Uber, the popular mobile app that connects passengers to private transportation, continues to expand globally, but with legalities and angry taxi companies, it is questionable when, if ever, the service will operate locally.
The biggest obstacles are over insurance and safety regulations. The federal government issued a warning to Uber customers recently, saying that passengers are at risk because personal vehicle insurance is not sufficient in case of an accident.
However, Susie Heath, a senior communication associate with Uber Canada, issued a statement in March, saying that Uber’s support team will assist drivers and partners in gathering and submitting insurance claims in the event of an accident. Apart from that issue, there are public concerns about driver and passenger safety during transportation.
Uber drivers are required to pass criminal background checks, and customers can submit reviews about the driver through the Uber app. Drivers are also required to submit and pass a Vehicle Safety Inspection done by a licensed service shop.
On the other side of the industry, many taxi owners fully reject the idea of Uber in Calgary.
“Uber is a totally illegal company, because they are not cab drivers, they don’t have their class four drivers license and they don’t go through all the examination involved in being a cab driver,” said Jatinder Cheema, a Checker Cab driver for more than five years.
Cheema explained how he paid over $150,000 to obtain a license to obtain his plate and vehicle and become a driver.
Although many taxi drivers reject the idea of Uber entering the city, Rizwan Ahmed, a driver for Associated Cabs, believes it would benefit him.
“Owners of cab vehicles have more to worry about,” said Ahmed. “I don’t care if Uber comes, it’s good for me, I could also be a Uber driver.”
Despite the controversy, many students want the service. Some Calgary students say they need Uber as a means for cheap and alternative transportation around the city.
“It would make my life a million times easier. As a student, I am already on a tight budget and I can’t afford parking on campus, nor a taxi ride to school on busy mornings,” said Madison Hicks, a SAIT business student.
“Despite the argument that a stranger is picking you up, the same goes for taxi services, there’s always a risk with a taxi driver, just as there is going to be risks with Uber.”
It would make my life a million times easier, as a student, I am already on a tight budget. -Madison Hicks
The service has proven popular where it has been introduced. “Uber is a godsend, super cheap, super efficient,” said Meriam Ben Hadj Taher, a University of Toronto student.
In 2009, Travis Kalanick and Garrett Camp founded and developed the Uber app and released it the following June. By early 2012, Uber had begun to expand globally, and by 2015, Uber services were available in 58 countries and over 300 cities worldwide, including many Canadian cities.