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Tue 22 Sep 2015 03:55 PM

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Qatar-backed Uber mulls helicopter, yacht services in the MidEast

A range of additional services are currently being examined by the app-based taxi service

Qatar-backed Uber mulls helicopter, yacht services in the MidEast

Uber, the app-based taxi service part-owned by Qatar, is considering a range of new services, including the possibility of introducing a helicopter and luxury yacht service in the Middle East, a senior executive has revealed.

Uber is currently trying out a clutch of new services, including a food delivery product called UberEATS in the US, Canada and Spain; UberRUSH, a New York City-based courier service; UberCASH in Riyadh and Jeddah, where passengers often prefer to pay by cash rather than card, and UberPOOL, a ‘carpooling’ product in the US that would enable people to split the cost of journeys with others going to or from the same place.

The firm is in talks with Dubai’s Road and Transport Authority (RTA) over plans to launch a similar carpooling product in Dubai.

Jambu Palaniappan, the firm’s general manager for the Middle East and North Africa (MENA), said the carpooling service would make sense for the driver, who would never be without multiple passengers in the car, for passengers, who would pay for their leg of the journey at a discounted price, and for cities, many which are heavily congested with traffic.

“[Carpooling] could have a positive impact on cities, because think about how much congestion is created by all this driving around by ourselves and finding places to park,” said Palaniappan.

“We estimate that 14 percent of most cities is devoted to parking, which is an astounding figure and incredibly inefficient. What if we could reduce the need for that?”

Uber has also carried out what Palaniappan termed “tongue in cheek stunts” in the UAE, delivering ice cream, Ramadan sweets and even rented McLaren sports cars.

There is scope to bring Uber boat and helicopter services, trialled in Istanbul and South Africa respectively, to the MENA, “where we have a few surprises in store,” Palaniappan said, while refusing to divulge exact details for timelines for such services.

“For us, focus is important. There’s a lot of runway left in the transport piece. However, experiments are continuing and we hope to bring those experiments to this region someday.”

Last year, Qatar Investment Authority (QIA) was among investors who participated in a $1.2 billion financing round, according to the Wall Street Journal. The newspaper did not detail the exact size of QIA’s investment.

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