x Abu Dhabi, UAESunday 22 October 2017

Uber and Dubai's RTA in talks for cheap mass transport services for future 

Meeting with RTA to discuss 'new budget mobility products' in addition to its current luxury service

Uber currently has to keep its UAE rates at least 30 per cent above those of traditional taxis under rules set by Dubai’s Roads and Transport Authority. Ravindranath K / The National
Uber currently has to keep its UAE rates at least 30 per cent above those of traditional taxis under rules set by Dubai’s Roads and Transport Authority. Ravindranath K / The National

Uber is in talks with Dubai to set up a new low cost transport service, even as it faces the loss of its operating license in London.

The company is responding to a study by the Roads and Transport Authority (RTA) which calls for: “new budget mobility products” that would meet the objectives of Dubai Plan 2021.

Dubai is seeking “affordable mobility solutions” that: “will enhance mass and shared transport, reduce the number of vehicles on roads, and deliver passenger transport services through electronic communication channels,” according to the RTA.

The meeting involved Mattar Al Tayer, director-general and chairman of the Board of Executive Directors of RTA, and Pierre-Dimitri Gore-Coty, vice president and chief executive of Uber in Europe, MENA.

Uber has faced opposition in several cities, with London saying it has revoked the company’s license on the grounds that it is “not fit and proper.”

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The dispute in London is in contrast with Dubai, where Uber operates in a more regulated environment which means its fares must always be at least 30 per cent higher than regular taxis.

It also works with existing taxi and limousine services rather than in other cities, where Uber drivers are self-employed and are frequently in conflict with existing licenced taxi drivers for under-cutting their rates.

Earlier this year, the RTA approved a short trial of its UberX service, which offers lower priced fares and smaller and less luxurious cars like the hybrid Toyota Prius rather than the regular Uber limousines.

The trial in April offered fares which matched regular taxis to a limited number of customers and lasted three months.

Uber in Dubai currently offers up-market vehicles for its Uberblack and Uberselect services, typically Mercedes and BMWs.

The company also currently offers UberTesla on a temporary basis, using Tesla Model S and X electric cars.

This week, the company celebrated the fourth anniversary of its service on Twitter.

Uber does not currently operate in Abu Dhabi.

According to the RTA, this latest meeting: “discussed means of boosting cooperation and the initial results of a study for offering new budget mobility products in support of Dubai Vision 2021 with a view to meeting the needs of customers seeking affordable mobility solutions.”

Dubai’s plans for transport in 2021 including making one in four journeys in the city driverless, with a greater emphasis on electric power and innovative services that include flying taxis.

Earlier this year, Uber said it hoped to deploy the first flying taxis in Dubai by 2020.

Mr Al Tayer said that the potential involvement of Uber in a low cost transport network was part of a push to make Dubai “the smartest city in the world.”

He said: “The smart mobility is one of the key pillars of smart cities, and RTA considers Uber a strategic partner in delivering smart transit services in Dubai.”