Uber rival Ola will launch in London “in the coming weeks”

The SoftBank-backed ride-hailing service Ola has decided to pounce on Uber losing its London license by beginning to register licensed drivers in the UK capital as it prepares to launch operations in the city.

Ola first entered the UK market over a year ago when it picked up licenses in South Wales and Greater Manchester before launching in Cardiff. It has since expanded its service across Birmingham, Liverpool, Exeter, Reading, Bristol, Bath, Coventry, and Warwick, and is now available in more than 250 cities across the UK, India, Australia, and New Zealand. It got the nod to enter London earlier this year.

The Indian ride-hailing service offers 24/7 helplines for customers and drivers, an in-app emergency button, driver facial recognition technology, and driver image verification against driving license photographs, amongst other features.

“We are inviting the tens of thousands of PHV drivers across London to register themselves on the Ola platform, as we prepare to launch in the city in the coming weeks,” said Simon Smith, head of international at Ola. “We have built a robust mobility platform for London which is fully compliant with TfL’s high standards. We have had constructive conversations with the authorities, drivers, and local communities in London over the past months, and look forward to contributing towards solving mobility issues in innovative and meaningful ways.”

Uber lost its license to operate in London this week after Transport for London (TfL) refused to grant the company a private hire operator’s license. This followed a 17-month period – a 15-month provisional license with a two-month extension – where Uber was supposed to clean up its act. Despite it being recognised that Uber had made positive changes in the period, it was identified as still being responsible for failures that put passengers’ safety at risk. Uber also received a fine of £385,000 in November 2018 for a data breach which took place between October and November 2016. The ride-hailing giant is appealing the loss of its London license and can continue to operate as normal during that process.