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Uber adds advance bookings in London

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Transport app Uber has allowed customers in London to book journeys up to 30 days in advance.

Until now, passengers could order a car only when they were ready to ride.

Passengers may still be charged a higher “surge price” at the time of their scheduled ride if there is high demand for Uber vehicles on the day.

The feature will be enabled for business users in London first, with other Londoners getting access over the next two weeks.

Surge pricing increases the cost of fares when there is high demand for Uber vehicles.

Cars booked in advance will be subject to surge pricing – but passengers will have the option to cancel a booking if it is too expensive.

Analysis by Leo Kelion, Technology desk editor

Uber’s latest move should help it take a bigger bite out of the business travel market.

Companies will be able to use Uber, knowing executives won’t have to wait for a post-meeting pick-up or early morning trip to the airport.

But unlike at many minicab companies, the passenger and motorist are not paired in advance.

Uber will need to work out when to send a car towards each pre-booked pick-up, taking into account not only traffic but the likelihood that the driver will actually accept the request.

London is a big city, giving Uber a big pool of drivers to call on – it has 30,000 “partners” in the city – but it must deliver a reliable service if it is to woo passengers away from the likes of Addison Lee.

A bigger issue could be that Uber’s drivers won’t necessarily wait if a customer is running late. Other minicab companies will – for an added fee.

Uber says if there’s a last minute delay, it will be up to the passenger to try to convince the driver to stay.

But the fact surge pricing could still kick in may deter some riders, especially when it comes to scheduling a rush-hour trip.

Scheduled rides were first introduced in Seattle on 9 June and now operate in several US cities.

Uber is also testing a travelcard-style option in cities such as San Francisco and Miami, which lets riders buy access to cheaper fares.

For example, riders in San Francisco can pay $20 (£15) upfront in exchange for 20 Uber Pool rides that will cost an additional $2 each.

Uber told Business Insider: “We’re always thinking about ways to make Uber an affordable, everyday option, and this is a small beta we’re running as part of that effort.”

The company is currently in a dispute with Transport for London (TfL) over plans to make private-hire drivers not from English-speaking countries take an English test.

Uber revealed last week that it had made a pre-tax loss of $520m (£394m) in its last quarter, bringing its total loss to date to $4bn over its seven year history.

Uber adds advance bookings in London

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