MARIN — Uber Technologies, the San Francisco-based startup seeking to redefine the taxi and transport industry, is expanding into Marin County, where it will offer its mobile app-based car service from Sausalito to Novato.
The company contracts with freelance drivers using their own vehicles, who are dispatched via notifications from its mobile application, a much different model than the traditional taxi fleets that are leased from companies by drivers.
An Uber spokesman said the company doesn’t yet have an exact figure on how many drivers it will have operating in Marin, but that it would meet demand as it grows.
“We’re excited to be starting service in the North Bay and as demand grows, we’ll make sure there are plenty of drivers in and around Marin County to meet Uber rider requests. Our goal is to always have rides available, whenever needed,” the spokesman said.
After staring in San Francisco in 2009, Uber has since grown into 70 cities in 26 countries, from New York City to Berlin to Bogota. While it started in primarily urban markets — often clashing with established taxi companies — Uber said it is now seeing similar demand in more suburban regions.
Uber said it was primed to cross the Golden Gate Bridge, noting that many Marin residents who work in San Francisco are already familiar with the service (blog.uber.com/NorthBay).
“People have been asking for the service and it made sense to be there,” the spokesman said. “Uber started in major metropolitan cities, but there is a lot of potential in outlying areas.”
Sonoma County and other areas could be next on Uber’s radar, which said it has seen positive growth in similarly suburban settings such as the South Bay, Los Angeles and some of its surrounding areas.
“You can plan on Uber being anywhere in the Bay Area with steady demand, and Sonoma County is certainly on the roadmap,” the spokesman said.
While the company has seen significant growth, it is not without its critics, and several major cities and state governments have questioned whether there’s enough oversight and insurance for the model — a point that traditional cab companies have repeatedly levied against the company.
Just this week, Uber became the subject of a wrongful-death lawsuit in San Francisco, the result of one of its former drivers who accidentally struck a family and killed a 6-year-old pedestrian in the city on New Year’s Eve. The suit claims the contracted driver was using Uber’s mobile app when the accident occurred and that Uber and the driver should be held liable.
Uber has said in statements that the driver, who was promptly terminated from contracting with the company, was between fares when the accident occurred.
The company has some 500 employees in the U.S. and abroad. Reuters reported that the company is generating about $200 million a year in revenue, excluding what it pays its drivers.
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