Uber might have cornered the market on ridesharing, but now tech's biggest disrupter is being disrupted itself with news that rival app GoCatch is launching its own ridesharing service.
The Australian-developed taxi-hailing app launched in 2011 and, with 35,000 drivers and 100,000 bookings a month, has long competed against Uber in the taxi space. Just like Uber, GoCatch allows users to download an app, link a credit card for cashless payment and then call a cab with the swipe of a finger, before tracking the taxi in real-time and getting a receipt emailed at the end of the ride.
But now, after the recent regulation of ridesharing in the ACT and NSW, GoCatch is getting into the sharing economy. And, most importantly for passengers, they're promising cheaper fares.
Available in Sydney from today, GoCar allows users to get a ride from a registered driver in a regular car, sidestepping more expensive taxi fares. GoCar will run on peak and offpeak rates and, unlike Uber, won't increase fares during heavy-demand periods in a 'surge pricing' model.
"There's no doubt that a lot of people really don't like the surge pricing that Uber has in their platform," GoCatch CEO Ned Moorfield told CNET. "We think it's just blatant price gouging that goes on during busy periods, so we're taking a different approach."
Moorfield gave us the low-down on GoCar payments:
- Peak -- 10-15 percent cheaper than taxi
- Offpeak -- 20-30 percent cheaper than taxi
- Accepts Visa, Amex, MasterCard, Diners, PayPal
- No Cabcharge -- drivers won't have payment terminals
- 15 percent commission for drivers (compared to Uber's 20 percent)
But while GoCatch says it's ready to take on Uber, the new GoCar service certainly has a lot to thank its competitor for when it comes to laying the ridesharing groundwork in Australia.
"There are definitely some really significant advantages in being second to market," said Moorfield.
"Uber has obviously run ahead on the ridesharing model and pushed for a lot of changes with the regulators...And that was really something we were waiting to see happen, because we didn't have the kind of level of funding to throw at expensive legal teams and paying lots of fines."
The service will launch in Sydney's eastern suburbs, inner west and lower north shore, but Moorfield is hoping to rollout nationally (though, he says, not before ridesharing is regulated in each region). There's no word on how many drivers have signed up at launch, but GoCar will start with a "core base" and build up incrementally.
And watch out, Uber. Some of your ridesharing drivers could be targeted to make the switch.
"We've found some good channels to get the message through to some existing ride sharing drivers, and that's working really well," said Moorfield. "A lot of ride sharing drivers are either ex- or current taxi drivers. So our database of 35,000 taxi drivers is really valuable in that way as well."
But while that link with the legacy taxi industry has underpinned GoCatch until now, GoCar marks a new direction for the company. And as it jostles up against Uber, GoCar could fall out of favour with some taxi drivers, many of whom have resisted (and even protested) the arrival of ridesharing.
"We certainly don't want to be anchored to the taxi industry," said Moorfield. "The taxi industry is important and we're not walking away from the taxi drivers that we have on the platform...But it's a new world order, and the taxi industry is really slow to innovate."
The move into ridesharing, it would seem, has an "element of inevitability."
"There's always that challenge of disrupting your own business model, but we think on balance it's absolutely the right way forward," said Moorfield. "The industry can try and stick their head in the sand, but it will be to their detriment...the taxi industry and taxi drivers really need to embrace this change."