New ‘Carpool Rules’ Aim to Strike Down Uber

Uber Waymo
A self-driving Uber vehicle. (AP Photo/Gene J. Puskar, File)

In an “end run” around Uber, the Transport Ministry has issued new rules governing ride-sharing in Israel. Under the new rules, drivers will be allowed to pick up up to four passengers twice a day – and will be allowed to charge passengers no more than two shekels per kilometer, to be split between all passengers – including the driver him- or herself. The new rules will take effect within 30 days.

That rate is substantially less than drivers who currently provide Uber rides are able to collect, and is seen as part of the Ministry’s ongoing “war” against Uber. Taxi drivers successfully halted Uber’s efforts to expand in Israel.

For about a year and a half, drivers were offering Uber rides in the Tel Aviv area during nighttime hours, but groups representing taxi drivers, supported by the ministry, successfully convinced the Tel Aviv District Court to issue an injunction against that expansion. The Ministry itself has a lawsuit pending against Uber, and the company’s Israeli CEO, Yoni Grifman, was charged with running an unlicensed taxi service. Ministry officials have been quoted as calling Uber drivers “criminals,” threatening to arrest anyone caught offering rides.

Uber is not the only app offering ride-sharing services in Israel; transportation apps Waze and Moovit offer “carpool” services, in which a driver can offer a ride to someone who will be traveling along their route.

The ministry, according to TheMarker, has reached out to the administrators of those apps and told them that they are not being targeted by the new rules – the difference being that the apps allow drivers to offer rides to people going their way anyway, as opposed to Uber, which is in essence a taxi service, as far as the Ministry is concerned.

The rules are the leading edge of a total approach by the ministry to ride-sharing in Israel, Dror Ganon, a ministry official, told Knesset members at a meeting of the Knesset Science and Technology Committee last week.

“We are responsible for transportation in Israel and we know what is needed,” he said. “Our examinations of the situation do not indicate that the overcrowding on Israel’s roads has been reduced with the advent of ride-sharing, as advocates claim. It’s a job, and has lost its social aspect.”