Uber is mobilizing in Southern Nevada.
The San Francisco-based ride-sharing company that has acknowledged it is considering entering the Las Vegas ground transportation market if it can figure out a way to clear some regulatory hurdles conducted the first of five introductory “onboarding sessions” with prospective drivers on Wednesday.
The first meeting, attended by about 165 people, was open only to those who have made initial inquiries about driving for Uber and received a text invitation. A Las Vegas Review-Journal reporter was not allowed to stay for the company’s presentation.
Officials with the Nevada Transportation Authority, which regulates buses, limousines and taxi companies operating outside Clark County, were at the meeting site, but they too were denied access.
Two security guards were posted at the entrance to the Hampton Inn on Eastern Avenue where the meeting was conducted and asked people entering the hotel if they were planning to attend the meeting.
Uber describes itself as a ride-sharing technology company, using a smartphone application to match people who need rides with people vetted by the company who have cars to provide transportation.
The company doesn’t consider itself a transportation provider because its role is to bring people together and provide a technological means for the passenger to pay the driver.
Uber operates in more than 200 cities worldwide.
Critics say Uber is dangerous to the public because drivers are unregulated and, in some cases, uninsured. They say passengers have no recourse if they are injured in a car driven by an Uber driver.
The Taxicab, Limousine &Paratransit Association, an international organization based in Rockville, Md., has a public campaign against Uber and other ride-sharing companies publicizing incidents and accidents involving their drivers.
Southern Nevada regulators have said they would welcome Uber as an operator if it complied with the same rules that existing taxi and limousine companies do.
An app developed by a company formerly associated with Frias Transportation Management is in use by some regulated limousine companies. Integrity Vehicle Solutions unveiled its Ride Genie app in August.
A person who attended Wednesday’s morning meeting said company officials told the group it was uncertain when operations would begin. A company leader gave a briefing to explain Uber’s operation and then answered questions for about a half-hour.
Uber scheduled five meetings at the Hampton, where the parking lot was filled and people were parking along medians Wednesday morning. A second meeting was scheduled later Wednesday with one today and two more Friday.
The source who attended the meeting said he believed about half those in attendance were current Las Vegas taxi drivers.
Local cab companies have warned drivers not to work for Uber, even during their time off.
A memorandum posted in a Frias Transportation drivers room warned employees they could be fired if they worked for Uber. The Bell Transportation group, which operates two taxi companies, asked its drivers to report to dispatchers if they witnessed an Uber driver picking up a passenger, suggesting that drivers note the date, time and license-plate number of the car involved in the pickup.
Uber’s logo also made an appearance on the front page of Tuesday’s Review-Journal as a paid advertisement. In the ad, there was no text or explanation around the company’s “U” logo.
A spokeswoman for the company had no comment Wednesday about the meetings or the newspaper advertisement.
Contact reporter Richard N. Velotta at firstname.lastname@example.org or 702-477-3893. Follow @RickVelotta on Twitter.