Uber launches 55 wheelchair-accessible vehicles in London that can be booked via the Uber app. Calling the new fleet of specially adapted vehicles ‘UberWAV’, the vehicles will be able to be called with a simple push of a button for the same rate as UberX fares.
The efforts towards improving vehicle accessibility for disabled travellers has been seen as a positive move by many, and accessibility charities were able to help in the development of the new Uber service. This will also help Brighton councillors with their decision to grant Uber a licence to operate in the town after questions were raised about options for wheelchair users.
Uber have announced that they are to invest more than £1m into the scheme over the next 18 months to help establish the project in London. The launch of UberWAV has been supported by Scope, Whizz-Kidz and Transport for All.
The new wheelchair-accessible vehicles will be fully equipped with a rear-entry ramp, winch and restraints, allowing wheelchair users to travel with one additional companion. 55 new vehicles are being introduced into their current fleet, but the company plan to increase this number to more than 100 vehicles over the next few months.
The UberWAV project is being launched with an expected waiting time of about 25 minutes in Zones 1-2 and around 40 minutes in Zones 3-4 during the first few weeks of the roll-out.
As the service expands the company hope to improve on the waiting times with the introduction of more adapted vehicles. The project is making the headlines as one of the biggest investments ever to happen in the area of accessible private hire in London.
Despite facing opposition from already wheelchair accessible black cabs, the new Uber service is seen as a step in the right direction from leading disability charities such as Whizz-Kids. The introduction of the new initiative has been welcomed because it will give disabled people living in London more choice when planning their travel around the city.
Currently, London is the only place in the UK where UberWAV has been implemented, and Uber hope this will be the catalyst for expansion into other cities around the country. It is thought that the company have been keen to launch wheelchair accessible vehicles for a while. A recent court case settlement in California after Uber drivers had been accused of turning away disabled passengers with guide dogs is thought to have also added to the pressure to roll out adapted vehicles across their fleets.
Black cabs in London are already able to carry disabled passengers due to their large doors, folding back seats and ample available space. This presents obvious competition to Uber, so launching adapted vehicles has given them more chance to be competitive in the private hire market.
The introduction of the adapted vehicles has come at a time that has seen the launch of a potential rival to Uber in London. Karhoo is an app that allows travellers to compare prices and book licensed taxis and private hire vehicles – this includes everything from black cabs to executive cars.
Karhoo will enable users to access more choice with over 30,000 vehicles in London. There will be no surge pricing during peak times, unlike Uber, and users can book multiple journeys and be given a final price at the time of booking. The company offer their customers better transparency with their bookings to make it easier than ever to travel in and around London.