US online taxi service firm Uber, has set a minimum charge of Sh500 for its Nairobi cab service. The company launched its uberX online taxi hailing service in the Kenyan market on Wednesday.
Riders will be required to download the Uber app onto their smartphones or register online to access taxis operated by the San Francisco-based company.
“After a month’s worth of speculation, we are so excited to be launching in Nairobi with our uberX product. Our mission for Nairobi is to provide the safest, most reliable rides at the touch of a button,” said Alastair Curtis, Uber International Launcher for Africa.
Uber has made international waves through its revolutionary taxi service that has generally been cheaper than traditional cabs, especially in instances where customers travelling in the same direction car pool to cut costs.
Customers will be charged at a base rate of Sh100 plus a charge of Sh4 per minute spent on the ride and an additional Sh60 per kilometre.
UberX said it would be using Toyota Corollas, Fielders and equivalent car models for customer rides.
Customers will get a 20 per cent discount in the first two weeks of the launch. Cancellation of bookings will attract a charge of Sh300.
Riders using the app will be able to see the driver’s photo, name, vehicle and registration number.
According to the statement from Uber, the driver’s star rating will also be included when the booking is being made. Rating of the drivers will be done by the customers to determine whether they will remain in the service of the company or be removed if they have consistent poor ratings.
Safety issues concerning Uber drivers have been highlighted in the news after a rape incident in Delhi, India.
“All partner drivers in Nairobi have a commercial licence and have insurance, and Uber takes it one step further by ensuring that all partner-drivers undergo a comprehensive biometric criminal background check before they are allowed to drive on the Uber system. In addition, Uber performs regular vehicle inspections to ensure safety standards are maintained,” said Mr Curtis in a statement.
“Drivers don’t carry cash; all payments are cashless, electronic and traceable. A rider’s fare is charged automatically and electronically onto their credit or debit card after their trip.”
The move, according to him is to ensure the safety of the driver too.
In addition, the rider will be able to access a live GPS-enabled map which they can share with friends or family. This is to ensure that the security as well as the swiftness of the journey.
Last year, the company was sued to stop operations in Oregon, its operations were suspended in Nevada, and it was banned in Netherlands due to a lack of special licences to allow them to pick up passengers.
Uber temporarily suspended operations in France after a court injunction was issued against it following protests by a Madrid taxi association. In Europe, taxi associations have taken to the streets stating that Uber had an unfair advantage operating in the markets.
Despite the controversy surrounding the firm, its latest valuation puts it at $40 billion (Sh3.6 trillion). Uber is set to create 50,000 jobs in Europe in 2015 even with the stiff opposition.