MPs not getting it

Jo Moir writes:

It was an exercise in stamina and patience when took on a room full of politicians on Thursday – most of whom had no idea how the ride-sharing technology worked.

The exchanges between Uber’s New Zealand general manager Richard Menzies and MPs on the transport committee bordered on ridiculous at times.

Menzies was at Parliament to call for looser regulations in the Land Transport Amendment Bill to allow Uber to operate lawfully in New Zealand.

But MPs spent the best part of his 20-minute submission tying themselves up in knots over questions that were completely irrelevant to how Uber operates.

No matter how many times Menzies tried, he (through no fault of his own) failed, to get through to MPs that Uber was an app service and passengers couldn’t simply “hail” a driver or nab one from a rank.

National’s Alastair Scott kicked off with his concern that “you could get some gypsy operators who are not licensed by anyone appearing on the taxi rank.”

Only taxis can use taxi ranks and Uber does not do casual pick ups.

Next it was Moroney’s turn, asking, “how does the consumer know – because there’s no branding – about what service they’re using?”

Menzies: “A consumer knows a car is an Uber vehicle because when they request a ride through the Uber app they see the licence plate and photo of the driver.”

Which is great. Often if you have ordered a taxi you have no idea which taxi pulling up is yours. With Uber you have the made and model of the car, the licence plate, the name of the driver and a photo of the driver.

Next the committee chair, National MP Jonathan Young, weighed in asking, “what would the driver then do if somebody tapped on his window, would he say you need to go through the app?”

Menzies: “Yes, any ride facilitated through Uber needs to go through the app – that’s how the entire service works…it’s important to note Uber doesn’t work in the rank and hail space. That’s very much the taxi market.”

Young: “But what I’m saying is they might be parked on the street waiting for a notification to come through for a pick up and somebody might come and say, ‘that’s an Uber car, I’ll just walk up’. The system won’t allow for that?”

No. There is no ability to pay, unless the pick up is done through the app.

Uber have been in the firing line of Transport Minister Simon Bridges for not complying with passenger (P) endorsements – a vetting process that checks criminal and medical records amongst other things.

Bridges has threatened to take them off the road if they don’t start complying but Uber has softened its stance in the last few weeks and agreed to get P endorsements for all its drivers immediately if Bridges adopts the proposed cheaper and faster process.

Which would be a good outcome.

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