Chicago Uber Taxi Pilot Program Could Offer Low-Cost Rides On Demand

Smart phone app-based car service Uber is launching an experimental program in Chicago that adds taxis to the lineup, in an effort to make the on-demand pickup service more accessible at a lower price point.

Uber subscribers use Android or iPhone apps to locate black Uber vehicles in the area, reserve a ride, and track the vehicle en route to pick them up. Users are billed directly through their Uber accounts for rides, at a fee about 50 percent higher than a cab ride.

But Wednesday, the company launched Uber TAXI, an experimental service that taxi drivers can opt into which will give Uber users the option of choosing between a higher-priced town car and a taxi ride at a standard rate, while allowing them to pay the fare with their online Uber accounts.

The TAXI option will be rolled out onto select users applications in the coming weeks, according to the company's website. CEO Travis Kalanick explains why Chicago was chosen as the launchpad for Uber TAXI:

Chicago has a combination of significant TAXI capacity (50% more cabs per capita than NYC) and incredibly low prices - 2nd lowest in the country, offering potentially high availability at a great price point. For the consumer: imagine if you could conveniently and reliably request a high quality TAXI from your phone without getting out your wallet.

To entice cab driver participation, the application promises more guaranteed rides and an automatic 20 percent gratuity charge.