Uber's boat service across the Bosphorus in Turkey is slowly beginning to gain momentum, after its launch in June this year.
Just a year after Uber began to service Turkey with its taxi service, the company announced UberBOAT, a service to transport people from Europe to Asia.
UberBOAT, which has teamed with Turkish boat company Navette, allows people to order the boats in the same way as they order Uber cars.
Through a smartphone app, users locate the nearest boat and when the captain calls to confirm availability, the boat arrives and the journey begins.
Uber launched the scheme after recognising that Istanbul, Turkey’s largest city, experiences severely heavy traffic and can make it difficult for people to get around.
“It is an alternative way to escape the city traffic and ease congestion on the roads, particularly on the two bridges that link Europe and Asia,” Austin Kim, Uber’s operation manager for Turkey, told AFP.
“By boat, you cross (the Bosphorus Strait) in five minutes, whereas by car, it takes about an hour and a half,” he said.
Fares start at 50 Turkish liras ($16 / 15 euros) but can be split between passengers. Each boat can hold up 10 people at a time.
Three months after launching, the new service has seen a greater demand across weekends.
“We have more clients at weekends. I would say that we carry around 50-60 people per week,” said the captain of one of the boats.
UberBOAT is struggling to gain more customers due to fierce competition between transport services ferrying across the Bosphorus Strait. Public ferries between the European and Asian sides of Istanbul can cost as little as 2.15 lira ($0.71) per ride.
Alternatively, there is the option of a water cab, which charges 46 Turkish lira (approximately $16 dollars) and additional fares for each nautical mile.
The Turkish government is currently working on a project to build “Kanal Istanbul,” another strait to bypass the Bosphorus to ease the boat traffic in the narrow waterway.
Uber remains a controversial company and is facing numerous challenges from other transport services across the world, including TFL, who have published proposed new rules for apps including Uber. The proposals include a mandatory five minute wait time, even if a car is available just around the corner. This means users will be unable to see the nearest cars when they open the app.
As Uber’s reach continues to grow around the world, the company is increasingly experimenting with different types of transportation, including UberBOAT.