China drives forward with new ridesharing regulations, Macau should follow

By Trasy Lou Walsh, Uber Macau General Manager Last week, the Central Government released national guidelines on the regulations of online ridesharing services like Uber. It was the latest step by leaders who have consistently shown themselves to be forward-thinking when it comes to innovation and long recognized the positive impact the sharing economy can have on enhancing people’s lives and the liveability of our cities. Over the past two to three years, ridesharing has been embraced in cities all across China – by riders looking for more reliable ways to get around and by drivers looking for flexible sources of income. And it’s not just riders and drivers benefiting. Cities are seeing a positive impact upon reducing car ownership. A Nielsen study in China this year showed that car-hailing apps are taking cars off the road: 68 per cent of respondents said the rise of such services meant they no longer saw a need to purchase a car; 49 per cent of car owners said they plan on driving less; and 10 per cent of car owners even said they had considered selling their car. Carpooling is being rapidly adopted in China as well, with 30 million pooled trips happening on the Uber platform every month. With uberPOOL, riders heading in the same direction as each other share a ride, helping reduce traffic and pollution. In the first 3 months of 2016, uberPOOL eliminated 21 million automobile miles driven – which equals about 400,000 gallons of gas and 3,800 metric tons of CO2 emissions. Last week’s decision by the Central Government sent a clear message that it recognizes these benefits to riders, drivers, and cities and supports ridesharing. It demonstrates their understanding that there is no conflict between enhancing the taxi industry and promoting online ride-booking in principle. As Minister of Transport Yang Chuantang has said, “The operation mode of online ride-hailing is different in nature to the traditional taxis cruising the streets. The existing regulatory system suits traditional taxis roaming the streets more. If we operate in full accordance with the existing regulatory system, it will be detrimental to the healthy and sustainable development of the online ride-hailing industry.” China’s decision is the latest by policymakers around the world – from Mexico to Australia to Singapore and now China – who are welcoming the benefits of ridesharing. Modern regulations can unlock these benefits while ensuring public safety and protecting consumers. Dialogue important Here in Macau, the benefits are clear as well. Tens of thousands of riders rely on us every day, including tourists from over 160 cities to date. And thousands of Macau residents count on our technology for their livelihood, with more and more driving on the platform to supplement their income every week. To date, driver-partners in Macau have earned over MOP21 million total through the Uber platform, with the average driver-partner earning MOP130 an hour. Yet, as we can see from our friends just across the border, many more benefits have yet to be unlocked. We have a tremendous opportunity to build a better future, with smarter transportation, together. One where transportation is more reliable, affordable, and convenient; where accountability and feedback systems improve service; where efficiency improvements reduce congestion and pollution. But we can’t do it by imposing steep fines on drivers every day for simply offering a fellow Macau resident a ride. We can’t do it by letting decades-old regulations constrain modern innovation. And we can’t do it without dialogue. Instead, let’s take the Central Government’s lead and work towards improving and innovating transportation together, so we can build a better Macau for locals and tourists alike.