This week, the Roads and Transport Authority (RTA) of Dubai announced that it will be suspending the most economic ride options across both ride-hailing apps, Uber and Careem, followed by confirmation from the two companies. The two options were dubbed UberX and CareemGO.
“In collaboration with the RTA, the GO car type was launched as a pilot project in 2017 and is now coming to an end. As of today, this option will no longer be available in Dubai,” Careem said.
As for Uber: “UberX has been operating as a pilot in Dubai for the last two years, subject to RTA discretion and approval. As per the recent decision by the RTA to bring this pilot to an end, we will be ceasing the operation of UberX in Dubai,” a spokesperson said in a statement.
UberX (and counterpart CareemGO) offered residents of Dubai what Uber describes “as a private ride at an everyday price.” In a sense, this service served to aid both companies in finding more solid footing in the market, offering unmissable prices in comparison with existing ride services, such as the RTA taxis themselves.
However, the timing of this cancellation coincides with another crucial piece of news.
Last week, Careem and the RTA launched together a new service, Hala, which will allow users to book RTA taxis through the Careem app. Given this joint venture, it makes sense why the RTA would put a halt to the CareemGO and UberX offerings.
“Uber X and CareemGO were introduced as short-term pilot e-hailing services for customers seeking an economy option,” a spokesperson for the RTA told The National. “All this was done to compare and evaluate existing and new e-hailing services in the city and check on the feasibility of such technology and services in the market.”
This could be seen as an attempt by the RTA to ensure its taxis have an updated and more involved role in the digitally-transforming travel sector, especially given that it is integrating with one of the region’s premier innovators of cab travel and booking. If you can’t beat the disruptors, join them.
This is clearly seen in the RTA’s attempt to leave behind outdated booking methods such as call centres in favor of modernity, convenience and cost-cutting.
Ahmed Hashim Bahrozyan, the CEO of RTA’s Public Transport Agency (PTA) said that while for the time being the RTA’s existing taxi call centre will continue to operate, users will be encouraged to download the Careem app.
“The RTA call centre will continue to operate for the near future, but we’ll eventually be phasing it out,” he said. “Even the people that call the centre today, the aim is to encourage them to download the Careem app.”
Hala is already producing positive results, with drivers working for the service reporting higher earnings.
“We’ve done a survey of thousands of captains, and the first results [show] that 71 percent of them reported an increase in earnings,” Hala CEO Clemence Dutertre said this week. “80 percent of them reported that they are very happy with the system because it provides the additional tools to help make their lives easier, like GPS to know the route, simplified payments through credit card and knowing their customers.”