Uber rides back to New Delhi after temporary ban

Uber says that it has applied for a taxi fleet license and will only work with drivers who have had "re-verification" of their police clearance to improve rider safety.

Don Reisinger
Former CNET contributor Don Reisinger is a technology columnist who has covered everything from HDTVs to computers to Flowbee Haircut Systems. Besides his work with CNET, Don's work has been featured in a variety of other publications including PC World and a host of Ziff-Davis publications.
Don Reisinger
3 min read

An Uber driver standing next to his car. But he might want to watch out if he finds himself in Delhi. Uber

Ride-hailing provider Uber has made its way back to India's capital after being banned in the country last month, but questions remain over whether it can actually operate its service.

Uber applied for a taxi fleet license on Wednesday, allowing the company to resume operations in New Delhi, the company confirmed in a blog post on Thursday. The move comes several weeks after Uber was banned in New Delhi.

The decision to apply for a what Delhi calls a "Radio Taxi Scheme" permit is somewhat surprising. Uber has argued that it's a technology company that allows for prospective riders to connect with drivers -- and normal rules governing taxi fleets don't apply. Taxi companies around the world, however, have said that the company should be governed by the same laws as taxis and act as they do, complete with call centers and associated infrastructure.

By applying for Radio Taxi Scheme, Uber is essentially becoming a taxi company in Delhi. According to a permits page on the Delhi website, radio taxi companies are required to have a 24-hour call center and at least 200 vehicles available to pick up passengers.

Uber's troubles in India started early last month after one of its drivers, Shiv Kumar Yadav, was charged with sexually assaulting and beating a woman after picking her up through the Uber service. Just days after the alleged assault, Delhi's special commissioner for the city's Transport Department, Satish Mathur, told the India Times that Uber was " misleading customers," adding that it was operating illegally in Delhi.

Mathur said that while Uber drivers had All India Permit Taxi licenses, which allow them to cart customers around anywhere else in the country, they don't apply to the country's capital territory.

The announcement was just another in a string of issues the company has been facing around the world.

In December, for instance, Uber began operations in Portland, Ore., even though city officials deemed the service illegal. Officials there said at the time that they were ready to issue civil and criminal penalties against the company and its drivers.

Uber has also faced legal issues in Spain, where courts there say the company's service is illegal. And Uber had all but one of its outposts in New York City temporarily shut down after failing to comply with regulations placed upon it by the municipality's taxi commission.

In November, Uber shut down its service in Nevada over "confusion" about its operation, as it looks for a legal way to resume business in the state.

The big question now, though, is whether Uber should even have drivers on the road just yet in Delhi. Speaking to Reuters in an interview on Friday, an unidentified Delhi transport official said that Uber must wait until its license is granted before it can resume operations. The official said that "enforcement teams" have already been dispatched to stop Uber's service.

Uber did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

Although Uber has largely remained tight-lipped about individual circumstances, the company's CEO Travis Kalanick has issued a pledge that his company will work hard to heal its reputation and "="" shortcode="link" asset-type="article" uuid="34864631-6f13-4a01-b28f-10687697e74f" slug="uber-boasts-1-2b-new-funding-with-a-slice-of-humble-pie" link-text="become a " section="news" title="Uber boasts $1.2B new funding, with a slice of humble pie" edition="us" data-key="link_bulk_key" api="{"id":"34864631-6f13-4a01-b28f-10687697e74f","slug":"uber-boasts-1-2b-new-funding-with-a-slice-of-humble-pie","contentType":null,"edition":"us","topic":{"slug":"tech-industry"},"metaData":{"typeTitle":null,"hubTopicPathString":"Tech Industry","reviewType":null},"section":"news"}"> " Uber, he said, would improve data privacy, give back more in the 250 cities where it operates, and refine its company culture.

In a step in that direction this week, Uber said that it has worked with Delhi to ensure that its drivers have been adequately verified by local police in light of last month's alleged attack on a woman. The company said that only drivers who have been re-verified by local police within the last six weeks are allowed to operate on its platform, adding that it's also "implementing independent background checks on all driver partners, plus vehicle documentation reviews."

"Our teams have worked tirelessly to develop new safety features (including an in-app emergency button) nationwide, establish a dedicated incident response team and re-verify the full credentials of every driver-partner on the Uber platform in Delhi," Uber wrote in a statement.