Personal car service plans Phoenix launch

Luxury personal driving service, Uber, is planning a soft launch in downtown Phoenix on Thursday. The company hopes to expand its capacity in Phoenix and nearby areas in the future. (Dominic Valente/DD)

Uber has confirmed that its personal driving service will be carrying out a soft launch on Thursday in downtown Phoenix.

Uber, a luxury personal driving service based out of San Francisco, already operates out of some major cities including Boston, New York and Chicago, and it plans to have a number of drivers circulating in the downtown Phoenix area.

Uber will serve the entire Valley, but its cars will be most available during its soft launch in areas with higher populations.

The move comes after Uber signed a lease with CO+HOOTS, a business collective in downtown Phoenix. CO+HOOTS Director of Operations Kelsey Wong said Uber signed its lease in early October and plans to have four to five working desks at their new location on 10th and Washington streets.

“They have such great energy, and I’m really excited for them to be a part of this CO+HOOTS family,” Wong said. “They’re going to be a great addition to the new space.”

Gabe Williams, Uber’s community manager, said the cars will not be available as readily during its soft launch as it will when Uber in full operation. Matt Atkin, who will be launching Uber in Phoenix, and Williams both said that this is only a soft launch, and they plan to have a full Uber branch for Phoenix in the near future.

“We would definitely like to add a new layer of transportation to the city,” Atkin said. “This is not simply a test.”

While they still consider themselves to be a driving service accessible to everyone, that hasn’t stopped them from contacting high-profile clients such as Gabrielle Giffords, Sen. John McCain’s daughter Meghan McCain and Cardinals receiver Larry Fitzgerald through Twitter.

“Our motto here remains that we are ‘everyone’s private driver,’ but that doesn’t mean we can’t get excited about high-profile people,” Williams said. “We get high-profile clients as well; it happens in every city.”

Wong said Uber may also be hiring locally in Phoenix, not only for its soft launch but also for their official launch, after CO+HOOTS has moved into its new location.

“They could have chosen any other office space in Phoenix, but I think because of our reputation they chose us,” Wong said. “They came in to see the new place and really loved it … they were fitting in with the crew here really well, too.”

Uber operates with base fares and flat rates for rides to the airport. Customers can text a number or pinpoint their location on a smartphone map app, and the Uber website boasts that the company can have a driver curbside “within minutes” of a notification.

Uber will have black sedans and SUVS on the road, but during its soft launch customers will not be able to request a specific kind of car.

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Correction: Oct. 24, 2012

A previous version of this article said customers would be able to choose between a black sedan and an SUV. The article has been changed to reflect that during the soft launch, both kinds of cars will be on the road but that customers will not be able to request which car they get. This statement had briefly been clarified to say that SUVs would not be available, which was incorrect. SUVs will be available, but customers will not be able to request them specifically during the soft launch.

Clarification: Oct. 24, 2012

The article has been changed to clarify that while Uber’s usual cars will be available, they will not be as readily available during the soft launch as they would be after the official launch. Additionally, a quote by Matt Atkin was taken out so that the article more clearly states that Uber will operate in the entire Valley but that service during its soft launch will be most available in areas with higher population. This clarification was reworded to be clear that Uber will begin serving the Valley with its soft launch, and will not wait until its official launch to do so.