More red tape does not necessarily mean safer rides

Helping people get from point A to B safely and reliably is the single most important thing Uber does ("GrabCar, Uber drivers to be licensed"; Wednesday).

It is why we have invested heavily in technology to improve safety. It is why we have a dedicated trust and safety team, and why we are working to build an exceptional customer support team that can handle problems when they occur, including working with law enforcement.

It is also why we are pleased that the Government has adopted many of our existing world-class safety standards into the new ride-sharing regulations.

No means of transport is 100 per cent safe today, regardless of whether you are sharing a ride.

But if we start from a place where we all agree that even one incident is too many, then, regulating ride sharing is about making sure everyone can benefit from advances in technology that make it possible to focus on safety for riders and drivers.

The Land Transport Authority (LTA) would like Singaporeans to believe that the best way to ensure their safety on the road is to add additional steps into the process, when it comes to who can get behind the wheel and offer them a ride.

The problem is that more steps do not necessarily mean safer riders or drivers in Singapore.

More than 45 per cent of all driver-partners on the Uber platform choose to work 10 hours a week or less.

For these drivers, the LTA now asks, in the name of safety, that they have a Private Hire Car Driver's Vocational Licence; are registered with the LTA; display their licence and a tamper-proof sticker prominently on their vehicle; undergo medical, background and employment checks; attend mandatory 10-hour training; and be subject to a special demerit point system.

Our current training programme ensures all driver-partners are fully equipped to provide safe, quality service.

This programme typically extends over the first two weeks when a partner begins driving with Uber.

In the case of uberAssist drivers, additional third-party training is delivered specifically to enable them to provide additional assistance to senior riders and people with disabilities.

We all agree that safety comes first, but we now need to develop practical, modern ride-sharing regulations that focus on meeting the transport needs of Singaporeans, as well as enabling healthy competition, so that Singaporean riders and drivers are the ultimate winners - with more choices, smarter use of technology and higher standards of safety and service.

Warren Tseng

General Manager

Uber Singapore

Join ST's Telegram channel and get the latest breaking news delivered to you.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on April 15, 2016, with the headline More red tape does not necessarily mean safer rides. Subscribe