What is Uber and how does its business model work?

Explainer: Cab-hailing company operates in more than 70 countries and is valued at more than €41 billion

Car-hailing company Uber was set up in San Francisco in 2009 and now operates in more than 10,000 cities and 70 countries around the world. It is listed on the New York Stock Exchange and is valued at more than $44 billion (€41 billion). The company took in almost $26 billion in gross bookings last year. The business operates a model where it signs up drivers to an online platform, allowing them to use their own cars to pick up passengers by accepting bookings through an app. The model works on the basis that drivers are not required to be licensed as a taxi or limo driver.

Uber has been described as a “disruptive technology” as it threatens the traditional model of taxi and limousine hire. It has encountered strong opposition from taxi drivers across Europe who see the model as encroaching on their long-standing business. Irish law poses major restrictions for Uber and the business model, requiring anyone carrying passengers for profit to have a taxi licence. There is a limited Uber service in Dublin but only for licensed taxi drivers.

Tánaiste Leo Varadkar said in June that he may look at easing Irish taxi regulations for Uber and another ride-sharing service Lyft to help solve the country’s taxi shortage.