South Australia will soon join the growing list of states and territories that have made the controversial UberX ride-sharing service legal.
In an announcement today, South Australian premier Jay Weatherill said that from July 1, travellers will be able to legally access the 'partner driver' Uber X service.
Uber initially launched in South Australia in late 2014, but only with the accredited Uber Black hire-car service.
Forming part of new industry-wide reforms, the plan will see an assistance package offered to existing taxi operators, with each of South Australia’s 1035 taxi licences eligible for a $30,000 compensation deal. The package will be funded by a $1 levy on all metropolitan trips, taxi and Uber alike.
As with New South Wales and Western Australia, where the service has also recently been legalised, taxis will continue to have the exclusive right to work at ranks or to be hailed in the street.
The plan will also require all partners of Uber, along with Ungogo, GoCatch and Oiii, to comply with driver accreditation and vehicle roadworthiness checks.
"As only the third Australian jurisdiction to legalise ride-sharing, we are sending a message that South Australia is open for business,” Weatherill said.
"These reforms also provide a unique opportunity to further our efforts to make Adelaide the world's first carbon neutral city by introducing incentives for those who adopt green vehicles."
Uber may yet choose to not launch the UberX aspect of its business into South Australia, however, with the company today confirming that it will review what it has described as "arbitrary red tape" in the state government's plan, before making a decision.
Speaking with technology site Gizmodo today, Uber Adelaide general manager Tom White said that although the government's recognition of reform is welcome, more must be done.
"We will review the detail of the Government’s proposal and decide whether or not we launch uberX in South Australia. We hope the Government will consider the removal of arbitrary red tape, including unnecessary costs or time delays, that would prevent South Australians from being able to access flexible work when they need it,” White said.
The American company Uber has been operating in Australia since 2012, offering both the owner-driver ‘partner’ UberX program and the more commercially-focused Uber Black hire car service.
Uber has courted controversy around the world with its tech-focussed ride hailing platform, which allows private citizens to use their own vehicles to accept fares requested through the Uber mobile app.
The service has been hailed as an establishment-shattering addition to transport networks around the world, but operators of traditional taxi businesses - often derided for sub-standard service - have not responded as favourably.
The tide has been turning in Uber’s favour, though, with many states and regions previously set against the service now recognising the popular appeal of the ‘ride-sharing’ business model.
In Australia, that acceptance has seen steps taken to legalise UberX and similar services in the ACT, New South Wales and Western Australia, while Queensland and Victoria have signalled a move towards legalisation.