Uber adds UberXL ride-sharing service in Charlotte

Uber, the ride-sharing app that’s drawn the ire of taxi companies, said Friday that it’s launching UberXL in Charlotte, in addition to its black car and private car services.

UberXL offers customers larger vehicles such as SUVs and minivans that can seat up to six passengers. Like Uber’s other services, riders summon an UberXL with an app on their phones that pairs them with an amateur driver using their personal car. Payment is made with a rider’s credit card saved in Uber’s app, so the experience can feel more like getting a ride from a friend than taking a cab.

Uber started operating in Charlotte last year, along with Lyft, another ride-sharing app. The company offers UberX services, in which amateur drivers use their own regular cars to ferry passengers around, and “black car” services, which offers rides in a vehicle similar to a town car.

In Charlotte, cab drivers are clashing with Uber and Lyft over new regulations. The taxi companies say Uber and Lyft can undercut them because they’re less regulated. Uber and Lyft drivers don’t go through city-mandated background checks and city inspections as do cab drivers in Charlotte, though the companies screen them, and the ride-sharing companies don’t pay the same licensing fees.

Other states, including Virginia and Maryland, also are struggling to figure out regulations for the new companies, while cab drivers have staged traffic-blocking protests in cities from Washington, D.C., to London and Paris.

The Charlotte City Council is planning to consider new regulations soon. The draft regulations have left the cab companies, Uber and Lyft unhappy, however. They would require background checks for Uber and Lyft drivers as well as inspections for their cars, which the companies say would be so onerous it would discourage their part-time, amateur drivers from working.

Cab companies, on the other hand, have said the regulations would still give Uber and Lyft an advantage by not requiring the same licensing fees from the companies.

The new rules would deregulate cab fares, which are currently set by the city. That could allow cab companies to drop their prices and compete more effectively with Uber and Lyft.

In their UberXL announcement, the company touted its price advantage over cabs for hypothetical rides. Even though UberXL has higher base fares than UberX ($2.55 a mile vs. $1.25 a mile), the company said it’s cheaper than putting six people in a Charlotte cab. For example, the company’s price comparison showed UberXL would cost $25 for a ride from uptown to SouthPark, vs. $34 in a taxi.