When Uber was launched in 2009, no one could have predicted what an impact it would have, not only on the transport industry worldwide but on the lives of billions of people who use the hailing service to travel safely, reliably, and cheaply from one point to another.
As with any disruptive innovation, there are positives and negatives about Uber that have resulted in fierce support from some Brazilians and equally strong resistance from other quarters. There are many sides to the Uber story in Brazil, so let’s look at all these aspects more closely.
Does Brazil Have Uber?
Brazil is now the world’s second-largest Uber market after the United States, but it hasn’t been a smooth path, with many obstacles that had to be overcome.
What Is The History Of Uber In Brazil?
Uber was launched in Brazil in 2014, initially in Rio de Janeiro, which was hosting the FIFA World Cup, and followed a month later in Sao Paulo, the country’s largest city. The immediate reaction was a legal challenge from the traditional taxi industry, and in April 2015, Uber was banned from operating.
The court also ordered all the major mobile phone manufacturers to prevent owners of their phones from installing and using the Uber mobile app. However, this order was reversed after a few weeks, and Uber was permitted to operate legally.
The battle continued, and later, in 2015, after 1,000 taxi drivers in Rio de Janeiro blocked traffic during the morning rush hour, Uber was again banned in that city as well as Sao Paulo and Brasília. However, the ban’s legality was challenged, and Uber continued to operate.
In 2017, after lengthy negotiations, the Brazilian authorities reached a compromise with Uber and other ride-sharing operations, and a set of regulations was agreed to.
Today, according to a recent report commissioned by Uber, the app is used by over 30 million Brazilians measured quarterly, covering more than 500 cities, towns, and villages.
In addition to its widespread use by riders, Uber platforms provide employment to approximately one million drivers and delivery partners.
What Does Uber Bring To Brazil?
Despite the opposition from the taxi unions and regulatory authorities, there are real benefits that Uber has brought to the people of Brazil.
1. Employment opportunities: Over 600,000 drivers and a further 400,000 delivery partners have found employment with Uber in Brazil. While technically self-employed, these drivers and partners have found security of income, flexible hours, and the ability to combine the job with other employment as the significant benefits derived from Uber.
2. Improved safety for riders: 96 % of the women polled in the survey felt that safety was the most important reason for using a service like Uber, and 90% of riders agreed that it was safer and easier to get home late at night using Uber, or a similar service.
It was also shown in a separate study that ride-sharing apps reduced the level of drunk driving, with Uber’s arrival in Brazil resulting in a 10% reduction in deaths on the road and 17% fewer hospitalizations due to traffic accidents in cities that started using the app.
3. Fares are competitive: The competition that Uber has introduced to ride-hailing has meant that fares are now very affordable in the bigger cities. While the Uber fare may not be cheaper than a metered taxi, it is fixed before you ride, so there’s no risk of being ripped off, as is sometimes the case with a taxi.
4. Social responsibility: Although it may be seen as a marketing tool, Uber introduced Uber Planet in 2021, which enables riders to build carbon credits every time they use the app. Working with a company involved in protecting 1 million hectares of the Amazon rainforest, Uber is playing its part in combating deforestation in Brazil.
Why Choose Uber?
There are competitors in the ride-hailing industry in Brazil, including Lyft, 99, and Cabify (previously called Easy Taxi). Then, there is public transport in the form of buses, the metro in Rio and Sao Paulo, and metered taxis.
- Uber has invested heavily in the safety aspect of their operation, and this is the top reason riders use the app. The Brazil-based Technology Center, founded in 2018, is a hub for Uber’s safety research.
- It has introduced U-Check to validate user documents to ensure that the people who use the app are who they say they are, U-Audio that gives riders and drivers a chance to record the audio of their rides, and U-Elas, which allows female drivers to only pick up female riders if they wish.
- When riders were asked to write in their own words why they use the app, the two answers that came back most: Uber is seen as Safe and Fast.
Is Uber A Better Choice Than A Taxi In Brazil?
Metered taxis have made inroads into Uber’s market in recent years, winning back some of the fares they lost by lowering their fares below those of Uber and with the government setting up a similar mobile phone app called Taxi.Rio.
Fares have been set by the local authority for metered taxis, so there is less chance of the rider being forced to pay extra at the end of the ride, as was often the case in the past.
Nevertheless, Uber still has over 70% of the ride-hailing market in Brazil and remains the first choice for most people using the available apps.
- The Uber drivers are reviewed by riders on the app, so unprofessional conduct and unreliable service will soon result in disciplinary steps and removal from the app.
- Riders using the app are not required to pay by cash as their credit card details are already validated before they begin their trip, and the price authorized and charged once the journey has ended.
- Trips are monitored in real-time, so the driver cannot vary the route, and the rider can contact the call center if there is anything that makes him suspicious or concerned for his safety.
What Other Services Does Uber Offer In Brazil?
Apart from the various levels of ride-hailing offered by Uber, two other services are available in Brazil:
Uber Flash Offers Door-To-Door Delivery
Whether it’s people sending gifts and other items to a friend or family member or businesses needing to convey goods to clients, Uber Flash is a door-to-door delivery app that enables users to send packages in a flash.
Uber Moto Beats Traffic Jams
Uber Moto is a new Uber product in Brazil where, instead of hailing a driver and car, riders can request a ride on a motorcycle, giving them a quick and cheap means of avoiding traffic jams in the city center.
Uber Eats Is No Longer In Brazil
Interestingly, one of Uber’s most successful services elsewhere in the world, Uber Eats, was closed down in March 2022 in the face of fierce competition from local food delivery services.
Are Any Precautions Necessary When Using Uber In Brazil?
While Uber drivers are well-trained and professional, it’s always wise to be careful when using the service, especially late at night.
- Only carry small amounts of cash, and keep your wallet and credit cards hidden while waiting for your ride.
- Always check the vehicle’s license plate against the information given on your phone, and don’t be persuaded to enter any other car.
- Ask the driver to confirm your name before getting into the car, and always ride in the back seat.
- Let a friend or colleague know the details of your journey, especially if you’re traveling alone.
- Keep the Uber app open on your phone while traveling, as there is an emergency button on the app that can be used if you feel endangered in any way.