'Affordable luxury' comes with its in-built share of irony- however, things on the smart mobility front might be moving towards a change with the joint announcement by RTA Dubai and Uber to launch the trial of the uberX service that aims to provide passengers in Dubai with access to affordable travel. This comes following a partnership agreement between Uber and the RTA in January to study new mobility options to support Dubai Plan 2021. uberX has been successfully rolled out in cities across the Middle East, including Riyadh, Cairo, and Beirut.
The pilot uberX in the UAE will be rolled out gradually over a trial period of 3 months starting Monday. It starts with a limited number of vehicles, and expanding to a wider pool of riders and driver-partners. Abdulla Yousef Al Ali, CEO of RTA’s Public Transport Agency said: “The announcement of this pilot service is a very encouraging news for Dubai. Smart mobility is a key pillar of every smart city and the provision of economy solutions is an integral element of the smart mobility.
“Through this initiative, we aim to expand and enhance the integration with public transport modes including metro, tram, public buses and marine transport means in Dubai based on the First and Last miles,” said Al Ali.
Chris Free, general manager, Uber UAE added: “We are very excited about this partnership with the RTA and to bring uberX to Dubai, a city leading the way in smart technologies. This launch promotes our belief that increased access to economic and reliable modes of transport will provide a viable alternative to individual car ownership.”
The pricing of uberX will include a AED5 base fare, with additional costs of AED1.37 per km or AED0.4 per minute. The already existing services, UberSELECT and UberBLACK are priced relatively higher. UberSELECT comes with a AED8 base fare, with additional costs of AED1.80 per km or AED0.5 per minute while UberBLACK starts at a AED10 base fare, with additional costs of AED1.90 per km or AED0.8 per minute.
Until now, Uber, estimated to be valued at $60 billion and its regional rival, Careem, valued at $1 billion, have been barred from offering economical services in Dubai as regulations require their fares to be 30 per cent higher than local taxis.
One wonders if the pilot brings with it the potential to enhance the popularity of Uber relative to Careem and RTA taxis in the region. If asked to choose, what is the option would one go for when you want to call a cab?
US-based Crimson Hexagon, a social media analytics company, on Wednesday said in its “The Middle East Consumer Trends” report that Careem is gaining traction over Uber because it is perceived as a “local” brand as regional consumers now prefer and support a home-grown brands.
However, there are pros and cons of the various services on offer. (refer to the table).
What would I choose personally? Well, if I am in a hurry, I will choose the service that I can avail at the earliest, be it the RTA cab I can see coming across the street or one out of Uber and Careem- the one which gives a lesser waiting time. What if I am not in a hurry? I will go for Uber- there's a comfort level I feel plus I know the exact fare I will have to pay irrespective of any stops along the way. Which is your preference?