Uber opens up API (mostly)

Rideshare company Uber has announced that they are opening their API to third-party developers…but not everything is open yet.

United Airlines is one of the first third party developers who will be integrating portions of the Uber code into their own app. The API will allow them to display fare estimates and time estimates of the closest drivers. But you won’t be able to hail an Uber car from the app.

In a blog post Uber stated, “Apps can pass a destination address to the Uber app, display pickup times, provide fare estimates, access trip history and more. What about requesting a ride? Yes, we’ve implemented that endpoint as well, but because calling it immediately dispatches a real driver in the real world, we’re releasing it in a more controlled fashion, starting with a small set of partners.”

Currently their list of partners includes: Expensify, Hinge, Hyatt Hotels & Resorts, Momento, OpenTable, Starbucks, Tempo Smart Calendar, Time Out, TripAdvisor and TripCase. Uber is already included in Google Maps (one of Uber’s investors) and the company is reported to be in discussions with Facebook to include its service into Facebook Messenger sometime in the future.

Uber’s SVP of business Emil Michael said, "We believe that any app with a map is a potential Uber API partner.” And as far as future partner go, “there are tons of others lined up behind them … to the extent any app grouping people together, they can use our API.”

Uber and Lyft have been in a soft war with traditional taxi services in cities around the world and they’ve run into a few roadblocks with some local governments over insurance, training and screening drivers but this move by Uber is going to stir things up even more.

As another author on TGDaily stated, taxi companies are fighting a losing battle against these ride share upstarts and their main objection is they don’t want anyone stepping on their long-standing monopolies. They don’t want to improve their services or adopt new technologies. They just want Uber and Lyft to go away.

Unfortunately for them, this move by Uber may be a crippling blow. If the world is turning away from traditional landline phones and replacing them with smartphones, and if Uber pops up every time they check a map or an airline or train schedule then they will be even less likely to call a traditional cab.

Now if taxi companies had a similar API that they could open up to airlines and map providers they might have a chance of competing, but I wouldn’t hold my breath.

Guy Wright

Guy Wright has been covering the technology space since the days when computers had cranks and networks were steam powered. He has been a writer and editor for more years then he cares to admit.


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