The hot potato that is Uber is now in the government’s court, with Land Public Transport Commission (SPAD) chairman Tan Sri Syed Hamid Albar saying that it is up to the government to decide on the status of the app-based private driver service, The Sun reports.

He said vehicles offering public transport services have to apply for licences, and the licensing process should not be breached by the likes of Uber.

“We already had several discussions with the Transport Ministry and the Malaysian Communications and Multimedia Commission on the issue. It is not a problem if Uber cars are using licences. At present these vehicles do not have licences,” Syed Hamid told reporters after the launch of 10 express buses services by Perak Transit Berhad in Ipoh yesterday.

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“The government needs to amend the relevant laws when a decision is made on the service (Uber),” he added, noting that Uber’s service had gained popularity among public transport users. “The bottom line is that we want to give the best and efficient transport service to the public,” he said.

The government has got the memo. Last week, deputy transport minister Datuk Aziz Kaprawi announced that drivers of ride-sharing services will soon have to buy commercial insurance if they want to continue operating, a move to legalise and regulate this new business dominated by Uber and the recently rebranded Grab.

“We want to regulate the industry so that these vehicles are safe for people to ride in. We also want to legalise the industry as the number of phone apps will continue to grow. Malaysians find these apps very convenient in terms of securing public transport,” said Kaprawi.

Meanwhile, Uber’s expansion continues. Last week, the company announced that it is now operating in Ipoh, the fourth city in Malaysia that the app covers.