Uber claims business benefits

May 07, 2015
Taxi review may open door for Uber

Taxi review may open door for Uber

Small businesses could gain significant flexibility and greater transparency over staff travel if Uber was allowed to offer its full range of services in South Australia, according to the company’s Australian general manager David Rohrsheim.

Uber, which is challenging traditional taxi services around the world, is currently only permitted to operate UberBLACK in South Australia – a service that can only be offered through existing limousine hire services.

Rohrsheim told Business Insight that the company’s priority was pursuing the introduction of UberX, the “ride sharing” service that allows consumers to book and pay for vehicles that are “in good condition with responsible drivers” through its innovative phone app.

He said UberX was extremely popular in every mainland capital city with more than 2,000 drivers and “hundreds of thousands of users” experiencing the service in the past 12 months.

“So we know there is a huge demand for something that is more reliable and more affordable than a taxi and we don’t think Adelaide is going to be any different,” Rohrsheim said.

”We are eager to see the review (of the taxi industry announced by the Government last week) happen and we hope it is done quickly and is not drawn out,” he said.

Rohrsheim said UberX would offer an attractive product for cost conscious small businesses and can be tailored for a specific business to establish a set of “rules” to guide its use.

He cites the example of a business that provides staff free rides home after a certain time in the evening and says this can be established with only rides leaving after that time, and from the place at which the business operates, being debited to the company account. Other fares would be directed to an individual’s private Uber account.

“With Uber you have a map of the whole journey, every turn you take, and you receive a receipt for review later. So we can provide huge transparency for businesses that want to put those sorts of rules in place,” Rohrsheim said.

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On Uber’s broader philosophy, Rohrsheim said the value and power of the Uber business model was that it used a city’s existing assets to good effect.

“A city like Adelaide would have a million cars on the road and I would say a quarter of them are in good condition with a responsible driver – why can’t we use those to help people get around,” he asks.

With UberX, and another service that the company is developing called UberPOOL – that would allow several customers going in the same direction to share a service – Rohrsheim sees a future with less congestion, shorter commuting times and, ultimately, a reduced need for additional transport infrastructure.

He says that while technology is at the heart of Uber’s business model, “the other half is better use of the assets that are there at the moment’.

Rohrsheim maintains that Uber’s founders, Travis Kalanick and Garrett Camp, did not set out to be so-called “disruptive innovators” in establishing the company but rather were trying to solve a personal problem of getting around San Francisco where taxis are notoriously hard to find.

An initial idea to buy some limousines and hire drivers for their own and their friends’ use soon saw the development of the phone app in nearby Silicon Valley. As more people became involved the idea expanded from San Francisco to become a worldwide phenomenon with Uber now available in 57 countries.

“People want easier access to rides when they need it. In solving their own problem, Travis and Garrett met a world-wide need,” Rohrsheim said.

The State Government announced last week that it will review the entire regulatory framework governing taxis in South Australia with the aim of improving standards and introducing greater competition.

While Transport Minister Stephen Mullighan stressed the review wasn’t an excuse to deregulate the system, he did want to introduce greater competition – even to the point of potentially allowing UberX to operate in South Australia, if it agreed to compete on an even playing field with taxi services.

On Uber’s role in any new regulatory regime, Mullighan told InDaily last week: “If Uber is up for a discussion about meeting the same requirements we impose on everyone else, then that sort of competition is terrific for consumers but also for the industry.”

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