It appears that the law is merely a recommendation for the mobile ride-sharing app company Uber. Just a few short weeks after its pilot, in which it operated its UberX service for free for a weekend when private drivers took orders via the app and gave rides to passengers, the company is now taking another step forward, and beginning to formally hire drivers for the service.
The service makes it possible to compete with taxis, through lower rates, because no taxicab or taxi license (or the fees entailed therein) are necessary, and because, for many drivers, it is a secondary source of income. The law today does not allow UberX to operate in Israel, due to these restrictions, which require a special license to drive for pay. Minister of Transport Yisrael Katz has even expressed objections to the operation of the service in Israel in the past, but Uber is not waiting for Katz.
The pilot a few weeks ago in Tel Aviv was possible because it was free. Thus, the operation of services did not violate the law, because no payment was charged. But the fact that it is currently hiring drivers for the UberX service indicates the intent of the Israeli branch, managed by Yoni Greifman, to move ahead with the service. The matter of operating the service is being discussed with the Ministry of Transport and other entities, but there has been no indication that the service will be authorized by the Ministry of Transport to operate legally anytime soon.
But Uber operates when it is ready, as it has done in many cities and countries around the world. The company explained that the process of hiring drivers is underway due to the great interest in UberX that was expressed following the free pilot in Tel Aviv. The company notes that the threshold requirements for drivers are: a minimum age of 23, 3+ years of driving experience, and 12 years of education. In addition, candidates are required to undergo a background check, including a medical examination, as well as verification that the candidate has no criminal record, and no significant traffic violations. In the selection process, candidates will show the company’s representatives the car they will drive, which must be up to ten years old, have four doors, be in excellent condition, and have undergone a comprehensive inspection (including brakes) in the past year.”
Uber Israel CEO Yoni Greifman said, “Following the operation of UberX for free for 48 hours, we received a lot of feedback - from passengers, who enjoyed the service and are interested in beginning to ride at the reduced prices the service offers, and also from drivers, who asked to work as UberX drivers for various reasons. In order for us to be ready to operate the service in the future, we decided to begin registering drivers already now, with stricter requirements than those required of taxi drivers today.”
Operation of the service in Israel, should it happen, will put the taxi market on the defensive. Not only will the UberTAXI service itself be harmed by the possibility of cheaper rides, but the competition with GetTaxi will also intensify, as will the competition with traditional taxi stations. That said, it should be noted that private drivers will be behind the wheel, not taxi drivers, and past experience from around the world has shown that Uber does not always succeed in meeting the stringent selection process that it pledges to uphold.
Just last week, an UberX driver in Delhi, India, was arrested on suspicion that he raped a passenger. The police investigation revealed that the driver had been convicted of sexual assault in the past. Uber promised to help with the police investigation, but Uber CEO Travis Kalanick was quick to deny responsibility, and blamed the local authorities for the hiring of the driver, since the driver was accepted by Uber based on their authorization.
Published by Globes [online], Israel business news - www.globes-online.com - on December 10, 2014
© Copyright of Globes Publisher Itonut (1983) Ltd. 2014