A series of recommendations made to the Queensland government to improve safety in the ridesharing industry have been slammed by both the taxi industry and Uber.
The recommendations, put to the government by a parliamentary committee investigating a second round of ridesharing reforms, included considering mandatory security cameras in all Uber vehicles along with a series of other new safety measures and procedures.
Uber and other ridesharing services were officially legalised and regulated in Queensland from September last year, with the state government also announcing a $100 million compensation package for the taxi industry.
In March this year, Minister for Main Roads Mark Bailey announced a new round of reforms surrounding the industry, including a $200 annual licence fee for Uber drivers. These amendments were then referred to the Parliamentary Committee.
Smile for the camera
Most contentious among the recommendations, which were delivered to the government this week, is that a review be conducted in 18 months on whether all ridesharing cars must have a security camera installed.
In the state government bill, Uber and ridesharing services remained exempt from mandatory security cameras.
According to Uber, security cameras are not required in UberX vehicles due to the number of other existing technological security measures.
“In a pre-booked service like ourselves, the identity of the rider and driver is known, every trip is GPS tracked, which you can share with another person, and at the end of the trip there is an electronic record,” Uber said in a submission to the inquiry.
“It is important to note that other services like taxis do have cash which we do not. I think that is an important distinction.”
The committee ultimately recommended that safety cameras not be made compulsory in ridesharing cars.
“It will provide customers with a choice to book a taxi with a camera or a vehicle without a camera. It will also allow taxis in smaller communities and rural and remote areas, to continue to operate without cameras, and limousine services to continue to provide high profile customers with the required level of personal privacy,” committee chair Shane King said.
But the committee did recommend the first step towards this, telling the government it should review this decision in 18 months. If the government finds that there are more risks in cars without cameras, the report recommends making cameras mandatory.
The inquiry also recommended that a digital register of disqualified drivers be established, to prevent them from joining a different transport company, along with steps to address the risk of fatigue management in ridesharing services, including a maximum number of driver hours and shift length be implemented across the industry.
This followed concerns from the taxi industry that its drivers were moonlighting as Uber drivers and pulling double shifts.
In its submission, Uber said this would be “very difficult” to enforce, and that its platform already works to prevent these risks.
“If you do feel tired you do not have to push through the 12-hour shift. You can press a button and go home. We feeling strongly that no-one understands fatigue better than the person that is subject to fatigue, so it is important for them to monitor that,” the submission read.
The inquiry also recommended that the government force all parties in the ridesharing process to have appropriate public liability insurance.
The committee’s report was promptly slammed by the taxi industry and Uber.
Taxi Council Queensland CEO Benjamin Walsh said the report is a “cop-out” from the government.
“These recommendations show just how clueless the government is in this space. Politicians simply cannot be trusted to get this right,” Walsh said in a statement.
“Waiting 18 months before insisting on security cameras in all vehicles is irresponsible and clearly an attempt to pander to ride-sourcing companies who don’t care about customer safety.”
Uber has also criticised the report, focusing mainly on the idea of extending mandatory security cameras to its vehicles.
“Cameras have never been required for existing pre-booked transport options in Queensland or any other jurisdiction in Australia for that matter,” an Uber spokesperson told Information Age.
“Introducing mandatory cameras on top of already high licensing costs will be a significant barrier to entry for people looking to top up their income with ridesharing.”