News Local/State

Rauner Visits C-U For Uber Launch

Governor Bruce Rauner as part of the launch of Uber in Champaign-Urbana at EnterpriseWorks in Champaign Sunday.

Gov. Bruce Rauner, as part of the launch of Uber in Champaign-Urbana, at EnterpriseWorks in Champaign Sunday, joined by U of I Research Park Director Laura Frerichs (r) and Uber Illinois General Manager Chris Taylor (right of her.) (Jeff Bossert/WILL)

Rideshare company Uber is now up and running in Champaign-Urbana, Bloomington-Normal, Aurora, and Rockford.  Customers request rides through a smartphone app, and Uber drivers use their own cars.

Governor Rauner was in the University of Illinois Research Park for the announcement Sunday. 

He said bringing the service to university towns helps areas traditionally underserved by cabs.  The Governor said he’s glad former governor Pat Quinn vetoed a bill that would have placed statewide regulations on rideshare services like Uber, in favor of conventional taxicabs.

“It’s an honor for me to stand with you when we needed to battle against that legislation that was trying to restrict rideshare in Illinois," he said.  "We’re honored to be able to defeat that.”

Just before leaving office last month, Quinn signed a compromise rideshare measure with looser restrictions than in the earlier bill.

Uber Illinois General Manager Chris Taylor said last week, more than 8,000 people opened the Uber app on their smartphones to see if the service was already available.

Besides Champaign-Urbana, the company is expanding into Bloomington-Normal, Aurora and Rockford, and was already operating in Springfield.

Taylor said the company has done extensive background checks on its drivers, and passengers will know exactly who they’re getting a ride from beforehand by using Uber’s app.

“When you fire it up and you request a ride, the very first thing you see is that driver’s face, the make and model of their vehicle, and their license plate number," he said.  "So you know exactly whose car you’re getting into – all the anonymity of raising your hand in the air and getting into the back of a stranger’s car is gone.”

An Uber driver in Chicago was arrested in December for allegedly raping a passenger. Uber spokeswoman Jeniffer Mullen says the company had been conducting background checks long before that incident occurred.

At EnterpriseWorks in Champaign Sunday, Rauner vowed to continue bringing companies like Uber.  He noted that Uber drivers in the Chicago area alone have generated almost a quarter billion dollars annually in revenue. 

"I look forward to doing everything I can as governor to make sure Illinois is welcoming to your company, and innovative high-tech companies like you, from all over America, come here in Illinois," he said.  "And many of you who want to start your own companies, I want to make sure Illinois is very welcoming and condusive to that."

Last week, Governor Rauner named Research Park director Laura Frerichs as co-chair of his Innovate Illinois Advisory Council – a panel that will work to lure technology companies like Uber to the state.

NOTE: This story was revised Monday, February 16th, to clarify that Uber had been conducting background checks of its drivers prior to the arrest of an Uber driver on sexual assault charges in Chicago.