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UberX launches in Canberra, 100 cars on the road from day one

"Canberra" and "world-leading" aren't often seen in the same sentence, but Australia's bush capital has regulated ride-sharing with the introduction of UberX, and the chief minister says other cities should follow suit.

UberX lets people hail a ride through the Uber app.

Uber

Uber is launching its ride-hailing service in Canberra today, with the ACT chief minister claiming the first ride for the service and heralding the nation's capital as a world leader in the sharing economy. The move also makes Canberra the first city to officially regulate ride-sharing in Australia.

The US ride-hailing company, which offers rides on demand via its mobile app, announced the news on its blog today, confirming Canberra as the ninth Australian city to welcome the service.

After launching in Sydney in 2012, Uber now also has a presence in Adelaide, Brisbane, Canberra, Melbourne, Perth, Geelong, the Gold Coast and the Mornington Peninsula. Across these cities Uber offers the traditional Uber Taxi service, the higher-end Uber black limousine service, and UberX, which lets the app's users pay for rides from drivers who pilot their own registered cars.

Uber's launch in Canberra comes at a busy time for ride-hailing in Australia as state regulators grapple with the disruptive new service and its effect on the established transport industry. UberX drivers have faced fines and legal action brought by the New South Wales Department of Transport over claims the service is illegal, and taxi industry bodies have been vocal in criticising the safety of the service.

But state and federal opposition leaders have also called for a review of ride-sharing and the sharing economy more broadly in Australia. The move has been welcomed by Uber, which maintains that its service offers greater choice and cheaper transport prices.

Uber's win in Canberra could very well further its agenda with politicians coming and going from Parliament House, as the nation's decision makers find another transport option away from Comcars and taxis. On that front, UberX already has its first advocate.

"The ACT government supports the introduction of ride-sharing in Canberra to improve transport in our city," ACT Chief Minister Andrew Barr said in a statement released by Uber. "Services such as Uber offer a new way of getting around -- using new technologies to provide more choice for consumers and to boost the productivity of our economy.

"I'm pleased we were able to work with Uber to design and implement a clear and light-touch set of regulations for ride-sharing services. These are world-leading reforms and I hope other governments around the world follow in our footsteps."

An Uber spokesperson said that roughly 100 UberX cars are expected to be on Canberra's roads from today, with Minister Barr the first to get in the passenger seat. The company also says it has had 5,000 applications from Canberrans to become "driver partners."