VANCOUVER—A Vancouver-based company that differentiated itself from its competitors like Uber and Lyft by operating a taxi and ride-hailing hybrid says it plans to add traditional ride-hailing to its platform in September, when ride-hailing companies can apply to operate in B.C.
Since March, the company Kater has been testing a fleet of Kater-owned and operated cars servicing Vancouverites who signed up during the testing phase of their ride-hailing service using the Kater app on their Smartphones.
Kater was able to operate ahead of other ride-hailing services like Uber and Lyft through offering a taxi-like service. It obtained licences for each of its vehicles through the Vancouver Taxi Association in a deal where the company pays the association an undisclosed percentage of its profits.
At the time that Kater introduced the hybrid service, a statement from the company said they planned to have 140 vehicles on the road.
“We currently have 35 cars on the road with our hybrid model and do not have plans to add in any more into that model at this time. We do not have exact numbers on the number of traditional ride-hailing vehicles we’ll be able to launch, as this will depend on some of the finer details of the pending regulations,” said Kater CEO Scott Larson in a statement Tuesday.
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The move to a “traditional ride-hailing model in conjunction with our hybrid solution, once provincial regulations allow for it,” was always in the works, said Larson.
On September 3, when ride-hailing companies can apply to operate in the province, the company said Kater ride-hail drivers will use their own vehicles and will be required, as part of the regulations, to hold a Class 4 licence.
“Kater will take safety a step further by requiring its drivers to attend a training course in person, in addition to the required criminal record checks,” Larson added.
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“When fully built out, the Kater intermodal platform will allow users to book a trip that incorporates numerous modes of transport; whether it be Kater vehicles, traditional ride-hailing, buses, ferries, the Skytrain, and car-sharing or bike-sharing services,” stated Larson.
Back in March, Ridesharing Now for BC, a coalition of business groups and non-profits, said it was “disappointed” to see Kater was getting a head start in the market.
Ian Tostenson, a member of Ridesharing Now for BC and CEO of the BC Restaurants and Food Services Association, said Tuesday he has heard of positive reviews from passengers who have tried Kater, but was surprised to see the shortfall between the number of vehicles they hoped to have on the road versus what it operates today.
Tostenson said the shortfall is a preview of the shortage of workers companies will likely face given the requirement that drivers need a Class 4 licence like those held by taxi drivers, as opposed to the standard Class 5 licence held by most drivers in the province.
“Ride-sharing needs thousands of drivers throughout British Columbia to make the system work. And it’s not a system that’s going to flourish in any way, whether it’s Kater, it’s Lyft, or it’s Uber, without having qualified drivers. If you have to struggle and have a number of obstacles in front of those drivers, it’s going to slow down drivers, if not make it impossible to expand the system.”
Earlier this month, a spokesperson for Uber said the company may not operate outside of Metro Vancouver if it can’t get enough qualified drivers with a commercial licence in keeping with ride-hailing regulations set by the B.C. government.
Michael van Hemmen says the company’s decision to launch will also be based on policies finalized in mid-August by the Passenger Transportation Board on issues such as flexible pricing and boundaries.
Tostenson expects the presence of ride-hailing in the market starting four to six weeks after Sept. 3.
With files from The Canadian Press
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Jenny Peng is a Vancouver-based reporter covering culture and business. Follow her on Twitter: @JennyPengNow
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