Taxi hailing app mytaxi is set to launch a pooling service next year that allows users to share rides to cut costs, according to CEO Andrew Pinnington.

The company piloted the new service in Warsaw two months ago in order to check whether the underlying matching algorithm works and obtain feedback from customers, which Pinnington says has been ‘very positive’.

© RTE

“We see this as a huge opportunity in much of our European footprint so we will be rolling it out through 2018,” he told Techworld during an interview at Web Summit in Lisbon.

The service is similar to ‘UberPOOL’, however Pinnington dismisses comparisons with Uber.

“In the UK Uber is in a very strong position in the market. But most of the other markets we operate in, they either don’t exist or are a small competitor,” he says.

Mytaxi perhaps hopes to capitalise on what’s been a turbulent year for Uber that included losing its licence to operate in London and the installation of new CEO Dara Khosrowshahi to replace founder Travis Kalanick. Mytaxi's unique selling point is that all cabs on the platform are driven by licensed taxi drivers.

“At the heart of mytaxi is licensed, regulated, safe, secure and authorised transport,” Pinnington says.

“There are three pillars to the business: passengers, drivers and regulators. We want to find one that pleases all of them, while some of our competitors just go for passengers, then everything else is forced to follow,” he adds.

Mytaxi operates in nine European countries in almost 100 cities, including Germany, Spain Portugal, Ireland and Italy. It is three-quarters owned by German car giant Daimler, with the rest of the business owned by a consortium of venture capitalists.

In March 2017 mytaxi took over the Hailo brand, having acquired the rival in June 2016. The merger brought its own set of challenges, Pinnington admits.

“We did something from a tech perspective that hasn’t been done: moving millions of passengers and drivers from one brand to another. I think probably the biggest challenge was managing change in the minds of our customers...dealing with the psychological impact was the hardest thing,” he says.

“There’s a lot of different rationales for going with mytaxi. It’s much more internationally portable, does what it says on the tin. We’re building a truly international pan-European business. The network effects are growing every month,” Pinnington adds.

The UK is Europe's biggest taxi market, but mytaxi doesn't expect 'brand cut-through' there for some time, Pinnington admits.

The main technical challenge facing mytaxi is scaling engineering resources and talent, he says.

“There is a demand for customisation, speed and a dynamism within the industry, so it's a challenge trying to keep up with that,” he says.

The rationale behind Daimler investing in mytaxi is largely to help the business prepare for a future world where car ownership goes dramatically into decline, and driverless cars become the norm.

“At the moment, the power of negotiating lies with the car company. But in future you'll just need a car to go from here to there, and that vehicle may be owned by someone who owns 30,000 vehicles. Suddenly they've been disintermediated from the consumer,” says Pinnington.

This shift has already started to happen. Just 75% of people have driving licenses whereas a generation ago it was 90-95%, so the trend towards declining car ownership has already started.

While mytaxi is in a good position to capitalise from this shift, Pinnington is sanguine about the pace of change.

“I think you won't see the full impact for at least another generation, if not more,” he says.

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