My First Uber Ride
The internet has been fantastically disruptive. A quick review of the dominant formats of today versus 30 years ago highlights this:
And the latest pending casualty in the internet shake up is taxicabs. Mobile phones with GPS capacity have given birth to a slew of peer to peer private car hiring services. By far the largest one is Uber.
Most Uber users i have spoken with are enthusiastic about the service. It is supposedly 44% cheaper than cabs on average. Drivers who are rated by riders are overwhelmingly courteous. In urban areas they are as fast as cabs. No cash changes hands and there is no expectation of a tip. The drivers get 80% of the fare, which is far higher than what cab drivers get.
But there are a myriad of problems with Uber as well. For me the most serious is the frat boy attitude of the companies senior management, which seems to think that it is okay to threatening to stalk and harass women reporters and their families. Uber has been reckless about leaking customer information. Uber is under investigation for pushing carless drivers into shady sub-prime car loans. Uber has instituted surge pricing policies which charge hundreds of dollars for short rides. Uber has failed to protect the privacy of both drivers and passengers with ill results. Taxi companies are banding together and protesting Uber’s practices which are cutting corners and risking rider safety as well as suing Uber. New Delhi has banned Uber after one of it’s drivers raped a passenger. Uber promised to do more background checks (which were apparently absent) in response.
Despite these problems, having terribly under organized myself this morning at 2 AM i downloaded the Uber app and got my first ride. It was free.
My driver Michael was 62, had a 4.85 star rating from Uber, a very clean car and was lovely company for my relatively short ride. Michael had tried to retire twice (clearly something he was not very good at, unlike driving) but was going to hike the Appalachian Trail and need to make some extra money. We chatted for the entire ride about Uber.
He was generally unaware of the few of the above problems that i pointed out. [I did not know about the longer list until i started researching Uber today]. And he had nothing but good things to say about the company. He did have quite some stories about drunken customers and hookers getting into his car, because he confused them for his clients. He gave me the code that allowed me to get the ride for free (the code is “NowYouKnow” and is good for up to $20 rides but only on your first ride).
Will i use Uber again? Perhaps. What i am hoping is that real peer to peer services like Sidecar will expand from just San Francisco and be available in more places to provide us with an alternative to the management nightmare which is Uber.