Yeah! Uber Calgary has arrived!

CBC News announced on December 6, 2016 “Uber to resume operations in Calgary under newly amended bylaw (100,000 Calgarians have signed up to use the service so far)” On the same day, Uber Calgary tweeted: “Calgary, your Uber is arriving now! As of 2pm today, uberX is back on the road.”

Why is Uber a relevant topic for my blog? Why does Uber interest me as an Accident Lawyer?

From a personal perspective, I found Uber great fun to use over the Christmas holiday in L.A. I found it quick and convenient (payment is automatic via the Uber app). Uber drivers have regular new model vehicles, so it felt like getting a lift with a friend. The price is significantly cheaper than a taxi; in fact, the app tells you the price ahead of time, when you book. How many taxis do that? I also liked that one can see the Uber driver’s rating out of 5 when the Uber is booked and half of the Uber drivers were female. I always felt safe in an Uber.

However, as a lawyer, I’ve been asked if there is a concern about Uber drivers not having adequate insurance to cover customers in case of an accident.

So, I decided to do some research….and what’s better than first-hand experience?

First of all, I googled to see if ride-sharing insurance was available to Uber drivers in Calgary. After learning that it was offered by at least two insurance companies, I called an insurance broker and confirmed this.

Then, at the Court Centre last week, my assistant and I decided to use my Uber app to order an Uber to return to the office to see what would happen. Uber responded immediately and the app told me that a driver named Joey (photo included), driving a Toyota Rav4 (licence plate included), was one minute away. By the time I had taken the elevator downstairs from the 6th floor, Joey had already arrived. That was faster than any taxi I’d ever ordered.

I noticed right off the bat that Joey’s Toyota Rav4 had a commercial licence plate starting with “L.” As in L.A., I liked that Joey’s vehicle was clean and new. Also, I could have managed if I’d had laryngitis, because Joey already knew my destination address (when I’d ordered the Uber, I’d already entered that information) and his Uber app told him the quickest route.

I also already knew the price (about $28, compared to the usual about $38 I’d pay during rush hour). Uber prices vary by supply and demand, so the price is highest at rush hour and probably would have been significantly less if I hadn’t needed an Uber during peak hours.

I don’t usually converse with taxi drivers, but in the interests of this blog, I took the opportunity to ask Joey some burning questions.

First off, I asked Joey if he had ride-sharing insurance and he told me that he did and that it had been a simple process for him to call his motor vehicle insurer to have the commercial coverage added to his policy. He told me that he had to obtain a commercial licence plate, just as would a taxi, and that the plate should start with either an “L” or a “K.”

Joey told me that he had also complied with numerous other prerequisites that our city council has imposed on Uber in order to allow Uber to operate in Calgary. Hearing about those prerequisites (that I confirmed after returning to the office at this link: www.uber.com/en-CA/drive/calgary/get-started/licensing-process) should give one comfort.

For example, Uber drivers must:

• Have an eligible vehicle and pass a vehicle inspection at an approved inspection centre
• Have an approved ridesharing motor vehicle insurance policy in addition to personal motor vehicle insurance and registration. The driver’s pink slip will show the ridesharing insurance.
• Have background screening at an Uber Greenlight Hub including review of driving record and criminal record (must apply for and obtain official criminal record check that my Uber driver told me took him about a month to obtain)
• Obtain a Class 4 licence (i.e. for commercial drivers)
In order to obtain a Class 4 licence, an applicant must pass a medical exam, complete a written exam and pass the required road test

I told Joey that I’m very impressed that on February 7, 2017 Uber partnered with MADD Canada (madd.ca/pages/madd-canada-and-uber-partner-nationally-to-fight-impaired-driving) to jointly promote “safe and sober driving.”

Joey told me that there is a lot of demand for Ubers by young adults between about 18 and 25 years of age when bars close on weekends. He told me that this demographic finds Uber “cool” and he hears the rider often make a call near the outset, telling a parent or friend “I’m in an Uber!” Joey told me (and I agree with him) that this demographic is a bit embarrassed to take a taxi in front of friends, so many may have driven home intoxicated if Uber wasn’t available. Uber’s lower cost is also an incentive to consider this option.

p.s. Joey told me that Uber has recently been approved to operate at YYC. Yeah! I find airport trips extremely expensive by cab and now I know that I won’t have to pay that huge sum again, especially if I travel off-peak hours.

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