THE Cape Town head of the app-based taxi service Uber says the company is keen to offer its technology to a broad number of metered taxi drivers who have been up in arms over losing business when a new competitor entered the market.
The comments by Uber Cape Town GM Anthony le Roux seem to suggest that conventional taxis should join Uber or see their businesses disappear.
“As such, a large number of metered taxi operators already use the Uber platform today. We continue to see more metered taxi operators come on to the system every day,” said Mr le Roux.
His comments come after protests by the Western Cape Metered Taxi Council, which represents between 2,500 and 3,000 metered taxi drivers, demanding that Uber be shut down.
Uber is an app-based transportation network and taxi company headquartered in San Francisco, in the US. The company operates in various cities around the world.
However, it has been met with some antagonism from metered taxi groups in cities such as Toronto, Canada, and has been banned in New Delhi, India, and in Spain.
“Our ultimate goal is to raise the bar when it comes to the quality, safety and service of transport, all of which the general public stands to benefit from, and also the empowering of thousands of drivers to become their own business owners,” Mr le Roux said.
He said Uber had created 2,000 jobs since launching in SA in 2013 and could easily create 15,000 more in the next two years.
Western Cape Metered Taxi Council deputy chairman David Drummond said recently that Uber was operating illegally as it did not have a taxi permit.
Mr Drummond said the taxi council did not have a problem with the Uber application itself, but “we have a problem with the context in which it is being used”.
“If it was used in conjunction with metered taxis, only then would we not have a problem.”
Mr le Roux said Uberâ€™s business model was too advanced for the current regulatory framework, and thus did not fit neatly into any existing licence category. He said the company was engaging proactively with the local regulatory department to ensure that all drivers had a clear route to licensing.
“Uberâ€™s technology is an example of innovation leading regulation, given that laws were drafted at a time when the technology did not exist, which means there is no clear category,” he said.
“We remain committed to continuing the conversation on a city, provincial and national level towards defining a clearer category for Uber and a route to licensing for our partner-drivers,” said Mr le Roux.
He also said that although certain taxi operators had expressed concern at Uberâ€™s entry into the market, far more operators had already partnered with the company as a means of growing their business.
“Any time you have a disruptive technology like Uber coming into an industry, you inevitably have some resistance,” Mr le Roux said.