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uberTAXI set to launch in Taipei next month

2017/09/19 22:10:57

Taipei, Sept. 19 (CNA) Uber Technologies Inc., a U.S-based ride-sharing company, announced on Tuesday it will share its App technology with two Taiwanese taxi service providers in a bid to re-enter the local market with a new business model.

There will be uberTAXI in Taipei by mid-October, the company said, referring to its plan to partner with Crown Taxi and Ya Tai Taxi.

Uber said its App will connect drivers with prospective passengers directly, ensuring taxis spend less time empty.

"Turning on the App for taxis will give drivers greater earning opportunities, while riders will get another option for a safe, affordable and reliable way to get around," Brooks Entwistle, Uber's Chief Business Officer in the Asia Pacific, said in a statement.

All uberTAXI trips will be GPS-tracked from start to finish, Uber said, explaining that passengers will be able share details of their trips in real time with family and friends.

Riders will have to pay in cash, based on the fare set by the taximeter and after every ride passengers will be asked to rate drivers and provide feedback to ensure quality service, it said.

Chen Hsin-chun (陳新鈞), general manager of Ya Tai Taxi, said the partnership will help a small taxi company like it to build up a new technology platform without having to make a big investment.

"With the Uber platform, uberTAXI drivers will have more economic opportunities and provide passengers with a safer and better quality ride service," Chen said.

Uber said its service will contribute to more efficient taxi services in Taipei, citing Ministry of Transportation and Communications (MOTC) data that taxis spend as little as 30 percent of their time carrying passengers in the greater Taipei area, home to 56,000 taxis.

Uber's move is seen as a strategy to re-enter the Taiwanese market, after it suspended services in February following the imposition of huge fines for violating laws governing the operation of transportation services.

Uber, first launched in Taiwan in 2013, but was deemed to be illegally operating transportation related services in the country because it initially registered as a provider of information services.

However, Uber argued it was not a taxi service and refused to comply with the government's demand to register as such, which led to protests from taxi drivers and fines from the government.

In March, Taiwan authorities froze NT$11.84 million (US$383,600) in bank deposits held by Uber and seized equipment from its Taipei office in lieu of taxes.

In addition, Uber has not yet paid fines estimated at more than NT$1.1 billion for the operation of illegal passenger transportation services.

In response to Uber's return, MOTC's Department of Railways and Highways specialist Hu Ti-chi (胡迪琦) said the ministry will review the new business model to see if it is legal.

"If Uber just offers its App technology to the taxi companies as it claims, it should be OK. However, many of the details remain unknown at the moment," Hu said.

(By Lee Hsin-Yin)