More than two years after suspension of operations, Uber taxis will be back on Abu Dhabi roads with a new 'Emirati' service at same fares as normal taxis.
Uber and Department of Transport, represented by Integrated Transport Centre (ITC), inked an agreement after making the formal announcement. Officials noted the Emirati service will open up new job opportunities, make transportation affordable and local drivers will be able to give tourists a cultural flavour.
Uber Middle East regional manager Anthony Al Khoury said as per the agreement, Emiratis will be able to drive on the Uber app using their private cars on a full-time or part-time basis.
"Our whole negotiation with the ITC was for us to be able to launch in an affordable way to move around Abu Dhabi. We found the best way to do so was to open it up for the Emiratis. Now Emiratis with a private driving license and not a commercial one can use their private cars and drive on Uber. And pricing of this product is on par with taxis (at Dh12). It is a very affordable transportation similar to what taxis are providing. We are still discussing the details," Al Khoury said during a press conference after signing the agreement.
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Al Khoury said the service is an opportunity for locals to make some additional income.
"Emiratis can use this platform to create and extra economic opportunity. The flexibility that the platform gives is not available in the market. Today, any Emirati can work 2-3 hours on Uber and complement their income."
Al Khoury said by 12.30pm some Uber cars were on the platform but Emirati product will take some time to be launched. "The ITC has 32 fleets in Abu Dhabi. We are trying to work with a couple not everyone. We are trying to get as many Emiratis as possible. Users will be able to choose from either Emirati or Limousine products on the app."
50-100 limousines on offer
Uber is offering 50 to 100 limousine products, usually Lexus and similar, at 30 per cent above the normal taxi fares.
"The pricing of limousine is very similar to Dubai. There is a premium over the taxi rates but much lower than it was before. We are targeting approximately 30 per cent above taxi on the limousine product. The ITC gave us some leeway there and it is a big improvement from the previous regulation. Earlier it was 40 to 50 per cent than taxi fares. The new regulation states that limousine needs to around 30 per cent. This is still quite cheaper than before. The limousine driver will need a commercial license as the car is a commercial car. They need to be part of a fleet that has permits, licenses from the ITC," Al Khoury said.
Emiratis to enhance experience
ITC general manager Mohammed Darwish Al Qamzi welcomed Uber to Abu Dhabi roads and said the service provides customer with an additional choice.
"The only issue so far was that the regulation wasn't ready. Today there is demand for Uber and this service will add value to us in Abu Dhabi. The number of visitors to Abu Dhabi is increasing and Uber is well-known international brand. We are trying to make more choices available to customer."
Al Qamzi noted that the Emirati product will enhance customer experience.
"For those visiting Abu Dhabi, there will be a local touch. People will get to know about Abu Dhabi from an Emirati. He will be able to share the local knowledge of his country better than others (drivers). He will be able to provide an added flavour of the UAE culture."
Technical, safety features
Anthony Al Khoury said Uber offers full transparency through advanced use of technology and new unique safety features.
"You will know the name of your driver, how long will he take to reach you, car number and type. Inside the car, there's navigation, speed limit pop-up, post-trip star ratings, lost and found in your app. Background check for limousine drivers will be done by ITC as they need commercial licence. For locals, we will send documents to ITC, which will check and get back to us. All background checks will be done by ITC," Al Khoury added.
Careem opens up job opportunities for UAE Nationals
UAE Nationals can now qualify as registered Careem drivers as part of a new initiative to open up jobs to the local workforce, the company has announced.
The service launched in collaboration with TransAD will be available for the same taxi fares in Abu Dhabi, and customers will be able to book rides originating anywhere in Abu Dhabi.
Children of Emirati women can also register as captains (Careem refers to its drivers as "captains").
Training sessions will be conducted for applicants and all captains go through rigorous screening and background checks including character references and driving history. To qualify for the programme, captains will need to have local residency, be aged 23 and above and with a minimum of five years' driving experience.
Mohammed Al Qemzi, general manager of TransAD, said: "It's a great milestone that we can now bring our city more affordable ride hailing options and at the same time empower our UAE national workforce with a new way to earn a regular, flexible income in a safe and regulated environment."
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