Ride-hailing app Uber Technologies Inc. plans to sign up women drivers in Saudi Arabia to take advantage of the kingdom’s decision to overturn a ban on female drivers.
Pierre-Dimitri Gore-Coty, head of Uber’s operations in Europe, the Middle East and Africa, said in an interview in Riyadh that the process will likely begin “shortly” before women can start applying for driver’s licenses, which is expected to be in June 2018, but would not elaborate.
“We want to create economic opportunities for women as drivers on the Uber platform,” he said. The world’s largest ride-hailing startup also plans to open support centers for female Uber drivers in the kingdom, with the first one to open in Riyadh, but Gore-Coty did not say when.
Saudi Arabia announced last week that it would open its roads to female drivers next year, overturning a ban that had been widely condemned by Saudi activists and global human rights organizations.
While Uber is set to increase its pool of drivers, the repeal of the ban could cause a drop in demand for ride-sharing apps, as more women buy their own cars and get behind the wheel. About 80 percent of the company’s rides in Saudi Arabia are for women.
The country’s sovereign wealth fund is the largest investor in Uber, after acquiring a $3.5 billion stake in June last year.
“The idea is to make sure that there is one place where women who have never learned how to drive will have an opportunity to learn more about the whole process,” Gore-Coty said.
The launch in the kingdom came as Uber’s CEO Dara Khosrowshahi visited London Tuesday for an emergency meeting with the country’s transportation authorities to try to salvage the company’s business in its largest European market.