Along the lines of its previous announcement, Ola has today succcessfully gone live on the streets of London. The company says that it is currently going live with three categories: Comfort, Comfort XL and Exec ride classes. Combined, there are currently over 25000 drivers on the platform across all these three categories, which Ola believes will “bring scale” to London right from the beginning.
In order to train its driver partners, the company has partnered with ‘established leaders’ to ensure driver standards across the market. These partnerships are largely around focus on rider safety and overall driver soft skills.
Ola will partner with DriveTech (part of the AA) to use their driving risk assessment to improve the level of driving skills and knowledge of all drivers on Ola in London. Each driver has completed a risk assessment and is given complimentary E-Learning modules to further accelerate their professional development. On completing these modules they will receive a DriveTech Permit to Drive, attesting to their skills.
In addition, every Ola driver in London has passed the Versant spoken English test, from education experts Pearson plc, ensuring a high level of communication in English.
In terms of driver benefits, the company will initially start with six weeks of zero commission. Post the six week period, Ola will work with drivers on a “market-leading commission” rates model. Specifics for the same are now known as of now.
Ola says that it has laid special focus on User safety, with some top-of-the line features. The company has rolled out ‘Guardian’, which uses AI and machine learning to automatically detect irregular vehicle activity, a ‘Start Code’ feature to ensure customers and drivers are correctly matched, 24/7 voice support for riders and drivers, and a cap of six penalty points for drivers on its platform.
Ola had been granted a 15 month license to operate in London in July last year. However, safety and security are major concerns in the U.K., which delayed the launch. The company entered the region even before that, sometime in 2018. Ola on its end, has emphasized its concern for security, adding that the platform offers a range of security features, such as a 24/7 helpline for drivers and customers and an in-app emergency button.
Ola has expanded rapidly throughout the United Kingdom (UK) since its launch in 2018 and will now operate across 28 local authorities. The company claims to have seen “more than double-digit growth” in rides in cities including Birmingham, Coventry and Warwick. To date, Ola claims to have already provided over 3 million rides with more than 11,000 drivers operating on the platform in the UK.
The company is among the most funded global ride hailing companies and perhaps Uber’s fiercest competitor as on date. Ola has raised close to $3.5 billion till date from the likes of Softbank, Tencent, and Chinese ride-hail firm Didi Chuxing (also a recipient of SoftBank money). Ola’s entry into a market like London will only result in more problems for Uber, which continues to face headwinds globally.
Uber had its license revoked in a November 2019 ruling, as the platform was accused of carelessness and it was found that drivers on the platform were faking their identities. The ruling was given on the grounds that Uber failed to meet the “fit and proper” requirements for private hire operators.
Uber however still remains operational in the area as the company has appealed on the decision, claiming that it was “just wrong” and that they had fundamentally changed how they operate in the region over the last couple of years.
Updated with information on Ola’s safety features.