Flywheel taxis are now on the Uber app in San Francisco
Uber’s long war on the taxi industry has ended in whimper and meltdown, as Flywheel cabs are now part of the Uber fleet, in a pilot who starts here in SF and hopes to fly nationwide .
Back in the days of Uber’s “ass culture” of the Travis Kalanick era (2010-2017), the all-out war between Uber and the taxi industry caused Uber to send relationship emails attack public SFist complaining of “false information propagated by Big Taxi monopolies”. Meanwhile, the established taxi industry that Uber hoped to “disrupt” was fighting back. The former DeSoto Cab, renamed Flywheel, was suing Uber for predatory pricing, with Uber (of all companies!) calling the taxi industry “corrupt and greedy.”
But their war has now ended in a marriage of convenience (or desperation?). The Chronicle reports that Flywheel cabs will be available on the Uber app, as part of a year-long pilot that has now received full approval from the SFMTA. We reported in late March that Uber and Flywheel were working on a deal, which has now received regulatory approval in SF.
When this deal was still ongoing, Flywheel said in a press release, “This integration will be first launched in San Francisco and then rolled out to the following cities in the following months, providing new lucrative opportunities for drivers, helping the developing cutting-edge carpooling technology and providing more transportation options for passengers nationwide.
It is not known if this integration has actually happened at this time. But as we see above in a letter dated Nov. 9, the SFMTA has approved this arrangement, stating that “SFMTA staff hereby approve Flywheel’s request to offer third-party travel” through the app. Uber.
Uber is suffering from a shortage of drivers and already started a similar partnership with Yellow Taxi in New York two months ago. (SF’s Yellow Cab, which uses the Yo Taxi app, is also expected to be integrated in the future.) And they have international aspirations with that, too. UK industry publication TaxiSite is sounding the alarm, saying that “ride-sharing company Uber is looking to make ALL licensed taxis available on its platform by 2025”, pointing to a March report from Reuters that Uber hopes to “include all taxis on its Uber app by 2025”. 2025.”
But a little perspective on Uber’s predictions: it’s the same company that claimed it would have flying cars by 2026.
San Francisco Flywheel taxi drivers don’t have to work with Uber — they can opt out. But Flywheel President Hansu Kim told the Chronicle, “Most taxis in San Francisco will serve rides booked by Uber.” For you, the consumer, the price and experience will be the same, except a flywheel will appear rather than a regular Uber driver.
And who knows, there may be environmental benefits to having fewer rideshare cars idling for hours. But it’s an ironic chapter that Uber is entering, after years of bragging that they were going to “disrupt” the taxi industry, that Uber is now actually trying to get every taxi on the planet to join their fleet.
Related: Uber set to strike deal with taxi fleet flywheel [SFist]
Image: Cesar A. via Yelp