UBER is no stranger to controversy and protests. From New York and London to South Korea, furious taxi drivers have come out in protest against the mobile car-booking app. Germany took Uber to court and South Korea announced a ban, yet the Uber app seems to be gaining popularity among the people. It is currently available in 222 cities in 45 countries.
SPAD had been trying to get hold of someone from Uber since May for discussions but was unsuccessful until it was announced that the authorities were going to act against drivers using the Uber apps. A meeting between them was held recently.
In an e-mail interview, Uber’s regional manager Mike Brown explains its entry into the Malaysian market, how it works, why it is popular and tackles some of the issues.
> If Uber is a good thing, then why are the authorities in so many countries including developed and Western nations up in arms over Uber?
Uber is bringing something fresh and new to a sector that is characterised by stagnation. For decades, there has been no change in the process for getting a ride and the way and amount you pay for it. It was commonplace to wait for a long time to get a safe ride in most Malaysian cities while drivers’ time and fuel was used inefficiently. With Uber, riders typically get a car in under 10 minutes and drivers have less dead kilometres and earn more money. We’re bringing change and competition to the market that benefits riders, drivers and cities. But that change often brings resistance.
> Which are the countries where Uber has been fully embraced and accepted by the authorities and how was this achieved?
Uber has been embraced in 222 cities in 45 countries around the world, and in many of those cities we are challenging outdated (pre-mobile era) regulations that put the financial interests of the incumbent industry before the interest of consumers and their communities.
To resolve this conflict, some cities are responding by enacting new regulations to foster new technology, and working with startups like Uber to foster the sharing economy. Around the world, Uber is working with governments to achieve common goals, focused on safe, reliable and efficient transportation options, that are regulated. It is important to explain the way the app works and the value we bring to the transportation industry. One thing is clear: riders and driver partners certainly understand the incredible opportunities and great options that are made possible through the app.
> Which cities in Malaysia are the Uber apps operating in right now? Would I be able to get a car using the Uber app in Kota Baru or Kuala Perlis?
Uber is currently available in two cities in Malaysia – Kuala Lumpur and Johor Baru.
> How many cars and drivers in Malaysia are using the Uber apps?
We do not focus on the number of drivers. We focus on bringing you a comfortable car in the shortest time possible. Currently, on average, we are bringing you a car in seven minutes in our core service areas. In Malaysia we have received a tremendous response from drivers who are excited to partner with Uber to earn a significantly better living while improving the quality of transportation in their cities.
> When exactly did Uber first start in Malaysia?
Uber officially launched in Malaysia at the beginning of this year (Jan 2014).
> Who supplies the cars? Companies or individuals? What are the conditions and what type of car can be used?
In Malaysia, Uber partners with licensed for-hire chauffeur-driven limousine/ rental car companies that are fully registered. But we have our own requirements that drivers must meet to join Uber as a partner. This includes a thorough background check and a city knowledge test. Not just any car can be an Uber. It’s a title reserved for safe, high-quality vehicles that are in exceptional condition. In Malaysia, our partners are licensed, authorised transport companies with various vehicle types.
> How does someone register to be a driver under the Uber apps?
Any driver with a licensed limousine/ rental car company who is interested in becoming an Uber partner can register their interest online (https://partners.uber.com/signup/kuala-lumpur/).
Every driver must go through a stringent background check and meet our requirements. They must be of minimum driving age, have a valid driver’s licence with a clean driving history and no criminal record. To assess applicants, we meet all face-to-face. We ask the drivers to sit for a city knowledge test. In some cases, we do a test drive to make sure they have good driving skills. We also make sure they have good English language capabilities. The entire process takes a few days.
> In Malaysia, do the drivers using the Uber Apps need to be able to speak English?
Uber ensures all our driver partners have good English language capabilities.
> What are the differences between Uber X, Uber Black and Uber Lux in terms of the cars used, drivers, and the pricing?
In Malaysia, we have two options at the moment, UberBlack and UberX. UberBlack is our flagship product, where you can order a premium car on demand. The vehicles available on UberBlack include Toyota Camry, Nissan Teana and Honda Accord. UberX is our more affordable option, where you have a mid-size sedan available on demand. The vehicles on UberX are in the Nissan Almera and Honda City range. Only the best and most professional licensed drivers can become an Uber partner.
The fares for each option is clearly indicated in the Uber app and can also be found on our website – https://www.uber.com/cities/kuala-lumpur
> What was the outcome of Uber’s meeting with SPAD last week?
We are in touch with SPAD and look forward to working closely with them and JPJ to encourage innovation, provide consumers with more choices, and to provide drivers with more economic opportunity while creating a safer public transportation environment for everyone.
> One of the arguments is that Uber doesn’t benefit the country because payment is made via credit card so money is flowing out of the country.
Uber complies with all applicable tax laws and pays the relevant tax in every territory it operates in. All payments on the Uber system are cashless and fully traceable in an industry that has been notoriously cash-based for years.
> Another reason used to argue against drivers using the Uber apps is that their cars (unlike the metered taxis) do not have passenger liability insurance which is a risk if there is an accident.
Every Uber driver partner and their vehicle needs to be properly insured in keeping with local laws and practices. Uber is bringing a high level of accountability and safety to the transportation experience for the first time. When you use Uber’s technology, not only are you always connected with a fully licensed driver, but you also know exactly how far your car is, who is coming to pick you up and their aggregated rating over all the trips they’ve completed. We also have a safety feature in the app called “Share my ETA”, where a rider can share this real-time location with the driver and car details with a friend or family member.
> How is it possible that Uber is able to offer such good cars with a good driver at a such a cheap fare?
Technology also enables a very efficient marketplace – one where riders get picked up in as little as seven minutes and where drivers spend less time idle and more time helping people in the city get around. In fact, drivers continue to make more money since they’re able to do more trips every hour via the Uber platform.
This added advantage enables us to offer some of the most affordable rides on the road while at the same times helping our driver partners make more money.
> Some say that Uber is doing this to wipe out competition and this will lead to an Uber monopoly later.
More choices in a city’s transportation ecosystem is better for everyone, including riders and drivers. In fact, in cities around the world, former taxi drivers are choosing the Uber platform for greater economic opportunity and flexibility.
> Say the fare is RM10, what is Uber’s share? How much goes to the driver?
Uber keeps a 20% commission from the total fare. Eighty percent goes to the driver.
> Since SPAD and JPJ have declared it illegal for drivers without the PSV licence to carry passengers, what is Uber’s advice to the drivers and customers using the app?
Both driver partners and riders can be reassured that we are in touch with SPAD and look forward to working closely with them and JPJ.
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