Alas. Uber Low Cost — also known as Uber X and ride-sharing — was just declared as illegal by the New South Wales State Government under contravention of the Passenger Transport Act.
For those out of the loop, Uber is the car service of the future which allows you to connect with a cab, hire car or luxury car via the Uber app. After the ride, everything is billed back to your pre-registered credit card or PayPal account.
Uber has been quietly offering its Low Cost service — also known as Uber X overseas — to passengers in the Sydney and Melbourne area for just a few weeks now, but what makes it different is that it's run by ordinary drivers rather than licensed cabbies or hire car drivers. Anyone over the age of 25 with a driver license, a health check and a registered and insured car with four doors made after 2005 could pick up passengers under Uber Low Cost and make some cash. Not anymore, though.
Transport For NSW — the state government's transport department — issued a statement saying that "ride sharing apps" like Uber Low Cost are in contravention of the Transport Passenger Transport Act.
"The law is clear and has not changed: if a NSW driver is taking paying members of the public as passengers, the driver and the vehicle must operate in accordance with the Passenger Transport Act," Transport for NSW said.
Under the act, drivers and the services they operate must hold an official taxi or hire car license to be an accredited driver. It also ensures that vehicles can be properly checked to make sure they're safe. Drivers are also subjected to relevant police background checks.
Anyone caught operating a vehicle in contravention of the act is subject to a whopping $110,000 fine.
The laws won't change with the upcoming review into taxi laws either, according to Transport for NSW.
"Under the proposed new passenger transport laws announced earlier this month by the NSW Government, all taxis offering services to customers – whether via apps and other booking services, at ranks or by street hails - must be licensed taxis with authorised drivers and using the taxi meter. None of these requirements will change. Any taxi booking service, including apps, must make sure that these requirements are always met, or risk losing their authorisation to operate as a booking service."
Uber has told Fairfax that it despite the statement from Transport for NSW, it will continue to offer Uber Low Cost in Sydney. We'll update if we hear more from Uber Sydney.