Uber, the company whose app allows users to book, pay for and track a private car service for a premium price, is launching a new, cheaper variant in Chicago dubbed Uber Taxi. Chicago already has Uber's regular car service, which usually costs about 50 percent more than a cab, but the city also has a plethora of taxis (unlike, say, New York). While Uber says its service is seeing 30 to 40 percent growth month over month in the Windy City, its main competition in the market is far fiercer than in many other major markets, hence the TAXI service.
Uber Taxi — which is already running for a small sample of randomly chosen Chicagoans — partners the service with select individual cab drivers, charging users regular cab fare plus 20 percent to cover gratuity and service fees. Uber told TechCrunch that most of that fee goes directly to the driver, with Uber's cut being in the low single digits. A spokesperson for the company told us the service allows drivers to make better use of their downtime, and carries additional benefits for them, including guaranteed tips, and "enhanced safety" from knowing their customer and payments in advance. The move could potentially shake up the vibrant taxi market in Chicago, but many local companies already offer a similar service, via TaxiMagic, which allows online booking in many cities in addition to mobile apps. TaxiMagic also allows users to track cabs via GPS, and to pay with their phones — minus the 20 percent surcharge.