Cape Town impounds over 200 Uber cars in 2015

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The headquarters of Uber in San Francisco. (Eric Risberg, AP)
The headquarters of Uber in San Francisco. (Eric Risberg, AP)

Cape Town - Traffic officials have so far impounded over 200 Uber cars in Cape Town during 2015, according to the internet ride-sharing service.

In January, Fin24 reported that over 60 cars were impounded in the city that month because Cape Town officials wanted Uber drivers to apply for metered taxi licences from the Western Cape province’s transport department.

READ: Protest against Uber rocks Cape Town

Uber officials in South Africa, though, have previously questioned whether a metered licence is appropriate for the internet ride-sharing service as Uber differs from traditional metered taxi operations.

In Johannesburg, Uber drivers operate on a chartered licence, which is said to be less onerous to obtain than a metered taxi permit.

However, the head of Uber in Sub-Saharan Africa, Alon Lits, said on Tuesday that the company is working to comply with the city’s regulations and ensure a clear route to licensing.

"There have been over 200 to date," Lits said as he referred to the number of Uber cars impounded in Cape Town for 2015.

"These drivers have applied for their operating licences," Lits told journalists.

Lits said Uber had been engaging with the province and city since early 2014.

He also said that a key decision on the matter from provincial authorities is expected to be made on Friday July 10 after the city had processed a number of drivers' applications.

An Uber official at the briefing also said that there had been 800 applications for the licences and that 350 letters had been issued.

"And a question I have for the city is how many non-Uber vehicles were impounded,” he added.

Uber’s Lits said the service also does its own criminal background checks on drivers in a bid to ensure the safety of the service.

The internet company operates on a model whereby it partners with drivers and car-owners rather than employing them directly. Uber then takes a cut of each ride made.

Growing SA demand

Demand for Uber in South Africa has exploded in 2015 with the service notching up two million rides this year, double that of last year according to Lits.

Lits said that growth levels for Uber in Johannesburg and Cape Town has outstripped other cities such as San Francisco and Paris.

However, apart from Cape Town, Uber has also experienced regulatory challenges in Durban regarding licences.

Lits said that as a result, growth in Durban has been slower than in Johannesburg and Cape Town.

“Our partners have had issues obtaining operating licences in Durban," said Lits.

However, uncertainties over licences for Uber drivers could also become a factor in Johannesburg.

On Tuesday, Bloomberg reported that the City of Johannesburg is consulting with the government of Gauteng province on how to introduce new rules for the internet ride-sharing service.

Johannesburg, Cape Town and Durban are among 300 cities across the globe that have the service.

Uber has experienced regulatory problems across the globe in recent years.

This week, Uber executives have been detained in France and questioned for alleged violations of a transportation law in France that bans operating a service such low-cost as UberPOP.

Uber has also experienced legal challenges in South Korea.

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