UBER enters Hawaii market

Regulators, taxi companies watching new black car service

 UPDATED 10:07 AM HST Oct 04, 2013
HONOLULU -

Uber, Sidecar and Lyft.

If you haven't heard of them before. Take note.

They are startups -- using a new business model of ride-sharing -- thanks to a smartphone app.

And they have been making waves in cities across the globe.  

"I went to just taking it out at night to make sure I am not drinking and driving, to completely taking it for meetings now," said Jason Cutinella.

Cutinella discovered UBER in San Francisco.

He was glad to find out it decided to give a Honolulu a go. The ride is all arranged and paid with credit card. No cash is exchanged.

"UBER is a tech company that develops a mobile application that   that allows anyone to request their own private driver,"

UBER has rolled out its black car service. It charges a flat rate and anywhere from 80 cents to close to $3.80 a mile.

It's somewhere in between a taxi and a limo ride. Bobby Wood is the UBER driver on this call.

"By trade I am a limo driver. But during my down time we have the opportunity to service people like we do in our limousines," said Wood.

UBER's entry into cities across the country hasn't been without controversy.

There've been lawsuits in Boston, and San Francisco -- pushback from conventional taxis and from UBER drivers over tips.

California just last month created a special class for this new transportation animal,

which also includes person-to-person ride sharing service.

UBER could not say if it plans to expand its service using anything but commercial drivers.

"It is an interesting market for us. We saw there was pre-existing demand here. We can tell when people are looking to get UBER rides when they turn on the app in different cities. So Honolulu has been on the radar for some time," said Campos.

Tech-savny travelers maybe -- but are there enough local customers willing to shell out the money for a personal driver?

This driver hopes so he has had a number of repeat customers so far this month.

"I already feel like I am their best friend. So when we see each other we greet each other as if we know.  So, when we see each other truly feel like I am their personal chauffeur," said Wood.

Local taxi companies aren't sure what to make of UBER.

Black car service is one thing. The head of The Cab worries what it could morph into and how he may have to rethink his operation.

"The company has to have accountability. We are here. We have skin in the game we have spent a ton of money making sure we can dispatch calls to the customers," said Howard Higa.

But Higa admits he already has plans to roll out an app of own.

Regulators will be watching the company’s growth.

City officials have not taken a position on UBER.

They have jurisdiction if meters are involved, otherwise regulation would fall under the Public Utilities Commission.

UBER maintains it's a software, not a transportation company.

But it was also just slapped with a patent lawsuit over it's vehicle tracking system. New technology, new growing pains.

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