Popular on-demand car service app Uber announced today that the company will now be adding traditional taxi service to their fleet of SUV and town car drivers. It is a bit of an experiment, the company's press release/blog post admits, but it could simplify some of the headaches associated with hailing a cab in San Francisco.
Basically, users will be able to summon a taxi from any one of the city's cab fleets the same way they can book rides in Uber-equipped SUVs or town cars now. With multiple cab companies at its disposal, Uber will act as a centralized dispatch for any taxi. (The company is calling it an "electronic hail," rather than a dispatch service.) It's similar to how Cabulous currently works. The catch is you're committed to a 20% tip and a $1 booking fee, in addition to the fare on the meter. That's basically a handsome tip for actually having a driver show up in a timely fashion. Payment also goes through the app, so there's no fumbling around at the end of the ride.
In addition to eliminating the waiting game and the "broken credit card machine" lies, users will also be rating drivers to help recognize the pleasant ones and weed out the truly frightening ones. An Uber rep tells SFist via email that the service launched Wednesday with 65 taxi drivers, but they should be "well within the hundreds within a week or two." If Uber finds its way into those 150-200 new cabs that should be hitting the streets soon, then taking taxis might be a realistic transportation option again.
The drawback here, and it's admittedly a big one, is that by hailing taxis this way, we've further inflated our own already expensive cab fares. In a way, the cab drivers and Uber have settled their differences by getting more money out of riders.
The option to hail a taxi is being rolled out to Uber users in San Francisco slowly, but the company says it should be available to everyone with the app within few days. For what it's worth: when we tried to check for available taxis Wednesday night around 8:30 p.m., there was only one available. To be fair, that was hours after the launch announcement, so we're still interested to see how it works on a weekend night.