DUBAI // Carpool Arabia, the community ride-share website, operates within the rules of the Dubai Government’s car-pooling campaign.
But participants could find themselves in hot water if they do not register with the Roads and Transport Authority beforehand.
The RTA’s Sharekni website allows drivers to register for and agree to the guidelines established for car-pooling in Dubai.
The site’s main purpose is to avoid what Dubai Police call passenger smuggling, or charging people for rides. Breaches can cost up to Dh4,000 in fines.
But websites such as Carpool Arabia ride a fine line by letting users set up their routes and charge only for gas and car maintenance.
“The contribution you make is not for profit,” said Benjamin de Terssac, co-founder of the site.
“We urge users to register on Sharekni but if you car-pool with family, coworkers and friends, or people from your community, then you don’t have to register.”
Mr de Terssac’s site allows users to create profiles with the details of their trips and post availability for passengers.
With ladies-only options, community integration and even a free Ramadan option, Carpool Arabia is hoping to overcome preconceived notions against sharing rides. But it fails to completely address concerns over legality.
The website gives users the option to charge their passengers, which according to the RTA is legal as long as it is not for profit.
However, users must sign up with Sharekni before they use a site such as Carpool Arabia, which is not yet recognised by the RTA.
“This is an unregulated website promoting car-pooling within Dubai,” said a representative from the RTA. “Users are still required to get an RTA licence to travel in order to affiliate with RTA’s requirement.”
But outside Dubai, charging a fee to share a ride makes a car owner an illegal taxi operator.
By advertising for passengers throughout the UAE, users are driving through uncharted territory, with no clear guidelines or laws differentiating between car-pooling and passenger smuggling.
“Based on our research it was very difficult to find something on car-pooling in Sharjah. Even in the Department of Transport in Abu Dhabi there was nothing,” Mr de Terssac said. “The only policy I found was for RTA in Dubai.”
Mr de Terssac and his partner, Guillaume Arnaud, did not seek approval from the RTA or other government agencies because they believed they were working within the framework of the regulations to show that car-pooling is safe and good for the environment.
“Illegal taxi drivers will drive you anywhere for a price. Users on our website can’t do that,” Mr de Terssac said.
“They post destinations that they are already going to and ask people to join them if they are also going to the same place.”