Uber Technologies, the original online to offline (O2O) taxi hailing service, is tapping into the Korean premium taxi service market again. This puts the company in a tight competition with Kakao’s similar Kakao Taxi Black.
Uber announced on Nov. 11 that it will re-launch its previous Uber Black service, a service that uses luxury private vehicles driven by hired drivers, as a premium taxi service, keeping pace with Seoul City’s plan to introduce a luxury taxi service.
The new Uber Black service will pair independent taxi drivers, who want to provide premium taxi services, in Seoul City with customers, who want to hail cabs, using the Uber platform.
In partnership with Hyundai Motor Group, taxi drivers who use the Uber Black platform will be given a discount on the K9 luxury sedan manufactured by Kia Motors, an affiliate of Hyundai.
Uber has also partnered with Hyundai MNSOFT, a specialized car infotainment provider, to offer location information and navigation services by connecting smartphone navigation software with the Uber application.
The biggest difference in the existing service is that it is now available to all South Koreans. Uber Black was previously limited to a specific group of people such as foreigners and persons with disabilities. However, the new Uber Black will become available to the general public.
The taxi fare has not yet been decided, but it will be similar to its competitor Kakao Taxi Black. Kakao Taxi Black has a basic rate of 8,000 won (US$7), and charges higher fares depending on distance and time, using its own taxi meter. According to Kakao’s simulation results, its fare is 2.5 times higher than mid-size taxis and 1.5 times higher than deluxe taxis.
Uber will release the new Uber Black at the end of this year after it carries out the operation system maintenance, hires and educates “licensed taxi drivers,” and receives approval from Seoul City. The company entered the domestic market in August 2013 with the launch of Uber Black, which offered rides in luxury vehicles through partnerships with local limousine companies. Then, it released its peer-to-peer ride sharing service UberX and taxi hailing service Uber Taxi in succession. However, UberX was shut down in Korea after the authorities and taxi drivers said that it breached local laws.