Michael van Hemmen speaks to Probus members Wednesday. (Aaron Hinks photo)

Uber executive chats ridesharing with Probus

Retired businessmen focus on ride-hailing service

Before heading to the Union of BC Municipalities (UBCM) convention in Whistler Wednesday, the general manager of cities for Uber Canada Michael van Hemmen spent the morning with the South Surrey/White Rock Probus club to explain the ins and outs of the ridehsharing company.

Prior to his presentation, van Hemmen requested that Peace Arch News not report on what he told the group of retired and semi-retired businessmen, so that he could be more “colourful” with his remarks.

Instead, he offered to do an interview after the one-hour discussion.

Van Hemmen told PAN that TransLink has been strongly in favour of rideshare services coming to the province, and that Uber is hopeful the province is able and willing to engage with the company to move more quickly.

After the provincial government previously committed to allowing ridesharing services such as Uber by the end of 2017, the province announced in July that B.C. will not license companies until at least fall of 2019. In the same announcement, the province said that it will be moving towards updating its taxi regulations for the new era of smartphone-based ride hailing by adding new taxi licences.

Asked why there was a delay, van Hemmen said “frankly, that’s a question for the minister.”

“We’re ready and willing to work with them to get as quickly as we can on the road,” he said.

Van Hemmen said he will promote the company, through scheduled meetings, at the UBCM convention.

“The message to UBCM is that ride-haring can be a productive part of the transportation mix in B.C. communities, the same with bikes. Bike-sharing with our Jump bikes can be part of a sustainable option, sustainable alternative for driving yourself,” he said.

After his presentation, one of the members of Probus asked van Hemmen if Uber would affect society in terms of exercise.

“I think what we see is ridesharing being one option people have when people want to get from A to B. Others, like bike sharing, is an option as well where you’re able to get a on a Jump bike and stretch your legs,” van Hemmen later told PAN.

Uber’s ridesharing and ride-hailing service – which is now operating internationally and in Quebec, Alberta and Ontario – is done through a smartphone app. Van Hemmen was asked by a Probus member if internet access is mandatory to use the service.

“We see that seniors and older people now are adopting smartphones at an incredible rate and are very interested in having alternatives to driving themselves,” Van Hemmen told PAN.

Another member asked van Hemmen for an explanation of what happens, for example, when a passenger makes a mess of the car or gets sick.

“From time-to-time, drivers have a situation where they have to end up cleaning their car. Because the technology has the ability for photo verification and matching time stamps with trips, we’re able to ensure accountability and that drivers are treated fairly.”

Uber is now available in more than 70 countries.

More information on Probus can be found at www.probusclubwhiterock-southsurrey.ca

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