Uber upbeat about growth despite facing legal woes

Uber upbeat about growth despite facing legal woes

Despite facing a host of legal hurdles, the creator of GPS-based smartphone app Uber says Thailand is on the list of the three fastest growing markets for its taxi app service in Southeast Asia.

The two other countries are Indonesia and Singapore.

The California-based ride-sharing service company continues to expand to provinces outside of Bangkok and its vicinities, said Chan Park, general manager of Uber Technologies Inc for Southeast Asia.

Uber is facing mounting legal trouble globally including in Thailand even as its service grows in popularity, and it is now among the most valuable US start-ups, valued at US$41.2 billion last year.

Thailand's Department of Land Transport last November announced a ban on Uber, claiming that the company was using improperly registered vehicles, and its drivers were not charging approved rates.

Furthermore, Uber drivers did not hold the required driving licences for public transport, and were not registered on the public-vehicle drivers database, the department said.

"We have closely liaised with the Thai authorities after discussing the issues several times. But we cannot disclose the details," Mr Park said yesterday on the occasion of the first anniversary of Uber in Thailand.

Waenyod Wongtrangan, general manager of Uber Technologies Thailand, said Uber has received 1.5 million trip requested by people in Bangkok and Phuket in the first year of operations here.

About 20% of customers are tourists and the rest are people living in Bangkok.

Ms Waenyod said Uber services could help cities to reduce traffic congestion and create more jobs. There are at least 5 million cars in Bangkok, while roads in the city can only support 1.5 million cars.

She cited a study that reported that if a city reduces traffic congestion by 10%, this would lead to a 30% reduction in fuel costs.

Uber also shares 80% of service revenue with drivers, while the company takes the remaining 20%, she said.

To provide greater safety for passengers, Mr Park said Uber plans to introduce a new in-app feature in Thailand that allows fares to immediately contact local authorities when they need assistance.

The company also plans to introduce a car pool service app that will allow passengers to share the same vehicle and save money.

The new service is being tested in San Francisco, London and New York, he said.

Uber now operates in 300 cities across 56 countries, including most in Southeast Asia.

Southeast Asia is an enormous and growing opportunity in the Asia-Pacific region for Uber, thanks to its high population and high smartphone penetration rates.

"We are committed to adding new features to our services in Southeast Asia, which is home to key potential markets for us like Thailand, Indonesia, the Philippines and Malaysia," said Ms Waenyod.

Mr Park added that Asia Pacific is Uber's priority market in terms of expansion. "Asia will contribute a major proportion of Uber's revenue in the near future," he said.

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