Uber is acquiring its largest rival in the UK

6 Aug 2020

Image: © agcreativelab/Stock.adobe.com

Uber plans to extend its operations in the UK with the acquisition of Autocab, which provides ride-booking tech for independent taxi companies.

Today (6 August), ride-hailing business Uber announced its plans to acquire UK-based rival Autocab.

The Manchester-headquartered business was founded in 1989 to supply taxi drivers with radios. It later developed a cloud-based booking platform and dispatch software for private hire and taxi operators.

Autocab built a network called iGo that lets operators send and receive jobs, and compete with the likes of Uber and Free Now.  According to Autocab, iGo is the largest network of its kind in the UK, with access to 75,000 cars. It also has operations in the US, Europe, Africa and Asia.

Extending coverage

BBC reported that Uber is currently available in 40 towns and cities in the UK, but expects to be available in around 170 towns and cities after the Autocab acquisition.

In a statement, Uber UK said: “Every month thousands of people open the Uber app in places the company doesn’t operate to try get a trip. Through Autocab’s iGo marketplace, Uber will be able to connect these riders with local operators who choose to take their booking.”

The ride-sharing company said that the move will be beneficial for cab operators, who should be able to expand their operations and offer more earnings opportunities to local drivers. The company added that it will explore possible additional revenue opportunities for these drivers, such as delivery.

As the Covid-19 pandemic has resulted in a drop in travel and transport use, with companies such as Uber taking a hit to business, some taxi operators have diversified their businesses. In Ireland, Lynk’s fleet of 2,000 drivers turned to delivery services to deal with the 50pc slump in business earlier this year.

The acquisition

Autocab will remain independent after the Uber deal, with its own board focused exclusively on providing technology to the taxi and private hire industry.

Autocab’s CEO, Safa Alkateb, said his mission has always been to encourage local private hire and taxi operators to transform their businesses and he believes Uber’s technology can accelerate this goal.

“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,” Alkateb said.

“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 licenced operators in their local community.”

Uber’s regional general manager for northern and eastern Europe, Jamie Heywood, added: “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.”

Terms of the deal have not been disclosed. Uber is due to release its Q2 results later today.

Kelly Earley was a journalist with Silicon Republic