by Malcolm Curtis|The Local, Switzerland|June 26, 2013
A ride-sharing application for smartphones that offers an alternative to taxis is making its debut in Switzerland in Zurich with a splash.
Uber, a San Francisco-based company that developed the app, nabbed one of Switzerland’s top celebrities, tennis star Stanislaus Wawrinka, as its first customer on Wednesday.
The app allows customers to use mobile phones to book rides online with limousine companies and private drivers.
Uber has begun testing in Zurich its ride-share program, already available in more than 30 cities worldwide.
After convincing him to try the Uber app, the company showed on its website blog a photo of Wawrinka leaning against a Mercedes limousine with a tennis racket in hand.
The app lets customers pay by credit card, so no money is exchanged, and it incorporates a GPS that runs like a meter.
Riders pay a little extra but in return they get to ride in a limousine.
The touted advantage for limousine operators is they can maximize the use of their vehicles.
In a wrinkle designed to encourage good service — and good behaviour from customers — the app even allows drivers and passengers to rate each other.
“We certainly can’t compete with the local world-class chocolatiers, cheesemakers or mountain ranges,” the company says on its website.
“However, when it comes to travelling, we’ve got a hunch we can help the world’s most efficient transportation network become just a little more Swiss.”
Uber was founded as UberCab by three entrepreneurs, including the current CEO, Travis Kalanick, in 2009.
The company launched its mobile app a year later in San Francisco on iPhones and Android phones.
After being accused of illegal taxicab operation in San Francisco, the company in 2011 changed its name from UberCab to Uber.
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