A report by Leah Sorias for the Trinidad Express.
Ride-sharing app Uber has been officially launched in Trinidad.
Three months after announcing that it was coming to this country, the multi-billion-dollar San Francisco-based online transportation network, Uber Technologies Inc, will turn on the Uber app here today.
The app allows consumers with smartphones to submit a trip request, which the software then automatically sends to the nearest Uber driver, alerting the driver to the location of the customer.
It is available in 545 cities across 66 countries worldwide, including one other Caribbean country, Dominican Republic.
Trinidad and Tobago is Uber’s first West Indian territory.
Starting in Port of Spain
The ride-sharing service will only be available within the Port of Spain and San Fernando areas for now, but will eventually spread across other towns and even Tobago.
That’s according to Julie Robinson-Centella, Uber’s communications associate for Central America and the Caribbean.
“You need to be inside the Port of Spain or San Fernando areas to request it. The driver can take you outside of these areas but you have to be within those two zones to request the service,” she said on Friday at Hilton Trinidad, where she revealed the launch date and specifics of how the service would work here.
All Uber fares consist of a base fare, a distance-travelled fare and time-taken fare.
Robinson-Centella said Trinidad’s base fare is TT$20.
Other fares include
Minimum fare: $32.50 TTD
Base fare: $20.00 TTD
Per minute: $1.20 TTD
Per kilometer: $1.40 TTD
Booking fee: $2.50 TTD
Uber fare estimator:
Robinson-Centella said more than 200 drivers were already registered but this figure is expected to grow.
Cash, credit card payments
The service typically bills a customer’s credit card through the app but last year Uber opened up a cash option.
Robinson-Centella said both payment options will be available in Trinidad.
“The reason is that credit card penetration in Latin America and the Caribbean is really low. For example, in Panama, it’s less than 20 per cent. It (cash option) has been doing really, really good,” she said.
Robinson-Centella said all Uber rides will be insured through Guardian General.
The insurance coverage will provide protection of both riders and third-parties using UberX.
“Every trip with Uber is covered with the following coverages in the event of a motor vehicle accident:
• Automobile liability coverage for third-party and passenger liability.
• Passenger accident coverage for medical expenses, accidental death and disability.
“This coverage commences from the moment a passenger enters the vehicle until the last passenger exits the vehicle,” she noted.
Uber and T&T taxi laws
From inception to now, Uber has argued that it is not a transportation company but rather an online service provider.
Robinson-Centella said it is on this basis that Uber cannot be regulated under Trinidad and Tobago’s Motor Vehicle and Road Traffic Act.
The law prohibits anyone who is not a registered taxi driver from operating a car for hire.
Robinson-Centella pointed out: “The most important thing is that our service is not a taxi service. Definitely, our service cannot be regulated or legislated through the same regulations or laws that have been built many years before, when Trinidad started to function. That’s one of the things we keep on enforcing before we start. A regular taxi service won’t have a system to get into.
“But definitely we are doing everything possible to have the best service in Trinidad and Tobago and we’re a legal company established to work here.”
Safety of service
Asked whether this country’s high crime rate could impact the success of Uber, Robinson-Centella said she did not believe so.
“Trinidad won’t be the first service we get into and they tell us we have a high crime situation. We launched in Guatemala a month ago and that was the first insight they gave us. We haven’t had any situation since we launched. The fact that there is no anonymity in the platform will give us a safe and reliable ride to people,” she said.
“This reduces all the possibilities of having situations between a rider and a driver. Things may happen…there is no guarantee that nothing bad will happen, but there are steps to reduce the amount of people thinking of doing things through the platform,” she explained.