Uber, the international company behind the app offering ridesharing, is moving with plans to launch its service in the Lithuanian capital. On Tuesday, the San Francisco-headquartered company signed a memorandum with the municipality of Vilnius.
Alexander Lobov
© DELFI / Šarūnas Mažeika

According to the agreement, Uber will soon launch a pilot project, bringing the service, already in use in 344 cities worldwide, to Lithuania.

"We need to have a new quality of service and make Vilnius into a smart city," Mayor Remigijus Šimašius said in a press release. "We want good and fast service, ridesharing, less traffic. Uber could be an alternative to traditional taxi services in the capital city and bring benefit to car drivers, passengers and visitors of Vilnius alike."

According to Alexander Lobov, Uber head of international development, a number of people in Vilnius already have the Uber app on their smartphones and use the service while travelling abroad. It therefore makes sense to introduce the service in their city, too.

Moreover, Uber has an IT engineering team based in Vilnius. "I think it's the only place in the world where we have a team of 14 IT engineers, but we do not have the service," Lobov says.

As Vilnius and Lithuania does not have a legislative base for the car sharing service, Lobov adds that Uber needs more information to see what exactly the compamy will be able to offer to customers in the Lithuanian capital.

Vilnius Mayor Šimašius previously said that regulations governing taxi services would need to be changed to allow Uber to operate in the city, but that was mostly up to the national government.

Pandora's box

Meanwhile taxi drivers association head Ričardas Kriukovas says that Uber will bring "chaos" as the mobile app, which allows anyone with a car sign up and offer taxi services, will do away with existing licensing and safety regulations, which compound the cost of providing the service.

"Insurance alone costs three time more for a taxi driver than for an ordinary car. Technical check-ups need to be performed every six months, rather than two years [as for everyone else], we need to keep the books," Kriukovas lists some of the obligations for licensed taxi drivers.

He compares the advent of Uber to opening Pandora's box. "There will no longer be a thing like taxi, or at best there will remain no more than 10 percent of taxi drivers," Kriukovas says, predicting that similar mobile app-based services will proliferate.

Uber was founded in San Francisco in 2010. The company currently offers services in 344 cities in 63 countries worldwide, including 21 in Europe. Uber operates in Estonia's capital, Tallinn, and in several cities in Poland.

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