Dubai's much-lauded new car hire system appears to have reached a dead-end just a couple of weeks after hitting the road.
UDrive, a concept that enables drivers to book and pick up a motor using an app, is currently not able to offer the pay-per-minute service it launched with and has therefore taken a temporary pit-stop in a bid to save its project from the scrapheap.
The concept was simple; cars parked all over the city (a 30-strong fleet of Toyota Yaris') are up for grabs to members, who book their usage as and when required. Then, using the latest in keyless access technology - a mobile phone - the door is opened, while the key is accessed in the glovebox using a verification code.
Already a popular business model in Britain and the USA, where Zipcar offers the full spectrum of vehicles right up to Transit vans, it attracted more than 1,000 members signing up for a Dhs20 monthly surcharge, in in a week.
At launch, prices for rental started from 50 fils a minute and were capped at Dhs120 daily, with no mileage limit. That essentially means – and we know this story will resonate with all of you - you could drive back and forth from the Marina to Ikea as many times as you wish all day, for less than the price of a return taxi. Getting all those wardrobes, cupboards and pieces of garden furniture you've needed for months had never been more convenient.
However, in a statement, the company said: “We would like to inform you that at the time being, U Drive can offer car-rental service on a daily basis only, the previously offered service per-minute car rental scheme is currently put on hold until certain logistical, regulatory, and administrative issues are resolved. We are sorry for any inconvenience this might have caused. For customers who have registered with us, we will be refunding your membership fees should you wish."
UDrive haven’t put a timeframe on when that arm of the business will start again, but for now the brakes have been put on growth into Abu Dhabi, Sharjah and Oman, as forecast.