Texas showdown for transportation start-ups Uber and GroundLink

The battle is on for two transportation network start-ups that are poised to go head-to-head at SXSW to promote a very similar business model: using an app to book a ride from a network of private cars.

The battle is on for two transportation network start-ups that are poised to go head-to-head at SXSW to promote their private car booking applications.

West-Coast-based Uber has a head start over East Coast transportation veteran LimoRes, which is promoting its new GroundLink app for the iPhone, iPad, and iPod Touch. To close the publicity gap, LimoRes is offering attendees $10 rides in a private car anywhere in Austin, Texas, (including to and from the airport) using the GroundLink iPhone app. Uber, which apparently has appeared at the conference before and so its people know how small Austin is and how impossible it is to drive anywhere during the conference, is offering conference goers a free lift in a fleet of promotional pedicabs using the Uber app. Uber typically pockets 20 percent of the fare, but during the conference will donate its slice of the proceeds to Livestrong.org.

The services are similar in that they let users book a private-livery car using an iPhone. But unlike Uber, GroundLink operates worldwide using affiliates, including in San Francisco, New York, and Austin. However, it seems better suited for longer rides to the airport than running about in town because of steep pricing (for example, $26 to go .7 mile in New York).

Uber, which was born out of the difficulty of finding a cab in San Francisco , creates a network of independently operated private cars that you can book for long or short trips around town and you pay by distance with a $15 minimum. The company recently began service in Palo Alto, Calif., and is planning to expand into 10 geographical areas, including New York , by year's end.

With more than 30,000 attendees expected at the conference next week, there should be lots of demand for the promotional rides. And if you can't snag a pedicab or a car, you can always join Car2Go , although the trip won't be free and you'll need to be your own chauffeur.

Correction: an earlier version of the article stated that Uber was offering free pedicab rides during SXSW. The rides are not free, but are considered cashless because users must pay by credit car using the Uber iPhone or Android app.

 

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