Blacklane is not yet another on-demand transport app

Blacklane -- Woman exiting vehicle

One of the most disruptive services in the world is the rise of the on-demand economy. From on-demand accommodations to on-demand transport, these are all available to anyone with a touch of a button.

On my travels, I encountered an issue with the on-demand transport service as I happen to arrive in a country that doesn’t allow these services to operate deeming them to be illegal. I was nit stuck for transport and had to rely on metered taxis which were ridiculously expensive and unreliable.

This got me thinking that perhaps there is space for a different transport services to operate. One that you pre-book in advance and disembark of the plane knowing that the service will be waiting for you regardless of any delays. I also realised that if I have multiple meetings in one city, it can be expensive to summon an on-demand transport or a metered taxi after each meeting and so being able to hire a driver for the couple of hours would be ideal. 

Essentially I am looking for a type of pre-booked driver service without the insane Limo pricing.

Turns out I wasn’t the only one thinking along the same lines and this is where I encountered Blacklane.

What is Blacklane ?

Blacklane is a service that allows customers to pre-book their transport. Customers can select from three levels of travel: Business Class, Business Van, or First Class – each has their own prices.

Enter your pickup and drop-off locations via the website of via the app, or can select the number of hours you require the driver for.

blacklan - carblacklan - route

Who is Blacklane ?

Whilst still new in South Africa and currently only operating in Johannesburg and Cape Town, Blacklane has been active in over 50 countries and 180 cities around the world. The business is well funded and has very aggressive rollout plans which include Africa.

The business started in Germany where instead of fighting the tightly regulated taxi industry, the company found a “loophole”. The German law states that Limo drivers have to return to a base so that they don’t compete with metered taxis. Blacklane allows customers to schedule trips on the company’s website or app 1 hour to months in advance. As these are pre-scheduled, drivers legally comply.

Dutch Style Auction

With Blacklane the customer always pays the advertised price. There is no increases and no surge pricing.

On the backend when a driving-job comes in it is advertised “for sale” at a set price. If no driver accepts the job, the price increases until someone accepts it.

If the price exceed what the customer is due to pay (as no driver accepts the job until it above the customer price), then Blacklane picks up the cost and doesn’t pass it onto the customer.

blacklan - founders

I chatted to Jens Wohltorf, CEO and co-founder of Blacklane to get an understanding of this service:

What is Blacklane in a nutshell?

Blacklane is the global professional driver service. You schedule rides with licensed and insured drivers in 50 countries and more than 180 cities around the world. You get a guaranteed, all-inclusive rate the moment you book. We’re closing the missing link in travel reservations: the first and last miles of your trip.

How is that different to other on-demand services?

Blacklane is not on-demand. All of our rides are booked in advance, anywhere from one hour to months ahead of time. Therefore, we can provide booking guarantees at fixed, all-inclusive prices. Our rates are a fraction of the cost of legacy limousine services and approach taxi fares. You don’t pay any extra taxes, tolls, tips or fees, and our rates never surge. Also, all of our drivers are licensed and insured. We legally operate around the world.

What is the thinking behind having the hourly rate vs destination?

Most rides are a single or round trip with known pickup and destination locations. But often, customers need vehicles for multiple hours. This happens when customers have multiple meetings in a city, or where an event organizer needs to send cars to multiple locations in a city to accommodate multiple passengers. 

How are the drivers chosen? Do you work with individuals or companies?

We only work with companies that have licensed vehicles and drivers for commercial use. We do not use any private individuals or privately-owned vehicles. Some of our driver partners are one-man operations, but they drive under a commercially-licensed transportation company.

We actively seek drivers in our cities, and we welcome drivers to apply on our website.

What process do they go through?

Our drivers have two levels of certification. The first is whatever is required at the local level to become a professional driver.

Then Blacklane provides additional training. Our customers expect a consistent experience whether they’re riding in Cape Town or Cannes, so we train companies and drivers on service level, Blacklane policies (e.g. one-hour wait time for all airport and train station pickups), and usage of our driver app.

Do the driver provide their own vehicles?

Yes. All vehicles are provided by our licensed partners, not Blacklane.

Who is your customer? Individual or corporate users? Long trips or short trips?

Business travelers and frequent leisure travelers are our typical customers. We work with thousands of businesses, and many individuals use us for both work and leisure rides. Our trips have ranged from less than a hundred meters to over a thousand kilometers. But most trips are within a metropolitan area.

What are your plans for South Africa and indeed Africa?

We’re happy to be in 50 countries, and we want to fill in the gaps on our coverage map. The biggest areas to add service are Asia-Pacific, the Middle East and Africa. Our vision is to provide a professional driver to every traveler anywhere in the world.

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