Mobility Weekly: Madrid Regulates, London Electrifies


Following government calls for Spain’s regional authorities to draw up regulations for the ride-hailing sector, the Junta de Andalucía is expected to soon announce details of how it will regulate the likes of Uber, Cabify and Bolt which operate on the Costa del Sol.

Mobility firms and drivers, who are facing the threat of having operations limited between different municipalities and not within a town or city, are likely to welcome the move.

As elsewhere, the discussion in Spain surrounding regulation of the space is highly influenced by taxi unions who perceive the gig economy business model as a threat to their business.

The Andalucian news outlet Sur reported that the new legislation may include measures mandating that only saloon cars can be used for ride-hailing and that they will have to be either hybrid or fully electric in order to qualify for a VTC license — the permit that covers non-taxi private hire drivers in Spain. They will also need special VTC insurance to operate.

The newspaper also reported that private hire vehicles may not be allowed to stop or park near bus and train stations, hotels, or other busy areas, with fines issued to drivers that breach the rules.

Across Spain, a pattern is emerging as the rules for VTC license holders versus authorized taxi companies diverge.

One rule that has proven popular with many Spanish governments and may be included in the anticipated Andalusian legislation is a minimum time gap between the time of booking and the time of pick-up for VTC reservations, a rule that is favored by taxi unions.

In some regions where time minimum gaps have been imposed, ride-hailing companies are in the process of taking legal action to try to change the rules.

Uber London Steps Up Electrification

While gig economy-style taxi apps continue to face the combative stance of the traditional taxi sector in Spain, in London, a city where over 45,000 private hire drivers regularly use the Uber app, the firm has been bolstering its electrification initiatives.

Last week, Uber’s largest vehicle supply partner in Europe, the Middle East and Africa (EMEA), Moove, announced that it was launching its vehicle financing service in London.

Similar news: Uber, Moove Team to Drive Expansion in India

Marking the Nigerian firm’s first European venture, the London launch will see Moove offer a 100% rent-to-buy model for electric vehicles (EVs) in the city. Drivers will be able to secure financing for new EVs with a pre-agreed weekly repayments scheme.

Related: Moove, Suzuki, MUFG Team to Promote Financial Inclusion for Gig Workers

Uber drivers applying for Moove financing will also qualify for reduced weekly payments through Uber’s Clean Air Plan, an initiative launched in 2019 to help fund Uber drivers’ transition to EVs.

Earlier this year, the ride-hailing giant announced that it is set to have over 10,000 EVs in London by the end of the year, and is on track to become an all-electric platform in London by 2025. The company stated that “London is the global leader in Uber’s electrification efforts with more EVs on Uber in London than any other city on the app.”

Already, Uber users in London have the option to request an EV thanks to the whole of Greater London now being covered by an “Uber Green Zone.”

Uber Expands Across Africa

In other mobility-related news, Uber is on the move in Africa. In the last week, the company has launched a new emergency recording feature in South Africa and announced that it is set to expand to four new towns in Kenya.

Learn more: Uber Changes Course in Europe, Bolt Faces Uphill Battle in Africa

Uber’s Audio Recording feature, which is already available to customers in Latin America and the U.S. went live this week in the South African cities of Johannesburg and Pretoria, with plans to roll out across the country in the next four weeks. The South African press has reported that Uber plans to expand the service to the rest of the sub-Saharan region later.

The safety feature allows riders and drivers to save encrypted audio files to their devices by pressing the shield icon on the Uber app and selecting “Record Audio.” Neither the driver nor the rider is able to listen to the recording and the file is only decrypted by the Uber safety team if a support ticket is opened following an incident.

Read on: Uber Expands Services in Sub-Saharan Africa

In Kenya, the U.S. firm has announced its expansion into Eldoret, Nakuru, Naivasha and Kisumu. The announcement coincides with the launch of a string of new Uber products in the local market. These include new safety features on the Uber ride-hailing app and a shake-up of the Uber Eats service to include item replacement and enhanced age ID verification.

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