Ride sharing services still have a long way to go
The demand for ride sharing is increasing day by day, but ride sharing companies are unable to keep up with the demand.
Following the huge demand and rapid expansion of app-based transportation services, the government implemented the ride sharing service policy. The cabinet approved the draft Ridesharing Service Guideline 2017 in January, more than a year after the global giant Uber began operating in the country. However, this latest move has brought app-based transportation services across the country under a legal framework.
These companies, under the Ridesharing Service Guideline 2017, will have to get a "Ridesharing Services Company Enlistment Certificate," while motor vehicle owners have to collect "Ridesharing Motor Vehicle Enlistment Certificates" from the government's regulatory authority BRTA. The policy also requires Uber and other local ride-hailing services to be registered with the BRTA, but there are no details available in regards to qualifying for registration.
In a bustling city such as Dhaka, it is no surprise that a large number of students and employees opt for ride sharing services every day while commuting to their universities and offices. Motorbikes tend to be the more popular transportation method among those hailing ride sharing services.
However, a number of these motorbikes fail to meet an appropriate standard; many are old and dilapidated. Additionally, many drivers demonstrate significant disregard for traffic rules and regulations, putting both their own lives and their passengers' lives in danger. Even in the case of bike helmets, the use of which has been mandated for both riders and passengers, the quality is far from being up to the mark -- helmets provided by ride sharing companies often turn out to be made of cheap plastic and thus provide little defense if serious accidents occur.
Another problem with ride sharing services is that, in order to get to a particular destination, the passenger is required to first book a ride and wait for the driver to call and confirm the trip. If the trip does not suit the driver, they are free to cancel it without consequence. This is not covered in the ride sharing policy. This ease of cancellation leads to a lot of wasted time, as drivers may cancel rides on a whim, even if the customer has been waiting a long time for the ride.
A relatively new service that Uber has begun providing is the Uber Pool, which lets a passenger split a particular ride with other passengers, thus dividing the charge of the trip among all passengers. However, as this service is largely unregulated, female passengers face the risk of being assaulted or otherwise disturbed if they share a ride with male passengers. As such, an alternative that ride sharing companies could offer to services similar to Uber Pool would be providing the option to avail rides segregated by gender, so that occurrences such as these can be avoided.
A lot of the time, when one is availing such rides, passengers are often subject to mistreatment at the drivers' hands. Furthermore, if anyone complains against a particular driver, the only compensation available is getting the money back for the ride. No legal action can be taken against them through the apps.
There is much that still needs to be improved when it comes to ride sharing services. Companies should maintain constant monitoring over both the quantity and quality of vehicles and drivers registered under their services, and only recruit drivers with adequate qualification and experience in regards to roads and vehicles.
Apurba Mogumder is a student of law.