Partnering with Uber, Facebook began testing a new service through its Messenger app. Users of the popular app can now request a ride from Uber simply by choosing “transportation” from a menu.
According to a Facebook post, the Transportation on Messenger service will allow users to contact Uber directly without leaving the app.
“With this new feature, you can request a ride from a car service without ever needing to download an extra app or leave a conversation. It’s super easy and doesn’t take you away from the plans that you’re making with your friends or family.”
As reported by Reuters, Uber’s top competitor, Lyft, will be available on the app in January.
Through Facebook Messenger, Uber has a huge opportunity in front of them by getting access to potentially millions of users worldwide. Previously, someone who needed a ride and wanted to use the ride-hailing service had to download a separate app. Now, with the simplicity of just clicking a button, more and more people are likely to take advantage of driver services.
Once a ride is requested, a user has the ability to track the status of the driver, as well as pay for the ride, all inside Messenger. For a limited time, first time users of the feature will receive a free ride by linking an Uber account to the app.
Trying to topple WeChat, a messaging app from Tencent Holdings LTD, Facebook has been working hard over the last year to make Messenger more attractive. The social media giant added the ability to send and receive money through the app earlier this year.
Facebook is making the Transportation feature available in select areas within the U.S. where Uber operates. Should the new feature be successful, the social juggernaut plans to roll out additional ride-share partners and countries in the near future.
Six-year-old Uber allows just about anyone who owns a car to work with them as an independent contractor. The ride service has operations in almost 60 countries worldwide and stands to bring in about $2 billion this year. Analysts estimate the company is worth over $50 billion, and investors speculate a huge IPO opportunity should the company ever go public.
However, Uber has faced some fierce opposition as of late.
On Wednesday, Uber protesters in Philadelphia gathered in the street and blocked traffic for an hour to demonstrate opposition against ride-sharing businesses. Members of the Taxi Workers Alliance and Philadelphia Limo Association walked to the District Attorney’s Office to demand the self-employed drivers be shut down.
The protesters claim that Uber X and Lyft contractors are illegally operating within the city.
“We can’t advertise in our taxi to make a couple extra dollars. We can’t do a lot of things in our taxis to increase our earnings because of the Parking Authority’s regulation. Meanwhile, they’re not regulating Uber and Uber X and Lyft,” said taxi driver, Jamal Brown, to ABC 6 News.
The Philadelphia Limo Association estimates there are about 12,000 illegal drivers in the city, which are essentially unregulated. They demand the city’s Parking Authority accept responsibility and take action against these drivers.
However, according to the Taxi Workers Alliance, the Parking Authority simply does not have the manpower to control thousands of illegal Uber drivers. The regulatory watchdog does attempt to crack down on them by conducting regular stings of illegitimate ride-sharing operations, but cannot seem to keep up.
An Uber spokesperson said on Wednesday that the company understands the frustrations of taxi and limo drivers as the Parking Authority’s rules make it difficult to make a living. However, the public has made it clear they want more affordable ride options. Uber says statewide reform of ride-sharing rules is needed for the benefit of both riders and drivers.
In a related Inquisitr report, hundreds of taxi drivers created quite a scene in downtown Toronto, Canada, by blocking traffic and honking horns in protest of Uber drivers. One cab driver even attacked an alleged Uber contractor during the demonstration.
Working through the Messenger app from Facebook, Uber will seamlessly be able to provide customers a ride service without having to use a separate app or perform a Google search. And despite opposition from rival companies, unions, and government regulators, it would appear Uber is here to stay.
[Photo by Justin Sullivan/Spencer Platt/Getty Images]