Uber Comes To Asia, Starts Trials In Singapore

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Uber has brought its premium taxi calling app to Singapore—the first country in Asia to get it. The company has been trialing its service here for the past week.

According to users who have tried it out here, it runs Mercedes Benz S-Class sedans, setting it above the usual smaller Toyota cabs that the dominant service, ComfortDelGro runs.

Of course, it charges a premium for the luxury, and fares are about 50 percent more costly than the regular cab, going for about $5 as a base charge and costing $10 as a minimum fare on top of that. Here’s the price list for Singapore.

The company is planning its official launch in the island state around late February, and has started hiring a small base of local staff. It was speculated that Uber would choose Tokyo for its Asian debut, since its founder, Travis Kalanick, had visited the land of the rising sun to explore the option. Hong Kong may also be next; Uber has hired someone on the ground there.

Uber has had its fair share of run-ins with the law in the US. Since its launch in 2010, Kalanick has been served with cease-and-desist letters from the California Public Utility Commission and the San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency.

He got one in Boston as well, got sued in Chicago, and faced blocks in Washington D.C..

In Singapore, taxi drivers are regulated by the government, so an individual cab driver that isn’t tied to any of the cab companies still needs a taxi license. Uber might circumvent this rule and not have to register itself as a taxi company here by claiming its cabs can’t be flagged on the road, and are private to those hailing them via their smartphones.

But since Kalanick isn’t new to lawsuits, the company looks like it’s taking its typical “launch first, ask questions later” approach to the market.

Word on the street is he plans to be in Singapore late February to launch the service officially.