Uber is coming to Trinidad and Tobago

Bradley Wint
Oct 5, 2016 1:10am AST
Photo: Uber

If you’re a Trinidadian like myself and use/have used Uber at some point, you may have gotten an email from Uber announcing Trinidad and Tobago as their next target market.

“We are very excited to announce that Uber is arriving to Trinidad & Tobago, bringing safe, reliable and accessible rides whenever and wherever you are!

“You can also become a Partner, meet new people and make money driving on your own schedule. “

In the email, they promote the ability to make money with your car, drive when you want to, and take control of the trips you wish to make.

The ride-sharing giant, which has already made its name in other international markets such as the United States, China, Brazil, Mexico, Russia, India, and many others, is now inviting interested parties to attend consultation events to discuss their plans to enter the market.

The events takes place at the Radisson Hotel in Port of Spain, Trinidad on the 6th, 7th, 8th, and 10th of October, 3 times a day (10 am, 1 pm, and 5:30 pm). Reservations can be made via the scheduling app here.

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What is Uber?

According to UberEstimate.com, Uber provides services to both riders (those looking for a ride) and drivers.

For riders, Uber is a convenient, inexpensive and safe taxi service. Hire a private driver to pick you up & take you to your destination with the tap of a button on your phone – and they’ll arrive within minutes. Not only is it an on-demand car service, but you can see exactly where the driver is as they come to pick you up.

For drivers, Uber provides exceptional pay while allowing you to be your own boss & pick your own hours. Take on fares whenever you wish (work as little or as much as you want) while meeting people in your city from all walks of life.

Issues Uber faces in Trinidad and Tobago?

As soon as I heard the news, I got in contact with one of my friends who also lives in Trinidad and works as a part-time Uber driver in Florida. While we were still both unsure how Uber plans to implement their service, he did mention a few points that could be problematic for the company.

He said that transportation within Trinidad is extremely cheap compared to other countries, and Uber may have a hard time capitalizing on this as locals may not want to pay a premium fare when they could easily take a single or multiple taxis for a lesser price.

Credit card penetration also seems to be an issue. Unlike the United States, credit cards (or even prepaid VISA debit cards) are still not very popular amongst the masses, and those who do have credit cards may feel wary about using them. Mention was made that things could change given the recent launch of bmobile’s prepaid VISA card.

Data coverage also seems to be a major issue, especially in many parts of south Trinidad.

He also made note that GPS maps do not properly map Trinidad and Tobago to facilitate address searches like in other, more developed countries. For instance, in the United States, a house address can be inputted into whatever GPS device is being used, and the software would then point you to the exact location. However, Trinidad’s GPS maps can only point you to the street, leaving some guess work when it comes to finding to actual building where drivers need to pick up and drop off passengers.

Passenger safety also came to mind. In the US, driver checks are tied to their social security number, which is also linked to whatever police records they may have on file. However, as Trinidad and Tobago does not have an integrated system like this, more thorough checks may be required on entry into the service.

A final stumbling block relates to the country’s legislation regarding hired transport.

According to section 48:50 of the Motor Vehicle and Road Traffic Act, it states that “no person shall drive on any road a taxi registered as such unless he is the holder of a taxi driver’s licence issued to him by the Licensing Authority under these Regulations.”

In reality, this act is rarely enforced, as many private car owners operate as adhoc taxis along various taxi routes within the country. These “PH” (private hire) taxi drivers are sometimes favoured over registered taxis as they take passengers into areas not generally covered by the officially taxi route being operated.

Let’s see how this works out once Uber joins the club.

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