India's capital sets new rules for Uber, other taxi operators

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Taxi firms including Uber, the online cab-hailing company banned in New Delhi, will have to install panic buttons if they are to operate in India's capital under new rules framed after allegations that a driver for the U.S. firm raped a passenger.

The transport office of Delhi earlier this month ordered San Francisco-based Uber Technologies Inc to stop its services following the incident, which reignited the debate on women's safety in India.

Uber, through its apps, plays matchmaker between passengers and drivers for a fee. But the Delhi government now wants all taxi operators, including aggregators such as Uber, to have a fleet of taxis running on clean fuels and fitted with tracking devices and emergency buttons.

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"The licensee shall ensure the facility of a panic button in the radio taxi so that in case of any distress, the signal is transmitted to the control center of the licensee and therefrom, to the nearest police station/police control room," Delhi's transport office said on its website.

Uber also faces bans or legal action in several countries including Spain, Thailand and the United States. Authorities' common complaint is that Uber's service includes unchecked private vehicle owners.

The company, valued at about $40 billion, said it does not agree with the guidelines and will continue talks with the transport office.

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"These regulations don't work for tech companies like Uber," a spokesman told Reuters. "You tell me if trying to force fit existing regulations for 'radio taxis' to a disruptive technology company makes sense?"

Uber has an estimated 3,000-5,000 drivers registered with it in Delhi but it was not clear how many of their cars run on clean fuels in the city. It is mandatory to use compressed natural gas in Delhi unless the car has a pan-country licence.

Delhi Transport Department Special Commissioner Kuldeep Singh Gangar said they have already impounded 93 taxis, including of Uber, for abusing the exemption by plying national-permit cars mainly within Delhi.