Internet giant Baidu has made an investment in Uber despite the car-hailing app‘s turbulent year as rape cases involving its drivers continue to surface.
Baidu Inc, a Chinese web-service company, bought a stake in the online taxi service and intends to integrate Uber with its maps and mobile-search features. Neither the sum of the investment made nor the size of Baidu‘s stake in Uber have been revealed by the parties involved.
Uber recently reported that it managed to raise $1.2b and expressed its desire to expand its presence in Asia. Already integrated into the Google Maps app, Uber now has the opportunity to access Baidu Map‘s 240m monthly active users (that have allowed the app to make ‘heat maps‘ of their travel patterns), and China‘s taxi app users, which iResearch forecasts to rise to 45m by 2015. Baidu‘s Uber integration will have a “request a ride” feature on its travel search results in efforts to promote the taxi-service which is already operating in nine Chinese cities.
An announcement and ‘signing ceremony‘ at the Baidu headquarters in Beijing, China, marked the partnership between Baidu chairman and CEO Robin Li and Uber CEO Travis Kalanick. Commenting on the integrated Uber service plans for Baidu Maps, Kalanick said, “Millions of people open Baidu Maps everyday to look at where they‘re going next,” adding, “We can take them there.”
The event also was the first public appearance of Kalanick since the case of a rape involving an Uber driver led to New Delhi issuing a ban on the taxi-service operating within the country‘s capital. The controversies have not lessened, as another Uber driver in Boston, Massachusetts, was charged with rape. A statement from Uber read, “This is a despicable crime and our thoughts and prayers are with the victim during her recovery. Uber has been working closely with law enforcement and will continue to do everything we can to assist their investigation.”
Uber is also banned in Spain, and faces criticism from various countries over whether or not its drivers‘ possess the correct licences required to operate a taxi service. Uber has remained adamant that its operations are legal, and continues to provide services in 250 cities in 50 countries worldwide.
The Baidu internet platform has followed in the investment steps of Google and Goldman Sachs, choosing to place their money in the growth of Uber, valued at a whopping $40b. This could spell bad news for Baidu‘s competitors, Alibaba and Tencent, who support Chinese car-service apps Kuaidi Dache and Didi Dache.
In a statement regarding its newfound support from Baidu, Kalanick said “This collaboration marks a milestone for Uber…the Asia-Pacific region has been a key area of growth for us. Our partnership with Baidu—a premier global brand—reflects our commitment to the region and the growing community of Uber riders and driver-partners here.”