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Uber sets its sights on greater business travel spend, plays down safety fears

Launch of Business Profiles will help firm get a larger slice of the business travel pie

Uber is trying to make it easier for corporate customers to better account for personal and work-related journeys by launching Business Profiles.

The taxi-hailing app firm wants a bigger portion of the growing business travel space, but it doesn't believe it is cannibalising existing modes of transport by doing so.

More than 50,000 businesses in 58 countries around the world already use Uber for Business and the company claims organisations save, on average, $1,000 per employee, per year by using its service instead of private hire vehicles or taxis.

"We wanted to make business travel through Uber more seamless so we decided to build Business Profiles to solve that problem," saidGreg Greiner, Uber for Business product manager.

"Dreamforce is the perfect venue to release these new features as we have over 100,000 business travellers in one place."

Receipts from trips are automatically sent to a user's work email address so they can add notes about what the trip was for. They can also specify either before or during the trip whether it's for work or leisure.

Uber estimates that between five and 10 per cent of taxi receipts passed through a business's expenses systems are fraudulent in some way and believes Business Profiles will help eradicate or at least reduce this issue.

The company talked up how its structure has not only helped meet growing demand from people who want to go somewhere, but that its flexible working model has proved attractive to drivers and provided many jobs. There are20,000 Uber drivers in London, some 45,000 in LA and around 25,000 in Chicago. However, some drivers are not happy with the level of remuneration received in exchange for their work and legal action has ensued.

The firm's car-pooling service, where multiple Uber customers can share the same ride, aims to help reduce congestion and minimise pollution.

"We are very focused on building a successful business, but our cities are facing huge challenges. Young people, in particular, want to move into cities, but most cities don't have the room or money for new public transport or build new roads. The maths is the maths. You have to deal with that," said David Plouffe, Uber's chief advisory officer and US president Barack Obama's former campaign manager.

"The scale of what we are talking about is under appreciated. There is a huge demand in cities for more mobility. Many Uber trips begin or end at the last public transportation stop. There is so much demand on the rider side but also a huge demand on the driver side.

Plouffe also stressed Uber remains safety conscious and stressed the rating system - on the driver and rider side - is there to ensure people stay safe and have a positive and pleasant experience. He even went as far as to suggest customers feel much safer with Uber than when using alternative options.

"Why?" he said. "There's no anonymity. You know the driver, the licence plate. You can share your ETA and route with friends and family - it's GPS tracked. We want to bring more innovation to safety, but safety was always one of our core principles from the beginning."

He continued: "We are a technology company. Our goal is to continue to innovate and iterate so the Uber experience gets better and better. For example, instead of a car arriving in a few minutes, you get food [through UberEATS]."

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