Uber car-sharing is ‘safe’, says Irish head of firm

Minister for Transport advised last week not to extend Uber beyond taxi drivers

Uber, a substitute for taxi and limousine services, runs in cities all over the world. Photograph: Andrew Caballero-Reynolds/AFP/Getty Images

Uber, a substitute for taxi and limousine services, runs in cities all over the world. Photograph: Andrew Caballero-Reynolds/AFP/Getty Images

 

Car-sharing firm Uber is a “reliable” and “safe” form of transportation, the head of the company has said following reports that the Minister for Transport was advised not to allow the company to operate services using ordinary drivers in Ireland.

Kieran Harte, general manager of Uber for Ireland and Northern Ireland, said he was looking forward to continuing an open line of communication with Shane Ross about the affordability, safety and regulation of the Uber car-sharing service which would use ordinary drivers rather than taxi divers.

Uber , a substitute for taxi and limousine services, runs in cities all over the world.

The company, set up in San Francisco in 2009, signs up drivers to an online platform which allows them to accept bookings via an app to carry passengers. Drivers use their own cars, without being licensed taxi or limo drivers.

Briefing documents prepared by civil servants for the new minister for transport show that there is strong official resistance to facilitating the arrival of most Uber services.

UberPop, the service which allows ordinary drivers to carry passengers for money, has caused controversy throughout Europe, leading to protests from taxi drivers and has been banned in some countries.

At present, Irish law requires that anyone carrying passengers for money must have a taxi licence, and there is limited Uber service in Dublin run by existing holders of taxi licences.

“What Uber brings is reliability and I’m not just talking about Dublin city centre,” Mr Harte told The Irish Times.

“The ride sharing actually provides access to transport in all areas of the country. What it could mean for urban areas on the fringes of Dublin which are not being serviced well at the moment.... it’s really exciting.”

Mr Harte said all drivers using the Uber service to pick up passengers would undergo a full Garda vetting and background check.

“Technology allows us to provide a safe experience before, during and after the journey.

“In terms of sustainability, we’re utilising cars that are already on our roads. With the right regulation, this is a huge opportunity for Ireland.”

The firm is planning to ask the Department of Transport to allow Limerick City to run a pilot scheme of its ride-sharing programme.

“Uber has invested heavily in Limerick, it’s our first home of excellence outside the US,” said Mr Harte.

“We want the people of Limerick to have an opportunity to embrace this new technology. The pilot is only a suggestion but we’d love to have the conversation on how we can get to that point.”

In the briefing documents submitted to Mr Ross, officials pointed out that facilitating Uber would require a complete reversal of the legal requirements that vehicles and drivers carrying people for profit must be licensed.

It is difficult to see, the documents state, how such a situation “could rationally co-exist with the existing system of regulation for taxis, hackneys and limousines”.

If Uber were facilitated, the officials said, it would be necessary to reconsider whether there could be any system of regulation for any vehicles.

“Any decision to endorse the use of unlicensed drivers and unlicensed vehicles for the transport of passengers in small vehicles for commercial gain would require careful consideration of the above issues,” the officials wrote.