Uber looks to restart talks with TransAD in Abu Dhabi

The ride-hailing company says it wants to work with TransAD to get its drivers back on the roads of the capital.

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Uber wants to relaunch talks with Abu Dhabi’s regulatory body for hire cars to help to bring the app back to residents in the capital, according to a company executive.

Christopher Free, the general manager at Uber UAE, said the company’s current focus was on its recently launched uberX pilot project in Dubai, but Abu Dhabi was on its agenda. Launching in Dubai in April, uberX offers a more affordable option for everyday users.

"Once we get a bit more clarity on what works with uberX, we need to spend more time in Abu Dhabi – on the ground working with Trans AD – to help bring solutions forward," he told The National.

It has been almost a year since TransAD, now known as the Integrated Transport Centre, stopped Uber and fellow ride-hailing app Careem from operating in the emirate after prices directly competed with or, in some instances, undercut standard taxis. TransAD at the time said they violated regulations that stipulated pricing must be on par with more expensive limousine rates.

Careem re-entered the market two months after its closure last August but with limited services. Users were required to book cars at least 90 minutes in advance using a new pricing structure that started at Dh40. And, in February, the Dubai-based company came back to the capital in full force with instant, on-demand booking.

A Careem spokeswoman said on-demand was the bread and butter for the ride-hailing app’s customers. “Since we’ve come back, our numbers have dramatically increased,” she said.

The company aims to increase trips by 30 per cent each month and by reinstating instant bookings, Careem has reached its target. Abu Dhabi standard taxi rates increased last month, which means the pricing gap has tightened between the two services.

Careem said it does not plan to increase its rates in Abu Dhabi. In addition, the company has expanded its offerings in the emirate by launching this week the option for customers to pay in cash when typically the service works based on a cashless transfer via credit or debit cards.

It also introduced this month a bundle option that allows frequent users in Abu Dhabi to purchase KM Packages. This service provides discounted rates of up to 20 per cent when pre-paying for 50 to 300 kilometres. An in-app calculator has been created which prompts customers to enter regular routes as well as frequency to generate a recommended bundle.

“It’s a new way of buying credit with us,” said the spokeswoman, adding that there were no peak or airport surcharges with the bundles. “We did it for various reasons to help customers budget if they aren’t getting a car and want to know how much they’re spending.”

lgraves@thenational.ae

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