Global Watch: Uber Nears 1 Million Daily Rides In China

According to a leaked email from Uber CEO Travis Kalanick, Uber is seeing tremendous growth in the Chinese market, logging in 1 million daily rides, which is as many as Uber has in all of its global markets combined. Encouraged by the promising prospects, Kalanick revealed the company intends to raise $1 billion specifically for Uber’s expansion in China.

While the numbers may seem impressive as a standalone, they pale in comparison to Uber’s competitors in China. Kuaidi and Didi, two most popular cab-hailing apps in China backed respectively by domestic giants Alibaba and Tencent, both report that they each book up to 6 million rides a day. And a surprise merger of the two announced back in February created Kuaidi-Didi, a mammoth that now cover over 95% of the market share.

For now, Uber only operates in 11 cities in China, and its recent fast growth is likely due to its newfound alliance with Baidu, who, interestingly, is looking to launch a driverless car later this year. In the face of the formidable Kuaidi-Didi and other obstacles such as crackdowns from local authorities, Uber sure has an uphill battle to fight if it were to win over the Chinese market.

Update 06/15/2015: Right on the heels of UberChina’s $1 billion fundraising plan, Didi Kuaidi counteracts by seeking $1.5 billion in new funding round.

New Food Delivery Services Push For Prix-Fixe Menu

On-demand food delivery has been a growing market in the past few years, and today two new services with prominent backers are giving New Yorkers more reasons not to cook. Uber is leveraging its fleet of roaming cars into UberEats, which officially launched in New York City and Chicago. Similarly, Maple, a startup back by Momofuku founder David Chang, has also launched today in the financial district of Manhattan.

Unlike standard food delivery apps that congregate all delivery options from local restaurants, both new services push for curated, prix-fixe menus instead, aiming to eliminate the hassle of choosing from an overwhelming number of options with uneven food qualities and bloated prices. While Maple utilizes a network of celebrity chefs to create its daily rotating menu, UberEats partners with a series of locally renowned salad and sandwich joints to curate its menu selections.

Why Uber Is Buying Its Own Mapping Solution

Read original story on: Mashable

Uber has confirmed that it is acquiring the mapping and search startup deCarta for an unspecified amount.  Uber’s functionality relies on accurate locating and mapping technologies, and this acquisition seems to signal the company’s first step toward decreasing its dependence on the mapping services provided by Google and Apple.

This isn’t the first time that Uber has shown its interests in developing its own mapping system. Previously, Uber was reportedly planning to integrate Baidu Map for users in China through Baidu’s strategic investment. In light of recent news that both Google and Apple are developing their own car technologies, Uber might is clearly looking to step up its mapping game, starting with this acquisition.

Uber Continues To Dominate Transportation

Read original story on: Forbes

You may have noticed the option to take an Uber while searching for routes in Google Maps, but that’s just the start of  Uber’s ongoing vertical integration. Earlier today, the car-hailing company announced a partnership with mobile startup Breathometer to prompt users who have failed its breathalyzer test to call an Uber directly from its app.

Aiming to become the de facto brand for on-demand car services, Uber has been steadily transitioning from being a mere app to being an omnipresent button in any app that remotely relates to transportation, and this newest addition to its string of selected partners will help Uber further expand its reach.

Google Reportedly Developing Its Uber Competitor With Driver-less Cars

Read original story on: Bloomberg Business

Google is preparing to launch its own car-hailing service to work with its self-driving cars, which would put it in direct competition with on-demand car services like Uber or Lyft.  In response, Uber has announced a partnership with Carnegie Mellon University to develop driverless car and mapping technology.

Ironically, Google is also one of its biggest investors for Uber, as the search giant’s venture capital arm Google Ventures invested $258 million in Uber back in August 2013. And Uber currently uses Google Maps data to power its apps for drivers and riders, a fact that could soon change once the competition heats up between the two companies.

Update: New report claims that Google’s own car-hailing app is being developed for internal carpooling only.

For Once, Uber Puts Its Data To Good Use

Read original story on: WSJ

Following heated controversy surrounding its questionable privacy practices, Uber is putting its vast transportation data to good use by lending anonymized trip logs to city officials in hope of easing traffic congestion and improve urban planning. Boston will be the first city to receive such data from Uber, with several U.S. cities to follow. This marks the first time Uber has opened up its database, and it will no doubt help Uber establish some legitimacy in cities where its legal status is still in debate.

Global Watch: What Baidu’s $600M Investment Would Mean For Uber

Despite the storm of controversies surrounding its privacy policy and a string of recent PR crisis, Uber still managed to raise an impressive $1.2 billion in funding earlier this month. Last week it was reportedly set to receive up to $600 million investment from China’s Google, Baidu Inc., presumably for its long-rumored expansion into the Asian market. Today Baidu has confirmed its investment.

Why Baidu Wants Uber

The Chinese ride-on-demand market is currently dominated by Kuaidi Dache and Didi Dache, respectively backed by Alibaba and Tencent. Up until this point, Baidu is the only one out of the BAT— Baidu-Alibaba-Tencent, a popular acronym in China denoting their dominance as top Internet companies—that has been holding off on entering the burgeoning market. By bringing in Uber, Baidu would not have to build a ride-hailing app from scratch, but would  instead use Uber’s well-built app and mature infrastructure to compete with its rivals.

Additionally, Baidu is most likely hoping that Uber would improve the lukewarm performance of its mobile payment app, Baidu Wallet, so as to compete with Alipay, the formidable digital payment system backed by Alibaba, or even WeChat Wallet, embedded by Tencent in its massively popular messaging app.

Why Uber Needs Baidu More

For Uber, investment from Baidu would mean it might finally be getting the localization it desperately needs to conquer the much-coveted Chinese market. Beijing, for example, only has around 66,000 licensed cabs at service for its vast population of over 20 million. The Alibaba-backed Kuaidi app alone posted online payment revenue of $2 billion over the past year. And Uber could definitely use Baidu’s massive local clout to navigate this huge, yet highly regulated market. One more benefit for Uber is the integration of Baidu Map. Google Map, which Uber currently uses for across all markets, isn’t the best on the market, similar to Apple Map here in the US.

The Bottom Line

Baidu needs Uber as a convenient proxy to make its long-awaited first move in the on-demand car market, just as much as Uber needs Baidu’s local dominance and expertise. The market might already be congested considering the two local apps from formidable rivals have taken off, but with Baidu’s help, Uber’s ride into the Chinese market might just get significantly less bumpy.

Photo courtesy of Uber

How To Solve The Uber Trust Issue

Read original story on: NYTimes

Uber is having a terrible week. After being sued in Portland and India, banned in Spain and Thailand, and hassled in Rio, the popular on-demand car service received yet another blow when New York Times published an opinion piece titled “We Can’t Trust Uber”, criticizing the way Uber has been handling data generated by Uber rides.

With numerous incidences of data breaches exposed in recent years, consumers have become increasingly aware of the privacy concerns and are therefore looking to take back the control of their personal data. One possible solution to Uber’s data woes would be to do what we have suggested in our POV on the data dilemma: be transparent, be helpful, and get well-informed consent from users.

Why Spotify Is Riding With Uber

Read original story on: Spotify Blog

Earlier today Uber announced a high-profile partnership with Spotify for a deep integration that will make Uber rides more customizable. Starting November 21st, users in ten selected global markets, including New York City and San Francisco, will be able to link their Spotify premium account with their Uber profile, set a playlist for the ride, and wirelessly control the music from either the Uber or Spotify apps during the trip. Support for podcasts are also hinted at in leaked app images.

This partnership signals Uber’s first official entry into connected car, which, if proven successful, could potentially open up new opportunities for on-the-go, hyperlocal marketing,

Redesigned Google Maps Boasts New Hyperlocal Features

Read original story on: Business Insider

Earlier today Google unveiled the latest update of its Google Maps app for both iOS and Android. Revamped with a colorful new design that aligns with Google’s newly introduced “material design” concept, the app added new features such as embedded restaurant reservations enabled by OpenTable and deeper Uber integration that now displays the price for the rides right in the app. Convenient and business-friendly, these new hyperlocal features are sure to be embraced by users and merchants alike.