If your anything like me, you’ve probably only heard of a new ride sharing service called Uber from their exposure to irate European taxi drivers.
It seems like every time I open the BBC newsreader app there is an article about a strike in London, Paris or New York by taxi drivers in protest of Uber. So what is Uber? and why is it causing such ire? Uber is a on-demand taxi service that uses technology to revolutionize the cab experience.
Uber uses its own application for iPhones and Android phones to allow perspective riders to “call” a ride. The ride can be serviced by UberX (amateur part-time drivers in their own vehicle), Uber Taxi (standard taxi’s), Uber Black (Town cars), or Uber SUV. The beauty of the system is its simplicity: you get a “fare quote” for each of the services before you actually order the ride, when you place the order – you are shown in real time the location of your driver, his license plate, vehicle, photo and name – all within seconds of placing your order. When your ride is complete, the application immediately shows you how much your credit card was billed – and allows you to rate your experience. Its all so seamless that most users are left wondering – how did I live without this?
I’ve been using Uber for my business travel in Dallas Texas, and my personal travel in Toronto for the last month. In total I was in Dallas for 3 weeks, and Toronto for 1, all of which without a car of my own. I was using both UberX (for client travel – less expensive) and Uber Black (for airport runs, and the odd night out) – wracking up close to 300$ in Uber related expenses last month. After all that usage I can say that my impression of Uber is extremely positive.
UberX: Personal Cars, amateur drivers
Pro: generally pretty clean/reliable. Very Affordable.
Con: crap shoot on vehicle, had several rides in a pickup truck. Crap shoot on driver quality: Sitting on a dog blanket in the back seat and smelling the heavy odor of a pack-a-day smoker. Not available in all markets.
Uber Black: Town Cars, Professional Drivers
Pro: great cars, professional drivers, prompt, have bottled water.
Do I think Uber will change the for-hire taxi Industry? Absolutely: its safer, faster, and far more efficient. Unfortunately, it requires a credit card so a large segment of the elderly and poor will not be able to use it, and it requires a smart phone (instead of the traditional phone call) – again eliminating the poor and elderly. I do worry that it may further segregate our economy – between the haves and have-nots – especially if it decimates the current taxi industry.
Despite my misgivings – I will continue to use it – its just TOO good 🙂