Do go to the RTA's new Sharekni website and have a giggle.
Yes! Thanks to the brilliance of the RTA, you can now register to share your car with other people! Other people? Yes! Other people!
For those wondering what on earth is going on about this carpooling business, it was illegal to share your car with other people in the UAE because of the prevalence of illegal taxis - ie people sharing their cars for money. As I've pointed out in the past, if the taxis were a little nicer, neater, more knowledgeable about destinations and carried passengers at a reasonable market rate, the demand for 'illegal' taxis would be practically non-existent.
However, the issue was, apparently, that people were running 'illegal taxis', hence the move to make all car-sharing technically illegal. I'm really not sure that the level of 'illegal sharing' was such a safety threat, or revenue threat to the RTA, but there we go. The imposition of the law into this situation may seem a little draconian: others might have run an awareness campaign about the dangers of car sharing, re-evaluated the taxi service to make it more competitive or perhaps even just put up with a little natural attrition for the taxi company as those less well off shared their cars.
Having imposed the move as law, this obviously poses some problems, such as 'If I want to give my friend/colleague/neighbour/ a lift to work/the club/the beach then I damn well will'. And nobody would be particularly keen to live in an environment so mad as to actually seriously enforce such a piece of legislation. Would they?
The RTA's new solution to the issue, the 'Sharekni' service, attempts to allow drivers to register, stipulate the type of passengers they're willing to share with, the days they're happy to be 'driver' on etc - and then lets them log up to four passengers together. The site also supports passengers looking for a driver. The site then issues a 'permission' document that will satisfy even the most ardent police officer when you're stopped to see who the four strange people in your car are.
As Kipp points out, the Sharekni car pooling website isn't exactly a Web 2.0 marvel. Rather than making it all fun and social, the site is more like a government form filling exercise. The 'quick search' failed to find anything I tried and the registration link failed, the form failed and pretty much everything else I tried to do failed, too. I gave up in the end.
Although I'm sure they'll fix the site in time, the whole idea really does still make my mind boggle. To try and legislate, and enforce that legislation, against people having other people in their cars is surely an utterly pointless exercise. To offer them the chance to register for the chance to share their car with strangers for no incentive other than a 'permissible' sharing of the cost of petrol ("Cash exchange is not allowed between the passengers and the car owner; however the car owner can be compensated by paying the gas price.")?
I somehow don't think it's going to be wow of the century... but then I'm just cynical and overdue leave, so I might simply be wrong...