(photo credit: REUTERS)
The ride-sharing behemoth Uber – which has battled taxi drivers and challenged regulators worldwide – announced on Thursday that it would launch the UberDay service in Tel Aviv, an extension of the UberNight pilot service that started last year.
The transport company enables people to order rides on their smartphone, with drivers in private vehicles ferrying passengers in return for payment.
The convenience factor of tapping on your phone has lured tens of millions of riders around the world. Yet, private Uber drivers operate without the displaying a knowledge of safety regulations or undergoing the stringent testing that taxi drivers must pass before receiving a medallion.
Uber said that the Uber- Day service would operate 24 hours, 7 days a week, a boon to passengers, since there is no mass transit on Shabbat and Jewish holidays. UberNight has already been operating since October 2016 in the Tel Aviv and Gush Dan region, and it is unclear whether Uber breaking the law since only registered taxi drivers can accept fares for a ride.
“The transportation regulations were drafted in the 1960s and they haven’t been updated, before cell phones and technology.
We are trying to operate, within the correct regulation, but in a regulatory world that doesn’t suit the current reality,” Uber Israel CEO Yoni Greifman told The Jerusalem Post.
While the company says that its services adhere to regulations, the Transportation Ministry is challenging that claim. A spokesperson for the ministry said the government was fighting Uber in court, but declined to comment further due to the sensitive nature of litigation.
“It’s going to be absurd if we’re start-up nation and we’re at the forefront of automotive technologies but we can’t get Uber,” Greifman said, adding that political pressure from Transportation Minister Israel Katz was obstructing the company from being able to operate in the Israeli market. Taxi drivers have pressured the ministry, and some are concerned that the company would push rates to the floor, precluding them from earning a decent living.
According to Uber, “Passengers who use the UberDay or night service will be able to see the fare before entering the destination and decide whether to book the trip or choose another means of transport. The price shown to the passenger is the final fare, and will not change depending on the route of the trip, whether it is drawn or delayed.”
Israeli taxi monopoly Gett already allows passengers to order rides on their smartphones – unlike New York City’s taxi agency, which is facing stiff competition from Uber. Gett’s smartphone accessibility may forestall Uber’s expansion in Israel and give the ride-sharing company a run for its money.
Uber has previously flouted authorities in the US, France, Australia and China with a tool called Greyball, which identifies government regulators who download the app and serves them a ghost version, filled with fake cars, to evade being caught.
Founded in 2009, Uber already offers services in more than 600 cities worldwide. In September, the company was banned from operating in London for flouting safety regulations, and its CEO Travis Kalanick resigned in June over sexual harassment allegations. The company had revenues of some $6.5 billion in 2016.