Citymapper is launching an on-demand carpooling service in the capital that's part minicab, part bus, after Transport for London finally approved its application for a private hire licence.
The tech startup, which has been experimenting in recent months with different types of on-demand transport, will serve central London with several eight-seater cars stretching between Clerkenwell and St Pauls on a fixed but potentially flexible network.
Initially the service, called Smart Ride, will be free for seven days before pricing is announced in order to generate interest and feedback from users.
The startup had wanted to provide a similar service using larger vehicles, similar to those used on its bus route in east London, but current regulations do not allow for "bus" routes to be flexible.
For now, Citymapper is parking its bus plans until regulation catches up.
“We believe this is the future of shared transport. We’re putting a lot of time and effort behind it," Citymapper president and head of business Omid Ashtari told City A.M..
"In an ideal world we’d run with this with minibuses, but it's not possible in many places in the world currently. We still believe in buses and are still running CM2 [the east London route]," he said.
"Shared transportation done right means we won’t be working on [buses] right now."
In a blog post published on Tuesday, the startup noted that Uber's previously heavy-handed approach had made it more difficult for others to innovate.
Citymapper had been left waiting months for a PHV licence, City A.M. exclusively revealed in November, signalling its ambitions for launching new types of transport and also its frustrations with the regulatory process.