Google has removed the ability to book Uber cabs directly from Google Maps. The app now shows a fare estimate and an “open app” option to be able to book a cab. The company removed the feature quietly, without any explanation. It removed the feature from iOS last year and now has removed it from Android.
Google made a fuss about it when it originally launched in January 2017. The app offered full native integration with Uber: users were able to enter a location, identify their route, then check different Uber prices and request a ride — without ever leaving the Maps app. Now, users can only identify their route and get a ballpark fare estimate on the Google Maps App. To actually hail a cab, they have to open the Uber app.
Googles support states that “you can no longer book Uber rides directly in Google Maps.” Uber has previously been criticized for location-tracking of passengers even after the ride was over and customers closed the app on their phones.
Google recently invested in Lyft, earlier in Uber
In October 2017, Google’s venture capital arm CapitalG invested $1 billion USD in Lyft, Uber’s primary rival in the US. The feature that allowed direct booking for Uber via Google Maps was introduced in the beginning of 2017. Also, a partner at CapitalG became a board member at Lyft. With a billion dollars on the line, Google may have pulled out the feature to remove the edge it offered Lyft’s competitor.
Note that, Google also put money into Uber, way back in 2013. It pumped the then-nascent cab service with $258 million, the investment was seen as a massive success as Uber grew rapidly after that. The Next Web points out that there’s a bit of bad blood between Google and Uber, primarily due to the Waymo IP theft case, which was finally settled in February after a protracted court battle.
PhonePe allows direct Ola bookings
Meanwhile, in India, Uber has been relegated to the same position as Ola on Google Maps with the removal of the feature. It is worth pointing out that the direct-booking for Uber on Google Maps was not a smooth ride. Uber on Google Maps did not work unless the customer had an international credit card registered with Uber.
Last week, Flipkart-backed PhonePe introduced a tie-up with Ola where users can book an Ola cab without leaving the PhonePe. The app also introduced Autopay, which allows automatic fare deductions from the customer’s PhonePe account after setting up initial payment instructions.
PhonePe also allows booking of buses without leaving the PhonePe app, and also has a tie-up with Mumbai Metro.