Uber ride sharing service launches in Knoxville

Uber ride sharing service launches in Knoxville

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6 News Reporter

KNOXVILLE (WATE) - Ride-sharing service Uber has arrived in Knoxville. Originating four years ago in the tech hub of San Francisco, the app-based taxi alternative added to its service area Thursday 22 college towns across the United States.

You might not spot them right away but the University of Tennessee's campus is now swarming with Uber drivers, much to the excitement of students.

“I love Uber, I'm a huge uber fan, I think it's really convenient, it's gotten me out of a few binds,” said UT sophomore Campbell Valentine.

Uber is already in more than 100 cities and they began recruiting drivers back in the spring. Billy Guernier, the general manager of regional expansion for Uber said Knoxville is already one of the fast growing markets in terms of driver and rider interest. It's why Harriman resident Nathan Wray signed up to be a driver back in June.

Previous story: Ride-share program Uber could be coming to Knoxville

“With Uber you use your own vehicle, you use your own insurance, you pay for your own maintenance, your own oil change, your own gas, it's your own business,” explained Wray.

And Wray is not alone, a look at the app on Thursday afternoon showed at least eight drivers ready to pick up riders near UT. Each driver undergoes a background check and are able to dictate their own schedules. Wray says they're setting themselves apart from your typical cab with customer service, some providing water, gum and a place to plug in your phone.

“The closest driver to you will come pick you up, and take you to your destination, there's no cash needed, it's all done online,” said Wray.

Sounds simple and convenient but the problem is at this point it's illegal for these uber drivers to operate in the city of Knoxville.

“Uber since they are operating for hire and they are operating as a transportation company for the public they are require having a certificate of convenience and necessity,” explained Sgt. Tracy Hunter with the Knoxville Police Department.

According to Knoxville ordinances, any company using drivers for hire must have a certificate, the drivers must have a permit and the vehicles must be inspected.

At this point, Sgt. Hunter says Uber has not submitted any type of application.

“If their drivers are stopped and it's discovered they are operating a for-hire vehicle, they will be subject to citations from us,” she explained.

However, a driver riding in the Uber would not receive any type of citation.

The threat of citation is a worry for Wray, but he said the benefit of offering the service in Knoxville is worth it.

“I think about all the people who don't have to drive from the bar they can get an Uber,” he explained. He hopes the city finds a way to work together with the Uber drivers.

Sgt. Hunter says they are working with the law department to figure out how to incorporate Uber into the current ordinances.

Gueriner said they have been in contact with Knoxville city officials for the last several months trying to figure out how to bring Uber to the area.

“One of the things we've seen in many markets, Uber really doesn't fit into the regulations, it's a new thing that wasn't conceived when the books were written,” he explained.

But one thing for sure, people in Knoxville are already responding. Wray said in less than three hours he had already picked up seven riders.

“It's a very easy ride, very relaxed very simple and fun,” said Wray.

As a special promotion for the launch, the company says both new and existing Uber users get their first five rides for free through September 1 by using the promo code "VOLSFREE."

More online: Uber website
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