Uber has changed tact and adopted the taxi model as they fight to remain on Latin American streets following industry regulations. Their Chinese competitor Didi responded to the pandemic’s challenges through the introduction of health protocols to protect their clientele and drivers.
Uber’s move to join Latin America’s taxi ranks started in Chile due to failure to keep up with Covid-19 regulations and lockdown. Sao Paulo will participate in the coming days. This Uber service has been available to residents of Athens, Madrid, and Tokyo.
An Uber spokesperson has hinted on introducing cabs to regions of Mexico where taxi-hailing isn’t allowed by local regulations. This is in line with their desire to improve urban transportation in the broader Latin America region. Reports from local taxi drivers in Colombia say they have been requested to join Uber though the firm hasn’t decided on offering cab services there.
In Chile, Uber introduced their services in Santiago and Valparaiso in June following a pilot in 2018 at Coyhaique.
Though Latin America seemed a promising market, there has been a lot of resistance to taxi-hailing cabs and attacks on drivers. Uber customers have at times, pretended to be friends or family members to escape police scrutiny. Frequent inspections following the pandemic require taxi drivers to have special licenses and criminal background checks.
According to James Cordwell, an Atlantic Equities analyst, Uber needs to adopt the existing market. Both Uber and Didi have conquered their home markets hence the need for expansion into foreign markets. Uber is trying to prove its business model viability as Didi works on its initial public offering. Didi has operations in Chile, Colombia, and is planning to enter Argentina.
Quarantine brought mobility challenges in Chile and Colombia with Didi reporting a demand for services from customers and partnering taxi drivers.
Didi has used the coronavirus experience in China to improve their services, installed plastic barriers in their cabs, introduced masks, antibacterial gel, and protective supplies for taxi drivers, and cleaned more than 2000 vehicles in Santiago.
In Brazil, Uber says its drivers will verify the use of masks and shall be refunded for cost of face masks and sanitizers. With a 40% decrease in work, a cab driver in Bogota says taxi-hailing isn’t the answer to these hard times as people will consider buses to cabs.