Uber to launch new service with local taxis next month

Taipei-- The ride-hailing company Uber, whose services are currently illegal in Taiwan, and the union of taxi drivers, announced Thursday that they will jointly launch a new service in February that will allow customers in Taipei to order taxis via an app.

The new service will be added to Uber's app platform that has been around in Taiwan for four years, Uber said, adding that all of its existing ride-hailing apps will remain available.

Uber said it is committed to providing better services to customers in Taiwan and the new service "uberTAXI" is in line with its goal of better serving customers.

Ku Li-kai (???), general manager of Uber Taiwan, said the upcoming launch of uberTAXI demonstrates that it is possible for the ride-sharing economy and traditional taxis to co-exist in the local market, which he described as being comprehensive, thriving and diverse.

"In addition, this cooperation also shows Uber's commitment to the Taiwan market," Ku said, adding that the company will continue to negotiate with relevant Taiwanese government agencies and hope that the Taiwan government will make comprehensive regulations on ride-sharing economy.

Lin Sheng-he (???) of the Taxi Driver Labor Union said that "we look forward to the cooperation with Uber and taking advantage of its innovative technologies to help our taxi drivers."

This will help local taxi drivers to be able to take part in the ride-sharing economy, which is expected to increase their income and offer better services to passengers, Lin said.

The union said it will dispatch legal, licensed taxi drivers to cooperate with Uber.

The Ministry of Transportation and Communications has yet to comment on whether the new service will be legal or not.

Uber said the fares for the new service will follow the current standard charged by traditional taxis, but added that it is still finalizing details such as whether the payment should be made with a credit card or with cash.

Under the new service, passengers can track their journeys using GPS and share real-time information on their journeys with friends to ensure safety. At the end of each ride, drivers and passengers will be invited to rate each other on the app as a way of helping to improve the quality of the service.

Such information will also help Uber security teams with any investigation in the event of an accident, Uber said.

The announcement of the upcoming launch of the new service came after a meeting last week between a Uber executive and officials of Taiwan's transportation ministry.

During the meeting, the ministry remained firm on its insistence that Uber must pay local taxes, be covered by insurance and accept regulatory supervision.

The ministry said it still will not allow services that match private cars with passengers, as Uber does, but it would be glad to maintain dialogue with Uber and provide any necessary help if the company is willing to operate in compliance with local laws.

Uber said after the meeting that it expected to hold further dialogue with the authorities, and indicated that both parties need to make more efforts to enable Uber's car share model to keep developing.

The presence of Uber has been seen as having a huge impact on the business of local taxis, triggering protests by traditional taxi drivers, who have called on the government to stop Uber's illegal operations.

Uber, registered in Taiwan as an information services company, does not have the legal permission to operate transportation services, according to the government.

According to the ministry, Uber had been fined a total of NT$68.45 million (US$2.16 million) for 481 violations and its drivers had been fined NT$20.83 million as of late December last year.

Taiwan's Legislature on Dec. 16, 2016 passed an amendment to the Highway Act that raises the maximum fine for the provision of illegal passenger transportation services to NT$25 million.

Under the new law, the maximum fine against operators of illegal transportation services has been increased from between NT$50,000 and NT$150,000 to between NT$100,000 and NT$25 million.

Source: Focus Taiwan News Channel