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Abu Dhabi, UAESunday 16 December 2018

Uber to return to Abu Dhabi and launch new Emirati driver service alongside Careem 

Uber and Careem are to significantly expand their presence in Abu Dhabi after holding talks with the local transport authorities.

While Uber will be making a return to the emirate with 50 to 100 cars as of 12.30pm on Monday, November 19, after a two-year absence.

In addition, both Uber company and its local competitor, Careem, have announced a new fleet driven by Emiratis that will cost the same as standard taxis.

Private taxis currently have to set their fees significantly higher than standard city taxis to prevent them undercutting the government-run service. The same rules will continue to apply to taxis with non-Emirati drivers, but the new service will offer an extra option to residents.

The new service is expected to be available to the public from early next year.

Under the terms of Uber’s return to the market, passengers hailing the company’s standard limo cabs will pay “around 30 per cent” more compared to the price of standard taxis.

“Before that it was much higher,” said Anthony Khoury, regional manager for Uber Middle East.

“I think it was 40 per cent and 50 per cent more than standard taxis. The new regulations state that limousines will be around 30 per cent, which is quite a bit cheaper than before.”

Mr Khoury was unable to reveal the exact cost to hail an Uber, but he said it would be “very similar” to Dubai at a press conference to announce the launch the service in Abu Dhabi on Monday.

Uber has just started recruiting Emirati drivers, said Mr Khoury. The move will significantly improve the experience for passengers – particularly tourists, he said.

“It gives a little bit of a cultural flavour,” said Mr Khoury.

“When they arrive you can ride with someone from the region, with someone who will be able to tell you more about Abu Dhabi and where to go and what to do.”

Emiratis will be able to use the platform to create opportunities on the side, he said.

“Anyone who is Emirati will be able to go to work in the morning and maybe do two or three hours in the afternoon to complement their income,” said Mr Khoury.

As The National reported in May, Careem have already launched a drive to recruit Emirati nationals, as well as the children of Emirati women who do not have full citizenship, to become drivers for the new service. Training will be provided on driving skills, using its technology and customer service.

JEDDAH, SAUDI ARABIA - JUNE 24: Fadya Fahad, 23, one of the first female drivers for Careem, a peer-to-peer ride sharing company similar to Uber, speaks on a mobile phone next to a car she has rented to drive on the first day she is legally allowed to drive in Saudi Arabia on June 24, 2018 in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia. Fadya lived in the United States, where she got her first license. ÒIt's so amazing,Ó she said of today. When asked what her parents thought about it, she sad: ÒThey are so proud. My father said I drive better than my brother.Ó Saudi Arabia has today lifted its ban on women driving, which had been in place since 1957. The Saudi government, under Crown Prince Mohammad Bin Salman, is phasing in an ongoing series of reforms to both diversify the Saudi economy and to liberalize its society. The reforms also seek to empower women by restoring them basic legal rights, allowing them increasing independence and encouraging their participation in the workforce. Saudi Arabia is among the most conservative countries in the world and women have traditionally had much fewer rights than men. (Photo by Sean Gallup/Getty Images)
Fadya Fahad, 23, was among the first female Saudi drivers to begin working for Careem. Sean Gallup / Getty Images

The taxis will be priced at exactly the same level as standard taxis, with a minimum charge of Dh12 and the same cost per kilometre.

Transport bosses said the move would open up more affordable options to the public when booking taxis while also providing new, secure employment opportunities to the native workforce.

“Careem and TransAD are taking a bold step in enabling Emirati participation in the ride-hailing economy with their own private vehicles and at no premium to taxis,” said Samir Satchu, senior director of government relations and public policy at Careem.

“This is a first for the UAE. We hope to be able to demonstrate over time that the Careem platform can be a significant driver of local economic empowerment in Abu Dhabi and across some of our other GCC markets.”

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Uber holds 'positive' talks over Abu Dhabi return

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The new initiative will open up jobs to the local workforce, Careem said. Those registering are likely to find themselves busier than their non-Emirati colleagues due to the lower fares, potentially making the jobs more lucrative as they will spend less time waiting for fares.

“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,” said Mohammed Al Qamzi, general manager of TransAD.

To qualify as a Careem driver, applicants must have local residency, be 23 or older and have a minimum of five years’ driving experience. Registrations is open as of Monday.