India’s ride-hailing platform Ola is now in London – where Uber faces the threat of being banned – after teaming up with industry leaders DriveTech, Mercer and Pearson, the company announced in a press release on Monday (Feb. 10).
SoftBank-backed Ola tapped DriveTech (part of the U.K. motoring association AA) to improve its drivers’ skills, with each driver completing a risk assessment and eLearning modules to receive a DriveTech Permit to Drive. In addition, every Ola driver in London also passed the Versant spoken English test from Pearson. Drivers also completed Ola’s customer service test, which was established with Mercer.
Ola said its app is similar to Uber’s, but it has additional safety-focused features.
“We aspire to be the market leader in London,” Simon Smith, Ola’s head of international, told CNBC. “We believe that, with our proposition around quality and safety, offering a great experience not only for customers but drivers as well, there is no reason why we can’t be the leader in this market.”
London drivers will get six weeks of zero commission, after which Ola said it is committed to giving drivers the top commission rate in each market.
Ola will work with Transport for London (TfL) and local authorities, and will employ global best practices. In celebration of the launch, people who join the platform in the first week will receive up to £25 in ride vouchers.
In November, TfL declined to renew Uber’s license to operate due to a “pattern of failures” that put passengers at risk. Uber is still in London pending an appeal of TfL’s decision.
“We are thrilled to now be live in London. This is a major milestone for our business, and represents the next step in our ambitions to connect people in cities throughout the country,” Smith said in the release. “We are proud of the progress Ola has made in the U.K. and we look forward to building on our success by offering a differentiated service to Londoners, focused on quality, safety and reliability.”
Ola announced in June that plans were in the works to establish a technology center in Silicon Valley, near rival Uber. The company said it will hire more than 150 engineers for the tech center, which will focus on research into areas ranging from electric cars to autonomous vehicles and artificial intelligence (AI).