Will you finally be able to use your smartphone to summon an Uber car like people do in just about every other major city in North America?

Will you finally be able to use your smartphone to summon an Uber car like people do in just about every other major city in North America? DARRYL DYCK / THE CANADIAN PRESS

Will you finally be able to use your smartphone to summon an Uber car like people do in just about every other major city in North America?

British Columbians have been waiting years for Uber, Lyft and other ride-hailing services that are common around the world.

Now the John Horgan government says it’s ready to deliver long-promised ride-hailing with legislation this week.

Will you finally be able to use your smartphone to summon an Uber car like people do in just about every other major city in North America?

That depends on the contents of bills and regulations expected to be unveiled as early as Monday.

“It will be introduced,” Horgan promised. “I expect with the amount of support we have in the legislature, it will be passed.”

Actually, make that “promised again.”

Horgan said during the election campaign last year that ride-hailing would be ready in 2017. Then he said wait until 2018.

Now there are concerns this week’s announcement will contain further delays that will put off ride-hailing until 2020 or beyond.

Horgan’s critics are tired of waiting.

“There are rumours of another big delay because the insurance won’t be ready at ICBC,” said Liberal Leader Andrew Wilkinson.

“As usual with the NDP, they take something that should be very simple and make it more complicated than it needs to be.”

But it’s tough to listen to Wilkinson complain when the previously governing Liberals had years to deliver ride-hailing services themselves and failed just as miserably.

Both parties have been obedient to a politically powerful taxi industry that has successfully fought competition from ride-hailing.

“The legislation will quickly let us know whether the government is putting passengers first or caving to the taxi lobby once again,” said Benn Proctor, an analyst with the U.S.-based Wilson Center and an expert on Vancouver’s taxi industry.

Uber and Lyft will be looking at the fine print of this week’s announcement.

Here are some of the key elements the industry is watching closely:

DRIVER’S LICENCE CLASS

Uber and Lyft want the government to approve ride-hailing drivers using their own vehicles with a standard Class 5 driver’s licence.

But the government may insist on drivers obtaining a Class 4 commercial licence — the same as taxi drivers — which requires a special road test, medical exam and vehicle inspection.

Uber has argued that requiring a standard Class 5 licence will enable more female drivers to enter the industry, since women make up less than 15 per cent of Class 4 licence-holders.

The government may not see it that way.

INSURANCE

Uber, Lyft and other ride-hailing companies lobbied the government for simplified insurance coverage for drivers using their personal vehicles.

The industry wants ICBC to sell them a per-kilometre insurance product that kicks in every time a driver clicks the on-call button on their smartphones, indicating they are on duty and ready to accept passengers.

When the driver goes off-duty, the insurance coverage would turn off, and the driver would revert to their own insurance for their personal vehicles.

The insurance would be paid directly by Uber, Lyft and other ride-hailing companies, making it easy for approved drivers to join the system and start accepting passengers.

It’s a simple insurance system that works well in other jurisdictions. But Transportation Minister Claire Trevena has hinted it might be difficult to produce in B.C.

CAPS AND BOUNDARIES

Currently, most major cities in the world do not place limits on the number of ride-hailing drivers allowed to operate.

And no city in Canada restricts ride-hailing drivers from crossing municipal boundaries to pick up passengers.

But the B.C. government has already hinted they may insist on both restrictions for ride-hailing companies here.

Taxis currently face municipal operating boundaries and want the same rule for ride-hailing, which Uber and Lyft fiercely oppose.

And Trevena, the transportation minister, said the government doesn’t want to clog up the streets with scores of Uber cars.

“We don’t want chaos on the roads,” she said.

PRICING

Vancouver has some of North America’s most expensive taxi fares and Uber has bragged its drivers could offer cheaper rides.

Could the government insist that ride-hailing companies charge the same rates as taxis?

And what about surge pricing? Ride-hailing companies currently adjust their prices up and down according to demand, something taxis can’t do.

All of these unanswered policy questions have Uber, Lyft and other ride-hailing companies nervously anticipating this week’s announcement.

They are also fearful that the government’s ride-hailing system will be so restrictive and limited that the taxi industry will continue to rule the market.

Stay tuned.

msmyth@postmedia.com

twitter.com/MikeSmythNews

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