In the Driving Seat

Sebastien Wakim, Uber’s General Manager for Amman and Beirut.

Who are you targeting in the Jordanian market?

We don’t really have a target audience. Transport is a daily necessity for most people and we are here to provide another choice in moving around the city, safely, and reliably via our technology. For riders, we are providing a very high level of safety, transparency, and reliability in getting around. We get lots of feedback from riders about this being one of the most convenient ways they have gotten around Amman. For drivers, we are providing additional economic benefits and flexible work hours. In addition to bringing quality of safety and reliability to the market via our technology, we think we will be empowering drivers; helping make their time more efficient, and even more flexible so that they are working at times that best suit them. Furthermore, 80 percent of every trip goes back to the driver.

How worried are you about going up against other ride-hailing services like Easy Taxi and Careem?

Firstly, we think competition is a good thing. It makes us all up our game, work hard, and in the end it is the riders and drivers we partner with that stand to win. We operate in over 310 cities around the world; that means you can use the Uber app in any of those cities in the exact same way you use it at home. It makes traveling to foreign countries much easier when you don’t know the language or how to get around. All you have to do is make a request, enter the destination, and you are there, hassle-free. We also like to think outside being a technology in the transport space—if we can deliver a car to you in under 10 minutes, think what else we are able to do.

You partner with local transport companies in Jordan. How do you go about selecting which firms can use your technology and how do you ensure they abide by your guidelines?

We partner with local transport companies and the drivers and cars they provide. Each driver goes through a rigorous screening and background check by a member of our team, in addition to providing a valid driver’s license, as well as a clear judicial record document, before they can start. When a rider requests a ride, they see the driver’s name, photo, and car license plate before even getting in the car. They can then share their route with family and friends via the GPS enabled map.

Riders rate and give feedback at the end of each trip so that we continue to improve and offer you the ultimate experience.

Why has Uber encountered so much opposition from licensed taxi drivers and city officials around the world? Are their objections at all justified?

Uber is changing a market that has been traditionally quiet. We’re proud and excited to be bringing more innovative mobility options to Amman as part of its existing transport market. In many of the global markets, transport policies were drafted before smartphones and apps even existed and we’re looking to work with regulators to update regulation for the smartphone era in those places. We’re committed to working with policy makers to promote the benefits that platforms like Uber can bring to cities, and help them recognize how new technology can increase mobility in both urban centers and rural communities.

What impact do you hope Uber will have on Amman’s transport network?

One of our visions is to make transport safe and reliable enough that more people choose to leave their cars at home and opt to request a ride via Uber instead.