Newspaper article The Tuscaloosa News

Uber to Link Tuscaloosa Riders with Drivers Using Application, Although Company Could Face Legal Issues

Newspaper article The Tuscaloosa News

Uber to Link Tuscaloosa Riders with Drivers Using Application, Although Company Could Face Legal Issues

Article excerpt

Uber, a global transportation company, launched in Tuscaloosa Thursday, though as it has in some cities, it may face legal challenges.

The expansion was part of the San Francisco-based company's move into 24 new cities, 22 of them college towns, also including Auburn and Athens, Ga. Uber is now in 205 cities in 45 countries, according to spokesperson Taylor Bennett.

"With today's launch, we're now in over 100 cities in the U.S.," he said.

Uber uses a smartphone application to connect users with nearby drivers who are independent contractors, get estimated costs, and order rides. In addition to a base fare of $1.50, Uber in Tuscaloosa fares will be based on 20 cents per minute or $1.60 per mile, according to its site. No cash exchanges are involved, and no tipping is allowed.

"The rider creates a profile, enters some electronic form of payment ... the ride shows up in minutes," Bennett said. "For the drivers, too, they're not carrying around wads of cash, not worrying about that.

"What we see in the majority of the cities we operate, the Uber experience is upwards of 40 percent cheaper than a taxi."

However, in several locations, Uber has been challenged as a taxi service, while not meeting regulatory standards for such.

"Anyone operating a taxi must meet the requirements of the taxi ordinance, which includes vehicle inspection, operator licenses and a business license to operate under within the city," said James P. Woodson III, senior associate city attorney. "The person driving must comply with the taxi ordinance, as well as Uber, who would have to obtain a city business license."

Sgt. Brent Blankley, spokesman for the Tuscaloosa Police Department, said TPD is aware of the presence of Uber, but knew of no licensing documentation or other permit applications submitted or filed.

"We'll enforce all the laws that we can," Blankley said. "The taxicabs, they have to go through background investigations and safety checks on the vehicles. With Uber, they try to get around that, and we want to ensure the safety of all people who ride in cabs. …

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