The popular ride-sharing service Uber has launched in Calgary and Edmonton, and it is already attracting attention from users. Through a smartphone app, riders can connect with local freelance drivers and get rides at rates up to 30 percent cheaper than traditional taxi fares. Unlike taxis, Uber cars and drivers are unlicensed and unregulated by municipal governments, which raises some potential issues:
- Safety. Though rides are tracked by GPS, and driver names, photos, and ratings are available to users, some governments and consumers are concerned about the potential risks of getting into a stranger’s car. There are no mandated background checks for drivers or safety inspections for cars.
- Insurance. As of the time of this article, insurers in Alberta had yet to issue an automobile insurance policy to specifically cover Uber drivers and passengers. That means that Uber drivers will likely only carry a standard Alberta auto policy with insufficient policy limits to cover potential accidents. At worst, Uber drivers might be uninsured or insurance companies might deny insurance coverage to Uber drivers in the event of an accident for failing to disclose that the vehicle was being used for commercial purposes – this is a specifically excluded use under the standard Alberta automobile insurance policy.
- The legal status of Uber. The city councils of Edmonton and Calgary have both been less than welcoming to the ride-sharing services. Riders and drivers of Uber in both cities could face potential fines related to the use and operation of the service.