The cab hailing app Uber has found a new way to reach passengers in Brighton and Hove, by buying Autocab, the software business that supports a leading local taxi firm.
The move is expected to mean that Uber will own the booking and dispatch system used by Southern Taxis which runs City Cabs and South Coast Taxis.
Southern – like most taxi and private hire firms in the country – buys the services of a booking and dispatch software supplier, with most cab companies using one of just a handful of suppliers.
Uber said that the move would give passengers the chance to request an Uber driver or one from a local firm.
And for cabbies, it is expected to mean more business as passengers searching for an Uber could be offered a local firm – and not just in places where Uber has no licence.
The controversial American business’s aggressive tactics have led to resistance and opposition in a number of towns and cities in Britain and elsewhere.
And it faces the prospect of a big tax bill – for VAT – as well as the loss of its licence in London and the possibility that Uber drivers will be classed as workers.
After losing the employment law case, Uber appealed to the Supreme Court, with a judgment due in the autumn. If it loses again, some believe that Uber’s British cab business could go to the wall.
The changes resulting from the Autocab deal are expected to take a few months at least before passengers start receiving the extra choices promised.
Southern and boss Andy Cheesman were approached but had no comment at this stage.
Autocab said: “The only thing that will change is the scale at which we operate.
“Every month thousands of people open the Uber app in places the company doesn’t operate to try to get a trip.
“Uber hasn’t launched a new city since 2016 and through Autocab’s iGo marketplace, like other existing aggregators, Uber will be able to connect these riders with local operators.
“In turn, operators should be able to expand their operations and offer more earnings opportunities to local drivers.
“We believe there are additional revenue opportunities related to our platform for other services, such as delivery and business trips.”
The company told local taxi firms: “Uber … will be directing significant additional demand to your business, supplementing your own trips, which means less dead miles for drivers and greater weekly earnings potential.”