Last night presented an opportunity for me to try out the Uber service. Just in case you don’t know what Uber is it’s an app based taxi service that is based in San Fransisco but operates in many countries, obviously one of these being London for me to take advantage of the service.
You start off by downloading the app for your Apple, Google or Windows device and create an account and add either your credit card or Paypal details. Once you are all signed up you are ready to use the service.
We had decided to go from my local drinking establishment to a nearby Indian restaurant. Normally what we would have done is pop along to the local cab office, see if a car was available, if not wait, climb in, give our destination and set off, arrive, dig out the fare, add a tip, climb out and be on our way.
This time, from the comfort and warmth of the pub (it was flipping freezing outside) I simply opened the app and a local map showed me if any Uber cars were close by. I was a little concerned that living right on the outskirts of London that no cars would be available to me, however, the map showed three cars within my vicinity as well as the spot I was currently at and the approximate time it would take the closest car to arrive.
Selecting ‘Set Pickup Location’ zooms into my current location where I have the option of confirming my whereabouts. In this case I entered the name of the pub we were at and also entered our desired destination. Next I selected ‘Fare Estimate’ and was presented with an estimate of between £5-£7. This is based on the distance, time and what level of car you have requested. Once I had this information I simply hit ‘Request Uber’.
After a few moment I was informed that my fare was accepted and a driver was enroute to me. The app displayed the drivers name, the car he was driving and it’s registration plate. The map also displayed where the car was in relation to me and I could watch it as it made it’s way to me.
This allowed us plenty of time to comfortably finish our drinks and move outside just as the car arrived. I don’t know what kind of condition I was expecting the vehicle to be in after riding in some fairly poor minicab cars in my past. However, the car was clean and modern and of a decent size, even for my extra long frame.
Our driver was courteous and friendly. Our destination was already to go on his Uber app I noticed and we were soon on our way. I took the opportunity to ask him how long he had been working for the company and he explained he had been driving for them for a few months. I asked if he enjoyed it and he said the service was very convenient for him as it allowed in the opportunity to log into the system and drive flexible hours that suited him best.
We arrived at our destination and I asked him what we did now. He informed me that the charge would be taken from my debit card. So without handing over any money or a tip we simply thanked him, got out of the vehicle and went to eat.. Moments later I received an email and was informed that the ride had indeed cost me £5.
Overall the whole experience was a pleasant one. In fact after we finished our meal we ordered another Uber to take us back to the pub. This again was a painless experience with another warm and friendly driver in a nice car.
Many established taxi firms in various cities are far from happy that Uber is eating into their profits and have tried to protest against the company from operating. Also a number of stories have surfaced recently regarding Uber drivers, although I’m not sure these kind of incidents are unique to just Uber. It remains to be seen how these conflicts will play out in the long term but it looks like private passenger transportation is yet another industry that is going to feel the disruption of technology and the app economy.