Uber and Careem are to significantly expand their presence in Abu Dhabi after holding talks with the local transport authorities.
While Uber will be making a return to the emirate with 50 to 100 cars as of 12.30pm on Monday, November 19, after a two-year absence.
In addition, both Uber company and its local competitor, Careem, have announced a new fleet driven by Emiratis that will cost the same as standard taxis.
Private taxis currently have to set their fees significantly higher than standard city taxis to prevent them undercutting the government-run service. The same rules will continue to apply to taxis with non-Emirati drivers, but the new service will offer an extra option to residents.
The new service is expected to be available to the public from early next year.
Under the terms of Uber’s return to the market, passengers hailing the company’s standard limo cabs will pay “around 30 per cent” more compared to the price of standard taxis.
“Before that it was much higher,” said Anthony Khoury, regional manager for Uber Middle East.
“I think it was 40 per cent and 50 per cent more than standard taxis. The new regulations state that limousines will be around 30 per cent, which is quite a bit cheaper than before.”
Mr Khoury was unable to reveal the exact cost to hail an Uber, but he said it would be “very similar” to Dubai at a press conference to announce the launch the service in Abu Dhabi on Monday.
Uber has just started recruiting Emirati drivers, said Mr Khoury. The move will significantly improve the experience for passengers – particularly tourists, he said.
“It gives a little bit of a cultural flavour,” said Mr Khoury.
“When they arrive you can ride with someone from the region, with someone who will be able to tell you more about Abu Dhabi and where to go and what to do.”
Emiratis will be able to use the platform to create opportunities on the side, he said.
“Anyone who is Emirati will be able to go to work in the morning and maybe do two or three hours in the afternoon to complement their income,” said Mr Khoury.
As The National reported in May, Careem have already launched a drive to recruit Emirati nationals, as well as the children of Emirati women who do not have full citizenship, to become drivers for the new service. Training will be provided on driving skills, using its technology and customer service.
The taxis will be priced at exactly the same level as standard taxis, with a minimum charge of Dh12 and the same cost per kilometre.
Transport bosses said the move would open up more affordable options to the public when booking taxis while also providing new, secure employment opportunities to the native workforce.
“Careem and TransAD are taking a bold step in enabling Emirati participation in the ride-hailing economy with their own private vehicles and at no premium to taxis,” said Samir Satchu, senior director of government relations and public policy at Careem.
“This is a first for the UAE. We hope to be able to demonstrate over time that the Careem platform can be a significant driver of local economic empowerment in Abu Dhabi and across some of our other GCC markets.”
The new initiative will open up jobs to the local workforce, Careem said. Those registering are likely to find themselves busier than their non-Emirati colleagues due to the lower fares, potentially making the jobs more lucrative as they will spend less time waiting for fares.
“It’s a great milestone that we can now bring our city more affordable ride hailing options and at the same time empower our UAE National workforce with a new way to earn a regular, flexible income in a safe and regulated environment,” said Mohammed Al Qamzi, general manager of TransAD.
To qualify as a Careem driver, applicants must have local residency, be 23 or older and have a minimum of five years’ driving experience. Registrations is open as of Monday.