SEOUL, Jan. 19 (Korea Bizwire) – Uber Technologies Inc. said Tuesday it released a premium cab-hailing service in South Korea as part of efforts to tap deeper into the local market and catch up with its bigger rival Kakao Corp.
The service, dubbed Uber BLACK, allows users to book premium taxis through a smartphone application. The operator said its registered drivers have accident-free experience of at least five years and are provided with a service-education program.
The premium taxis, which boast a bigger capacity compared to existing black-colored deluxe taxis, are given more leeway, as they do not require meters nor taxi signs and are allowed to freely set prices.
The fare for Uber BLACK starts at 8,000 won (US$6.61), which hovers high above the 3,000 won decided for general cabs in Seoul. Uber said users can also track themselves while traveling and share their locations in real time.
Uber, which first tapped the South Korean market in 2013, has been operating cab-booking services in South Korea. UberX, a smartphone app that links riders to the nearest driver available in the area, was suspended for an indefinite period in March due to legal issues.
Its cab-hailing app, UberTaxi, which connects a rider to a general licensed taxi driver, however, survived.
Uber BLACK, meanwhile, earlier clinched an agreement with Kia Motors Corp., choosing the K9 full-sized luxury sedan as the flagship model of the new service. Uber BLACK drivers are thus able to purchase a K9 at a special rate.
Industry watchers said the latest service rolled out by Uber will seek a head-on challenge with Kakao’s KakaoTaxi, which currently leads the South Korean cab-booking market.
Kakao, the operator of South Korea’s most popular messenger app KakaoTalk, kicked off its own premium taxi service in October, dubbed KakaoTaxi Black.
The mobile giant has been operating KakaoTaxi since March and has received 50 million calls as of mid-December. The company has been posting a huge success in the mobile service industry, with KakaoTalk being used by around 37 million users in the country with a population of 50 million.’