, registered users of BlaBlaCar can carpool with people who are already making a journey, say back from London to university in Cardiff.
The European startup has proved popular in its home market and has a sizeable UK pool of registered members, with thousands of rides available every day.
BlaBlaCar raised $200m (£129m) in a 2015 funding round that valued the company at €1.4bn. The investment was led by Insight Venture Partners and Lead Edge Capital. The startup has said that it does not plan on expanding to the USA where car ownership is higher and fuel prices lower than across Europe.
Why this is the Uber alternative for you: You love talking to strangers
In the USA, Uber’s biggest rival is Lyft. The two essentially offer identical services as far as the average consumer is concerned, however, Lyft tries to set itself apart with a more friendly, cuddly image.
In terms of the core apps, there has been a fair amount of back and forth between Lyft and Uber. Both surge pricing in times of high demand and both added carpooling features within a day of one another in 2014. Lyft followed Uber’s lead in allowing fare splitting the same year, after Uber launched the feature in 2013.
Lyft does have a differentiating feature for tipping drivers, but the company still doesn’t recognise drivers as anything more than independent contractors, denying them worker protections and benefits.
The two companies have frequently been embroiled in a war of words, with Lyft accusing Uber of ordering and cancelling rides and trying to recruit their drivers. Uber denied the claims. Lyft cofounders Logan Green and John Zimmer have been very keen to publicly take the moral high ground as of late, as Uber is enveloped by more and more scandals.
3/ We are donating $1,000,000 over the next four years to the ACLU to defend our constitution. https://t.co/0umGOlkhSx
— logangreen (@logangreen)
January 29, 2017
Why this is the Uber alternative for you: You have a social conscience and a liberal outlook
If you are based in Southeast Asia you will know all about car-hailing service Grab, formerly GrabTaxi.
Hugely popular in its native Malaysia and in various other countries across the region, like Vietnam, Indonesia and expat-heavy Singapore, where it is now headquartered.
Today, Grab claims 710,000 drivers across 39 cities in six countries in Southeast Asia. It also claims 36 million downloads of its mobile apps. The startup is growing quickly, recently opening engineering centres in Vietnam and India.
The app itself is pretty similar to Uber as it links up riders and cars quickly and easily. There are various tiers of the service, generally, a Taxi hailing option, Grab cars and Hitch for carpooling.
Why this is the Uber alternative for you: You do a lot of business in Singapore
Chinese company Didi Chuxing, or Didi for short, is the only ride-hailing app so far to strike a definitive blow to Uber. In August 2016 Uber gave up a multi-billion dollar fight with its Chinese rival by selling its local business to Didi for a 17.7 percent ownership stake in Didi and $1 billion in cash.
The company has since garnered the nickname the Uber Slayer, and is set to dominate the enormous Chinese market from here on out.
CEO Cheng Wei says that 80 percent of all licensed drivers of China’s yellow striped taxis now use Didi to find passengers. Customers can use Didi to hail a car, taxi, rideshare or high-end private car.
Why this is the Uber alternative for you: You live in China
Russia’s homegrown alternative to Uber is Yandex.Taxi, a company run by the country’s biggest internet company, Yandex.
Yandex.Taxi operates in 48 cities across five countries and reported some impressive figures for 2016: providing 16.2 million rides in December, up 460 percent year on year. Yandex.Taxi drivers are fully vetted by the company and must have private hire licenses.
CEO Tigran Khudaverdyan said: “I’m incredibly proud of the growth Yandex.Taxi has seen in 2016, we aggressively expanded our geographic reach and saw the number of rides increase 5.6 times from 2.9 million in December 2015 to 16.2 in December 2016.”
Why this is the Uber alternative for you: You don’t trust American companies
Additional reporting by Thomas Macaulay