Uber -- the ride sharing tech company -- launched today in Nevada. Las Vegas and Reno are the company's 223rd and 224th cities worldwide.
For those aren’t familiar with Uber — it’s a smartphone application. A rider turns on the app to find a ride and the app alerts available drivers nearby. A fare is negotiated on the spot, and then the rider can watch on a map as the Uber driver approaches. No cash is exchanged.
But don’t call Uber a taxi service.
“Ride share is very different than a taxi,” says Uber spokeswoman Eva Berend. “We’re not taxis, it’s not 24-hour commercial vehicles. These are people using their own vehicles and their own personal time.”
Uber is careful to stress that it is not a transportation company, but a mediator between parties. And the company is stepping with care around laws and regulations that limit when and where transport for a fare can occur in Nevada.
Las Vegas cab companies have questioned whether Uber can operate legally in Nevada. Cab companies have also raised concerns about liability and safety.
Uber counters that it requires drivers to submit to background checks, and carry mandatory insurance policies. In launching today, the company is assuming that its activities are legal in Nevada — or at least, not addressed yet by Nevada law.
“Currently there are no regulations that address this unique business model,” Berend says. “ We’re (talking with) stakeholders regulatory agencies to discuss how we can create sensible regulations that address the unique model that ridesharing offers.”
The company has been advertising for drivers using Facebook and says it has thousands of individuals who have expressed interest. Hundreds of drivers have been vetted by the company and will be driving today.
Uber also says that last month more than 40,000 individuals turned on the Uber app looking to see if it was working.
But riders looking to hail an Uber car from the Las Vegas Strip or McCarran Airport will not be able to do so right away. The company has blacked out those areas on the app, and says there are some regulatory and safety considerations it needs to address before the strip and the airport will be available to Uber customers.