PETALING JAYA (THE STAR/ASIA NEWS NETWORK) - Some 100,000 more Uber drivers are expected to hit Malaysian streets this year as the battle among riders heats up in the face of a challenging economy.
Uber would help many to increase their incomes and get people to rely less on their own cars to get around, said Uber (Malaysia) general manager Leon Foong.
"These part-time opportunities just make a lot of sense in terms of increasing incomes while serving people who need rides," he said.
Uber's latest move will further rankle taxi drivers, who are already unsettled with the rivalry.
In fact, a group of 102 taxi drivers took legal action against the Land Public Transport Commission (Spad) last Wednesday (Dec 30) for alleged negligence in declaring a ban against Uber, GrabCar and Blacklane, whose services have affected their livelihood.
They are seeking a permanent injunction to compel Spad not to legalise their operations.
But Uber seems more determined in its mission this year.
"We plan to create 100,000 new flexible economic opportunities in Malaysia to meet the economic challenges that Malaysians face," Mr Foong said when contacted.
"There are seven million people living in the Klang Valley, so we're just getting started," he added.
He said that Uber intended to launch new products this year to "maximise time and seat efficiency" as well.
He confirmed that about 60,000 people here had been activated as Uber driver partners thus far. However, this does not mean that all of them were active currently.
Over the past year, ride-sharing options have met with fierce opposition from Malaysian taxi drivers who claim their income has been affected.
Ride-sharing services such as Uber and GrabCar usually offer lower rates than taxis.
A GrabCar spokesman said last month that the company was looking at more services for passengers. As an example, he said that they were testing GrabExpress in Bangkok and Manila, a courier service that rides on motorcycle taxis.
They have also come up with GrabHitch in Singapore, which looks at carpooling.
GrabTaxi (which runs both MyTeksi and GrabCar) does not have specific GrabCar numbers in Malaysia.
However, the spokesman said there were more than 170,000 drivers registered on GrabTaxi's mobile platforms (including MyTeksi) in Malaysia, Singapore, Thailand, Vietnam, Indonesia and the Philippines.
"This covers taxis, private cars and motorcycle taxis," he said.
A Spad survey showed that the public was in favour of them because of poor taxi services.
As for the legal suit, Klang Valley Taxi Drivers Action Committee member Kamarudin Mohd Husain said more possible action was on the way.
"We will file five or six more in stages," he said, adding that these would be not just over Uber and GrabCar but about various problems in the taxi industry.
He said the committee was looking into a possible strike or even blocking Kuala Lumpur's streets if Uber and GrabCar were made legal.
The government, he said, had given Spad a mandate to improve the taxi industry but they felt that the commission was not doing its job well enough.
"From strikes to the court, we have only one purpose, to embrace the government's call (for taxis)."
Kuala Lumpur and Selangor Application Taxi Drivers Association secretary Apriman Darlis said the fight against ride-sharing was the top agenda for most taxi drivers.
"We want to clear all these taxi problems.
"We're asking Spad to settle Uber and GrabCar," he said.
Spad officials could not be reached for comment.