A shocking alliance between Uber and SF taxicabs is on the table, as cab fleet Flywheel is in talks with Uber to put their cabs on the Uber app.
The Flywheel taxi fleet and app may seem new-ish, but they are San Francisco's oldest surviving taxi company. Flywheel used to be DeSoto Cabs, founded in the 1930s, and they sued Uber in 2016 over antitrust and monopoly charges. According to the New York Times, Uber responded by calling the taxi industry “corrupt and greedy,” which is pretty hilarious coming from Uber.
What’s even more unusual is that Times quote comes via their revelation that Uber and Flywheel are now in partnership talks to put Flywheel cabs on Uber’s app. The talks are so advanced that it seems an agreement is already in place, and now they’re seeking SFMTA approval.
“I’m optimistic if this deal goes through we will make up for all these years that were down,” longtime taxi driver and current Flywheel operations manager Muwaffaq Mustafa told the Times. “More calls, more value, and it’s more money.”
The SFMTA would have to approve this arrangement, and it’s already on their April 5 board of directors meeting agenda. So Uber and Flywheel apparently have all the details worked out between them.
So how would this work? It sounds as if Uber would just add Flywheel as an option on its app.
“If San Francisco approves so-called ‘third-party dispatch services’ like Uber to participate, the upfront cost that Uber charges customers to get a taxi through its app will not be required to be the same as a metered taxi ride,” the Times reports. “That means they could charge the same price as a typical UberX car ride, which is often cheaper than a taxi ride.”
Uber is short on drivers these days, which has apparently led to this once-unthinkable partnership between the rideshare company and the industry that it set out to "disrupt" a decade ago. According to The Verge, Uber recently struck a similar deal with New York City’s yellow cabs.
But taxis have always been free of surge pricing, which led to a resurgence of cab use last summer when surge pricing got wildly out of control. Some drivers expressed concern that those spikes would shoo away longtime customers. But for most cabbies, the value of this proposition is simple. If they make more money they will like it; if they make less money they will hate it.
Yet a few cabbies have more complicated feelings about making a deal with Uber of Lyft. “My morals, ethics and principles would never allow me to be part of that,” SF cab driver Marcelo Fonseca told the Times.
Image: Dan B. via Yelp