This time last week, Uber was threatening to leave South Australia for good, citing overly expensive setup fees for its self-employed drivers.
Now, it’s launched 100 per cent free UberX rides “until further notice”. The ride-hailing service made the announcement via its newsroom and a brief email this morning, which read:
With the ongoing discussion on ridesharing, it’s time the people of Adelaide took a ride and decided for themselves what the future of transport should be.
From midday today, Adelaideans will have more choice when they open the Uber app with the introduction of low-cost uberX ridesharing.
And to celebrate, we’re offering everyone FREE uberX rides until further notice.
It’s a cheeky move. If the company is really under pressure from excessive start-up costs, how did it enlist enough drivers to offer a free service which will no doubt have huge demand? Premier Jay Weatherwill and Transport Minister Stephen Mullighan may well have been onto something when they claimed Uber was bluffing last week.
“Ridesharing will offer Adelaideans the opportunity to access extra work when they want, and extra money when they need it,” says Tom White, general manager of Uber Adelaide. “In a city suffering from one of the highest rates of unemployment in the country, we believe ridesharing will make Adelaide a more liveable, economically vibrant and better connected place to be."
It may – in addition to netting Uber (a business like any other) a sizeable new market. In offering free rides, it’s no doubt hoping people will try out the service, like it, and lend their support to lowered sign-up costs for drivers.
It’s an interesting method of government lobbying, but when the upshot is free transport all over town, we may as well take advantage of it.
UberX will offer free rides from noon today.