​UberX offering free rides in Adelaide

In a move to gain initial traction in South Australia, UberX is offering free rides from Friday until further notice.
Written by Aimee Chanthadavong, Contributor

Ride-booking service UberX has launched in Adelaide and is offering passengers free rides.

The company previously threatened to abandon plans to bring UberX to South Australia because it would cost too much and take too long to get drivers onto the road.

It's now offering free rides from Friday until further notice.

"In a city suffering from one of the highest rates of unemployment in the country, we believe ride-sharing will make Adelaide more livable, economically vibrant and a better connected place to be," Uber spokesman Tom White said.

Queensland's Transport Minister Stirling Hinchliffe told Parliament on Tuesday that the state's police hit Uber drivers with AU$125,000 in fines over the recent Labour Day long weekend as a means to crack down on what is a considered as an illegal taxi service in the state.

According to Hinchliffe, 51 drivers were caught driving for Uber, with three drivers busted more than once.

"While the Queensland government welcomes innovation in transport, passenger safety will always remain our number one priority," Hinchliffe said.

"Our transport inspectors must have the appropriate tools to ensure that they can uphold the current and any future regulations."

The blitz came after the Queensland government last month passed new legislation banning the ride-booking service, increasing fines, and providing more powers to traffic enforcement officers.

Under the new laws, fines for drivers jumped from AU$1,413 to AU$2,356, while Uber could be fined up to AU$23,560.

Shortly after the new laws were passed, Queensland Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk said she was fed up with waiting for an independent review that would determine how ride-booking services like Uber are to operate in the state, and wanted it brought forward to July.

"I think we need to make a decision on that and finalise it," she said.

The Northern Territory government has shared similar views about Uber. Back in February, new taxi industry reforms were announced in the state, but did not include any regulatory changes authorising point to point transport services such as Uber.

Transport Minister Peter Chandler said the reforms will benefit passengers and the community, as well as drivers and taxi operators, but warned it is holding Uber as "a sword of Damocles" over the head of taxi operators who don't lift their game.

He said he wasn't opposed to Uber but wanted to allow the local industry time to implement the reforms, while watching the way other jurisdictions legislate Uber, noting there are plans for another review to be held in a year.

In other parts of the country, governments in South Australia, New South Wales, and the Australian Capital Territory have all given Uber the green light.

Additionally, Uber drivers were recently given permission to pick passengers up from Sydney Airport's domestic and international terminals.

Uber recently appointed former chairman of the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission Allan Fels to its public Policy Advisory Board, tasked with helping the controversial startup navigate through the challenges that come with global expansion.

According to Uber, the advisory board will meet in San Francisco and engage in "vibrant discussions" about every aspect of Uber's business and the unique challenges and opportunities the company faces around the world.

"As ridesharing continues to grow, we look forward to the board's candid advice and insights. Of course, Uber has a reputation for getting straight to the point -- sometimes a little too quickly --  and we want their feedback to be equally direct," David Plouffe, Uber chief advisor & member of the board of directors, said in a statement.

With AAP

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