Uber Partnering with Yellow Cab and Flywheel: What It Means for Drivers 

As permitted by the San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency, Uber announced that it is joining forces with Flywheel and Yellow Cab to offer rides via the Uber app in the city. 

Taxicabs that utilize the Flywheel app or Yellow Cab’s YoTaxi SF app will be able to offer their services on Uber, meaning that riders may have their next ride in a colored taxi cab. 

This move signals the start of a plan to get all taxi drivers using Uber by 2025. 

For taxi drivers using both their respective apps to hail rides and the Uber app, this may help them double up on opportunities. 

But what does it mean for drivers exclusively relying on the Uber app for work? Let’s dive into the partnership before navigating just how the chance might influence Uber drivers. 

How It Works

Rather than hailing a taxi in real-time, riders will be able to order them on the Uber ride in a process identical to the traditional Uber experience. 

Riders, when placing a ride, can do everything digitally, including seeing what the price is for the ride. 

Once matched with a driver, passengers can see the car, and the driver is set to pick them up. If all is well, nothing more will need to be done. 

Alternatively, if the rider wants to change the car or cancel the ride, they can also do so within the app. The program, while a pioneer in San Francisco, is not the first of its kind. Uber actually employed a similar pilot in NYC (more on that below). 

Expected Outcomes of the Program

Fare Transparency 

Historically, one of the main drawbacks to hailing a taxi rather than ordering a ride is the lack of transparency. 

With rideshare apps, a passenger knows exactly what they’re going to pay upfront and can choose to approve that rate by ordering a ride or looking for an alternative. 

Using this pilot program, passengers can have the taxi experience and be able to benefit from that transparency at their fingertips. 

As noted by the San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency, “Allowing taxi customers to select a flat rate advance fare is intended to improve customer service, enable customers to price shop among similar services and minimize meter anxiety that occurs when customers feel that the Taximeter rate is increasing beyond their expectation.”

Strengthening the Taxi Workforce

One benefit of the program, as toted by its organizers, is the revitalization of taxis in the ride-hailing space. 

Rather than continuing to compete with major companies like Uber and Lyft, this partnership allows taxi companies like Flywheel and Yellow Cab to join forces. 

Continuing on the benefit of fare transparency, SFMTA says, “The price flexibility is intended to increase the number of taxi trips and allow taxis to be more competitive in the for-hire transportation marketplace.”

Putting the Driver Feud to Rest

Since the rideshare companies’ inception, namely Uber and Lyft, there has been discourse between the tech companies and good ole fashioned taxi drivers. 

While a partnership like this won’t put all of those feelings to bed, especially the ones of blame toward rideshare companies for putting taxis out of business, it signals a new generation of drivers, one in which both types of ride offerings can find success. 

More Drivers on the Road

What better way to ensure that there is always enough supply to meet demand than to utilize the resources already on the street? 

With this pilot program, Uber stands to benefit just as much as Flywheel or Yellow Cab. Issues of driver shortages are set to improve with the help of a strengthened workforce. 

Plus, the multi-use of taxi cabs helps to ensure they stay busy with enough passengers to go around. 

But how do these benefits impact already established rideshare drivers? 

Taxi and Uber Partnership Effect on Uber Drivers

While an agreement between taxis and Uber sounds great on paper, many wonder what it will actually mean for sole Uber drivers and passengers. 

The first phase of the program is focused on the Flywheel rollout. According to Flywheel’s president, there are 750 cab users using Flywheel Technologies. Most of these drivers have decided to participate in the Uber partnership. 

What this means is an additional 750 drivers using Uber and being propelled forward via the partnership. 

While Uber has never been an exclusive app, aside from a few basic requirements to become a driver, the incorporation of an additional 750 established drivers means more competition. 

Yellow Cab, specifically those using the YoTaxi SF app, is expected to also be incorporated shortly. That’s an additional 300 taxis to join the pilot program. 

So with the automatic rollout of over 1,000 drivers working on behalf of Uber in addition to their own respective taxi companies, the shakeup of the rideshare space is one of concern. 

Uber and taxi companies will not know the true impact of the program until it’s rolled out and passenger and driver feedback come in. 

The company says

“As we continue to update and test our taxi offerings, we’re excited to announce that beginning today in San Francisco, some riders may be matched with a San Francisco taxicab if they’re nearby. We look forward to learning from rider and driver feedback about this pilot as we work towards our goal of getting every taxi on Uber by 2025.”

For drivers looking to double down on both Uber and their taxi company – they’re vulnerable to seeing a reduction in profit despite potentially more work. 

In some cases, rides via Uber may be cheaper than a traditional metered ride, and Uber will also be taking a cut of those profits, cutting down on the benefits for drivers. 

Looking Forward & Expected Outcomes

The future of the Uber and taxi partnership is uncertain, though the one-year pilot has been locked in. To help understand where the program is headed, drivers can look to one that’s already been instated: New York City. 

New York adopted a similar policy earlier this year, and while data is still preliminary as the two-year program continues forward, initial data can point us in the right direction. 

Early data from the New York pilot saw complaints from drivers, including: 

  • Unjust cancellation fees on behalf of drivers
  • Unclear fare displays that many drivers could not see until they were picking up a passenger
  • Non-transparent messaging for drivers
  • Hidden fees that are hard to understand or unjust (fees for taking different routes than outlined by apps)

As Uber pilots another city partnership in San Francisco between taxi companies and its app, more issues like the above are likely to be highlighted. 

As a result, drivers may see more changes on all sides of the rideshare game as the program continues to expand – and potentially – accomplish Uber’s goal of having every taxi driver working for Uber one day.