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Technology
Uber CEO Says Company Wants to Make Rides Safer
From the Wall Street Journal of Wed, 17 Dec 2014 08:15:01 EST
Uber CEO Travis Kalanick speaks at the Baidu headquarters in Beijing on Dec. 17.
Uber CEO Travis Kalanick speaks at the Baidu headquarters in Beijing on Dec. 17. Agence France-Presse/Getty Images

BEIJING--Uber Technologies Inc. Chief Executive and founder Travis Kalanick says his company wants to make rides safer as it pushes into China through a tie-up with search giant Baidu Inc.

Speaking briefly on the sidelines of a news conference to confirm the deal with Baidu, Mr. Kalanick said that his cab-hailing startup is investing in background checks “everywhere around the world” including China.

“We can always invest more in safety and make sure we’re bringing way more safety than taxis. I think we’re already there, and the question is how much further can we go?” he said.

“We’re doing hundreds of millions of rides in hundreds of cities around the world. … But I think also on the other side of it, there needs to be some understanding of just how vast and how broad the operation is,” Mr. Kalanick added.

Mr. Kalanick’s comments come after an incident earlier this month in which a passenger who used Uber to book a car in New Delhi accused the driver of raping her.

Uber said it suspended operations there while it reviewed its screening processes. Uber said earlier it didn’t conduct background checks on drivers, instead relying on the Indian government to perform verification processes when issuing commercial permits to vehicles.

Uber and Baidu didn’t disclose financial details of the partnership, which includes an investment by Baidu. Uber said in a filing that it could seek as much as $600 million more from other investors to support its global expansion.

Baidu said it will integrate Uber into its mobile map and search apps, which have more than 240 million and 500 million monthly active users, respectively. Chinese consumers will also be able to download the Uber app in Baidu’s app store, Baidu said.

“When you take into account the hundreds of millions of people who open up Baidu Maps every day--they’re basically saying, ‘Where am I going to next?’” Mr. Kalanick said.

Uber launched in China in February, beginning in Shanghai before expanding to a total of nine cities including Beijing and Guangzhou. Mr. Kalanick said Uber has worked well in these Chinese cities and that there weren’t any “pressing regulatory issues.”

However, Uber faces an uphill battle in China because of intense competition from homegrown taxi-hailing apps such as Didi Dache and Kuaidi Dache, backed respectively by Chinese Internet giants Tencent Holdings Ltd. and Alibaba Group Holding Ltd. Uber also has to deal with heavily regulated taxi fares, which are kept low to protect against inflation.

Mr. Kalanick said these dynamics were similar in many other places around the world where Uber operates, but he said Uber can offer consumers more choice, such as a variety of price points for different levels of service.

Write to Wayne Ma at wayne.ma@wsj.com



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