The US technology firm Uber said it is adding thousands of new passengers every week to its smartphone private car hire service in Leeds.
The Silicon Valley giant launched in Leeds last November and today unveiled a new product to strengthen its position in its third UK market behind London and Manchester.
Tom Elvidge, general manager in Leeds, told The Yorkshire Post that Uber has seen “tremendous demand and really strong growth” and said “there is a real buzz across the city”.
Uber is one of the world’s fastest-growing businesses and now operates in nearly 270 cities across the globe.
It works by connecting passengers and drivers via a smartphone app, cutting out the middleman of the established private hire company.
Uber’s growth potential was highlighted in a fundraising late last year that valued the four-and-a-half-year-old business at $40bn.
The new product, Uber XL, offers a six-person vehicle and was launched following feedback from customers in West Yorkshire.
Mr Elvidge said Uber launched the product on the same day in Manchester and London in October and it has since proved to be very successful in both cities.
He said Uber has had “a very positive” welcome in Leeds, even from incumbent taxi firms as it offers a complementary service.
He added: “We feel we have got a compelling product and we have managed to price it in such a way that works really well for passengers and drivers alike.
“The feedback we have got from passengers has been excellent. With Uber, that is something that we track very closely.
“We are obsessed with data and getting feedback from passengers and we can see it has been very well received.”
He said the average time of arrival has been reduced to three minutes in Leeds, only slightly longer than it takes to wait for an Uber car in San Francisco and New York.
Mr Elvidge declined to discuss how many drivers Uber has signed up in Leeds, citing commercial confidentiality.
“But we are adding thousands of new passengers every week and given that our ETAs are as low as that we are managing to keep in lockstep with growing the supply base as quick as the demand has grown,” he said.
“That’s my role as the general manager in the city to make sure that those two variables of supply and demand are growing commensurate with one another and we have managed to do that because I think we have a really compelling story to tell drivers.”
Uber said its drivers can make more money because its technology helps them to reduce wasted time between fares.
The company’s rapid growth has triggered multiple disputes in cities across the world, often led by incumbent firms.
Mr Elvidge was formerly a vice president at Goldman Sachs in New York, heading up derivative operations strategy.
He said his background proved “uncannily relevant” for working at Uber in analysing large data sets and being able to spot trends and identify areas for improvement.
Uber can create 50,000 jobs in Europe this year, claims CEO
Travis Kalanick, the chief executive and co-founder of Uber, claims his technology-based private car hire service can create 50,000 jobs in Europe this year.
Speaking at an event in Germany on Sunday, the American entrepreneur said Uber can become a cost-effective replacement for car ownership.
He said there are 1bn cars in the world, of which 96 per cent are under-utilised. These assets have a combined value of $20 trillion, he added, and take up 15 per cent of space in cities.
Mr Kalanick said: “We can go to any mayor in any city and say, if we can find a way to partner up, we can promise you 10,000 jobs in four years.”
He wants to see a streamlining of the licensing process.