An Uber Contender Launches Ridesharing Competition in London

Mercedes-Benz and Via have launched their jointly owned ViaVan service in London, offering a different kind of ridesharing experience that is shaping up to be quite the contender against rival, Uber.

The joint venture between Mercedes-Benz and US ride-sharing startup Via allows users to call for a ride shared between several individuals. The app calculates the demand for a route, matches passengers travelling at a similar time, and directs users to a specific location to wait for a ride. The idea is to reduce congestion and offers an alternative to public transportation and other services, since Taxify and Uber lost their licenses to operate in London.

“Londoners deserve innovative transportation solutions that are safe, convenient, and affordable,” said Chris Snyder, CEO of ViaVan in a statement to the press. “ViaVan is a different kind of company: we have social responsibility built into our DNA. Our mission is to power truly dynamic mass transit systems, which reduce congestion in our cities while offering drivers the opportunity to earn a decent living. We are delighted to launch in London and to finally give Londoners an alternative to expensive and inefficient private car services.”

ViaVan reduces congestion and emissions by grouping travelers in as few routes as possible. Riders and drivers will have access to 24/7 real-time support.

“Londoners are amongst the savviest of consumers, always looking for the right mix of quality, cost, convenience, and social impact,” said Luca Parducci, general manager of ViaVan London. “Unlike competitors’ pooling solutions, we’re confident that ViaVan will be a huge hit – a comfortable and convenient way to get around that you can feel good about.”

The service is only available in central London Zones 1 and 2.

The idea is not exactly new, as Uber debuted uberPOOL in New York in December of 2014. Like ViaVan, uberPOOL matches riders going in the same direction, with the rider understanding that he or she may have to go a little out of the way since they are receiving a discounted fare.

uberPOOL had been operating in London since 2015. Uber had to raise its prices for trips at non-peak times because of low demand. ViaVan launched its service with especially low prices in order to compete with the corresponding service. Via emphasizes, “Drivers will earn more on each trip, because ViaVan’s commissions are the cheapest in London.”

London’s regulator Transport for London (TfL) moved to ban Uber from operating in London last year to maintain the safety of passengers and drivers, mostly because it states that Uber lacks approach to report serious criminal offences. Uber has appealed the decision.

“We’re determined to change the way we do business, so we’ll carry on listening and plan to make other improvements over the coming months,” Tom Elvidge, the general manager of Uber U.K., said in a statement in February.

ViaVan is helping drivers make a “decent living,” which is a direct jab at Uber, which has a reputation for underpaying its drivers. ViaVan claims that it takes the smallest cut of any comparable service in London.