Uber’s Deal With Italian Taxi Drivers Sparks Mixed Reactions From Parties Involved

Six months after the historic deal that allows Italian taxi drivers to utilize the rideshare company Uber, the results of cooperation vary between the parties involved.


By Samuel Beane / News Reporter | Edited by Eleonora Prior 

Taxis line up to take rides from Piazza Trilussa, Rome. Credit: Samuel Beane

ROME— Six months after the historic deal that allows Italian taxi drivers to utilize the rideshare company Uber, the results of cooperation vary between the parties involved. 

Since June, Uber has been brought to 80 new Italian cities as permitted taxi drivers join the platform. Despite the ongoing corporate support for the partnership, it remains unclear how taxi drivers and riders have been affected. 

From the point of view of the various companies involved, this new agreement is mutually beneficial. 

Chiara Duca, the System Integration and Application Development Manager for itTaxi, the rideshare app that works closely with the Radiotaxi 3570 Cooperative, said she is satisfied with the results of the first few months of cooperation.  

“Working with UBER gave us the possibility to individuate some flaws which could be simplified and improved,” said Duca. “And we believe that this a great added value for all the companies cooperating in the itTaxi network.” 

According to Duca, Loreno Bitarelli, president of the Radiotaxi 3570 Cooperative, has been leading the effort to come to an agreement. 

“In our opinion, this commercial agreement, which Loreno Bittarelli intensely and for a long time worked on, is the proper equilibrium between the spirit and targets of a multinational corporation (UBER) and the local parties (Taxi Companies),” said Duca. 

Like Chiara Duca, Bitarelli describes the new cooperation with Uber as “progress.” In a recent tweet, Bitarelli posts:  

With @dkhos [Dara Khosrowshahi, CEO of Uber] we created the assumptions for this to succeed, working together with a sense of responsibility towards reaching new horizons and customer-oriented mindsets. 

Dara Khsrowshahi, the CEO of Uber, shared the same sentiment in a statement given to CNBC.  

“We strongly believe taxis and Uber are better together, and we’re committed to making this a partnership of trust and cooperation long into the future.” 

Uber has also pursued similar cooperation with taxis in Germany, Turkey, South Korea and Spain. As well as in New York, San Francisco and Hong Kong. This aided Uber in increasing the usage of its platform by 17 percent, reaching 115 million users per month and improving its revenue by 136 percent on a year-to-year basis. 

Cooperation between Italian Taxi drivers and Uber is only a recent phenomenon. In years prior, an ongoing feud existed between the rideshare app and the drivers. Despite the confidence on the side of the itTaxi group, some drivers still feel that the deal is not as beneficial for them. 

Fabrizio, an experienced Roman Taxi driver working with the 3570 Cooperative who asked not to be identified by his last name, said that Uber is much less beneficial for the Taxi drivers of large Italian cities.  

When working for Uber as a taxi driver, he said they are still required to pay about 150,000 euro to the city in order to hold a taxi license. But the fee is as low as 5,000 euro when residing in a small city in Sicily, Calabria or Abruzzo. 

Fabrizio said it is his belief that Uber hires drivers who have not paid for taxi permits within the limits of Italy’s major cities, but instead those who have only paid the fee to operate in the surrounding regions. This would suggest that those operating from towns just outside of Rome and Milan would have the greatest advantage. They would be able to take rides inside of the city but not have to buy an expensive city driving permit. 

 The partnership allows riders easier access through more applications to order a taxi. While previously the options were either to order a taxi through FreeNow—the rideshare app already set up for taxis—, or ordering a more expensive Uber Black, Uber’s luxury line of vehicle, customers now are able to order a regular taxi with both apps. 

 “Freenow is already a great application for ordering taxis in Rome,” said Henry Upton, a student at JCU and frequent user of the Roman taxi system. The ability to order a taxi through Uber is a nice feature to have, but with apps such as Freenow it is already a simple task to order a taxi to any location in Rome, he said. 

The ongoing deal between Uber and Radiotaxi is the first evidence of direct cooperation between a major rideshare corporation and the Italian taxi unions. Uber plans to have all Italian taxis in its system by 2025, a move that could see more benefit for taxi drivers themselves.