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Uber sparks airport row but sex charges get headlines

August 14, 2017 Headline News No Comments Email Email

The Uber ride-share service has arrived at Adelaide Airport, triggering a mass strike by taxi drivers which forced passengers to use buses – while Uber-related incidents made headlines elsewhere for some rather weird and creepy reasons.

In Brisbane, an Uber driver was charged after allegedly refusing to let a female passenger out of his car. Police allege he drove around Brisbane for more than an hour after his female passenger, 25, summoned the Uber to go to a Fortitude Valley bar on Saturday evening.

A 45-year-old man has been charged with one count of deprivation of liberty and is expected to appear in the Brisbane Magistrates Court in three weeks, on 5 September 2017, the Brisbane Times reported. The same news outlet noted that over the past month, two other Uber drivers had been charged with rape – while a third had been released without charge after being questioned over the alleged sexual assault of a passenger.

In the US, the car-hailing company is currently facing a divisive legal battle between its biggest investor, Benchmark Capital, and its co-founder and ousted chief executive Travis Kalanick. Benchmark is trying to force Kalanick off the board and remove his ability to fill three board seats.

Two separate lawsuits are pending meanwhile in California, the state where Uber is based, brought by women who claim they were sexually assaulted by their Uber drivers. From Florida comes more unwelcome publicity: police said on Saturday that a man had died after his Uber driver punched him in a dispute over the route the driver was taking.

All of that aside, the tourism industry welcomed Uber’s arrival at Adelaide Airport – although regular taxi drivers were far less keen on the development. Angry, even.

The Tourism & Transport Forum (TTF) said the official arrival of UberX at Adelaide Airport would “give local residents and travellers to the city much greater choice and convenience when heading to and from the airport”.

UberX is a higher level of Uber, designed as a professional limousine service giving a private ride.

TTF chief executive Margy Osmond said travellers to “world-class tourist destinations such as Adelaide are increasingly looking to utilise ride-share technology as one of the easiest and most cost-effective ways to travel to and from an airport.

“Adelaide Airport must be congratulated on taking advantage of the ride-share revolution by opening the door for UberX to allow its drivers to pick-up passengers just two minutes from the terminal exit,” she said.

“Every day, more and more people right across Australia are utilising ride-share options as their preferred mode of transport, whether it be to travel to work, to head out for a night on the town, or to get home from the airport.”

Taxi drivers at Adelaide Airport didn’t see it quite like that. They staged a mass rally and strike after the controversial new deal was announced to let Uber collect people from the terminal. Taxi drivers threatened to block Uber drivers and also refused to take any passengers. Adelaide Metro stepped in, offering free bus rides to the city to help stranded passengers.

On Friday, ABC News reported that Uber had temporarily suspended pick-ups from Adelaide Airport. UberX rides were “still unavailable from the airport”, the ABC added. Taxi drivers later ended their strike action.

Uber, along with Airbnb, is sometimes referred to as “disruptive innovation”. That certainly seems to be the case with Uber in Adelaide.

Written by Peter Needham

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