Uber Taiwan yesterday announced plans to launch a new service called UberTAXI next month by working with local taxi operators.
However, the Ministry of Transportation and Communications said the company would remain an illegal service provider and would be ordered to cease operations if it continues to hire drivers who do not hold a license to operate commercial vehicles.
Uber Taiwan made the seemingly conciliatory move after amendments to the Highway Act (公路法) took effect earlier this month, raising the maximum fine for illegal taxi operators to NT$25 million (US$790,564).
Photo courtesy of Uber Technologies Inc
Uber said that the service is a partnership with the Taxi Driver Labor Union of the Republic of China, adding that it would initially be offered in the Greater Taipei area.
People could call a cab by using the Uber app and would be charged based on standard rates set by taxis operating in Taipei, Uber said.
Despite its partnership with the union, the company said it has no intention to drop its UberX, UberBlack and UberAssist services, which use non-licensed drivers.
“The introduction of UberTAXI shows that a sharing economy and taxis can coexist in Taiwan’s healthy, vibrant and diversified market, which benefits both drivers and passengers,” Uber Taiwan general manager Ku Li-kai (顧立楷) said. “The partnership [with the union] demonstrates Uber’s commitment to the Taiwanese market. We will continue our negotiations with government agencies and hope that the government would draft appropriate laws to regulate ride-sharing services.”
Union chairman Lin Sheng-he (林聖河) said that it is looking forward to its partnership with Uber Taiwan, as the technology developed by the company can help cab drivers find more passengers and increase their income.
Passengers will have another safe, reliable and quality service option, he said.
Lin said that 60 to 70 percent of union members said in a survey that they were willing to be Uber drivers if there is another platform out there that matches the service requests with the taxi drivers.
However, the partnership would cease if the company continues to dispatch illegal taxi drivers, he said.
Taipei City Professional Drivers’ Union president Cheng Li-chia (鄭力嘉) said that Lin made a unilateral decision to work with Uber without consulting other groups.
Department of Railways and Highways specialist Hu Ti-chi (胡迪琦) said that the ministry is not yet clear about the details of the partnership, but it is glad to see that Uber has decided to work with taxi operators.
However, Hu added: “Even if part of Uber’s operation is legal now, we will continue cracking down on its illegal services. That is, if it continues hiring drivers who do not have a valid taxi driver’s license.”
Uber will have to apply to become a legal transport service provider if it dispatches taxi drivers and charges passengers for the service, she added.
Uber would not have any legal issue if it simply serves as a non-profit platform that matches taxi drivers with passengers requesting cab services, she said.
However, it becomes a legal issue if Uber pays and dispatches drivers to offer services, because it is not a registered transport service operator, she said.
Statistics from the Directorate General of Highways showed that as of Friday last week, Uber has been fined a total of NT$96.49 million: NT$73.25 million for the company and NT$23.24 million for its drivers.
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