Uber on Wednesday announced that it has taken in $3.5 billion in funding from Saudi Arabia’s sovereign investment fund.
The deal, the largest investment ever in a private company, will likely help the San Francisco, Calif. firm in its quest to create ride-hailing markets around the world. While Uber is the foremost such service in the United States, it faces stiff homegrown competition in countries like China and India, where it is spending massive sums to compete.
Among Uber’s efforts to attract new customers in foreign markets is a series of ride options that go beyond typical cars and SUVs. Here’s a look at experiments Uber has attempted, often an adaptation of transportation popular with locals.
UberAUTO Rickshaws (India)
Uber launched an option to hail rickshaws (or “autos”) in New Delhi in April 2015, saying it recognized the “history and value of autos to the transportation landscape” in the Indian city. The rickshaw service also marked the first time Uber allowed for cash as a payment option. However, the service was quietly cancelled towards the end of that year, with some reports suggesting that local users preferred the old-school method of flagging down an auto.
Would you ride shotgun on a motorbike to get from A to B? That’s what plenty of commuters in Thailand’s capital do every day, a habit embraced by Uber this past February with UberMOTO. “UberMOTO enables people looking to save time and money on short trips to book a ride on a motorcycle at the push of a button and enjoy the most affordable option available in Bangkok,” reads an Uber blog post.
If you’re traveling around Istanbul and you need to take a quick hop across the Bosphorus, UberBOAT, launched in 2015, is one option — and a very high-tech way to cross from Europe to Asia and vice versa.
Is there anything more quintessentially New York elitist than skipping the summer traffic out east by taking a helicopter to the Hamptons? Uber allowed for exactly that back in 2013, partnering with a local helicopter chartering company to offer whirlybird rides to the city’s favorite hot-weather getaway. The cost? $3,000 for up to five passengers, plus door-to-door SUV pickup. (Uber has repeated this stunt with music festivals and other events.)
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