Uber’s January 15 launch in Trinidad & Tobago has had a bit of a rocky start, and we have to wonder if we will face similar issues when the transportation app lands in Jamaica. Uber staff took a “workation” in Runaway Bay last December to develop their goals for 2017. The twitter account @Uber_Jamaica has been claimed since September 2016.
While we wait and see how soon Uber will launch here we ought to find insight into TT’s experience. Both the islands’ government and police have called Uber “illegal”. Trinidad’s laws forbid paid transport professionals from carrying passengers without acquiring third party liability insurance for passengers. Uber has avoided insurance issues in the past by classifying itself as an online service provider as opposed to a taxi company.
Founded in the United States, Uber competes for local transportation services in over 70 countries. The model is simple. Users request and pay for rides with safe private drivers through their smartphone.
The big question is whether Jamaica is ready for Uber if and when it does come? Many believe it will benefit Jamaica although there may be some hurdles. Parliament is now overhauling the Road Traffic Act and license class allows driving “for reward or otherwise.”
Jamaican twitter users have voiced their opinions about Uber, some pointing out that it is unoriginal and not likely to have much of a market.
Others are excited and looking forward to the app coming here, and still others are more wary. While the app is largely safe, Uber has had trouble with rogue drivers who have been arrested for assault and murder in some countries. Of course, we can’t say that current options are the safest. Nor are they without risk to your wallet.
More importantly, there are already smartphone apps in Jamaica, made by Jamaicans that provide the same service as Uber. Get There (recently written up in the Gleaner) is a travel app for Jamaica that, like Uber and other car-hire apps, allows you to request a ride from your phone. The app shows you drivers who have been rated for their quality, as well as the make and year of their vehicle. It then notifies you by SMS when they have arrived to pick you up. The app is on both Android and iOs.
Apart from the incidents that have occurred with its drivers, Uber still has a grey moral reputation. The app has been known to desert its employees when faced with any form of local regulation, and the pay they give drivers is small in comparison to its biggest rivals. In the US, there have also been allegations of racist and sexist discrimination against passengers. Perhaps Jamaican Uber hopefuls should instead be looking at local apps and innovations before rich foreign competitors arrive.