U & I – Hello

20121231new_uber_logo2A couple years ago I kept hearing advertisements for Uber. You know, the taxi’s competition, where citizens drive their own cars, and pick up passengers through an application. So, I invested in an upgraded phone, signed up and have been driving since September 2015.

In the almost two years, I’ve discovered the many areas in which to create blog topics. So, in an ongoing series, I present U & I.

First up, I’ll introduce Uber to those who may not be familiar. I don’t know all the ins and outs of the technical side but basically, you download the Uber application to your phone, input your information, including a debit/credit card. When you want a ride, you input your pick-up address and destination. The call goes out to the closest Uber driver and in minutes, you have a ride. Riders can, for the most part (although lately their have been system glitches) chart the progress of the driver, know the first name of the driver, and the make/model/color of the driver’s car. Riders can change the destination at any time, including during the trip. Riders can share the cost of the trip with other passengers.

For the driver, he/she downloads the Uber Driver application. This person has gone through uploading insurance, registration, license plate, an image of the car, and a head shot to the Uber system. The driver has also uploaded a bank account for the weekly deposits on trips made. Drivers are paid each Wednesday for the previous Monday through Sunday trips. Lately, though, drivers have the option of early deposit for a fifty cent fee.

Once the application is downloaded, the driver activates it, and goes online. He is now ready to make trips.

For the best impression, it is always advisable to have a clean car, in and out, a full tank of gas, and maybe some extras for the passengers. I’ve heard one woman has devised a basket of treats and water bottles for riders. The driver must be well groomed, should know the traffic laws, and speak English. This last is not to be discriminatory, but I have heard of one driver who couldn’t speak English and was let go.

When the driver receives a call for a ride, there is a flashing beeping circle showing amount of time to the pick-up point. The driver will either tap the screen to accept or not tap and 15 seconds later, the call is dropped and goes to the next closest driver. Once accepted, the system shows the location of the rider. The driver has the option of plotting out the route through whichever GPS maps system has been connected to the system. I’ve chosen Google Maps. It’s not always reliable, but works well.

At the pickup point when the rider enters the car, I always confirm the name, because I have had the wrong person enter the car. (Which means, the person is not paying attention to the phone, which shows the make/model/color of the car. Mine is an orange Dodge Caliber, and used to be a gray Ford Escape. They’re not too difficult to recognize.) Anyway, I swipe the Start Trip which shows the destination which I also confirm. I can also plot it through the map if necessary. At the drop-off point, I then swipe the End Trip and then rate the passenger. The passenger will have ample time to rate the driver. Five stars is great, and currently I have over 700 five star rides. The system averages the rankings and a driver must stay above a certain percentage to be allowed to drive.

Payment is made through the card the rider has uploaded. The driver never knows the last name of the person or sees any cash payments for the ride. Tips are different and many people do tip which is a bonus to the driver. I’ve had tips from $1 to $20.

The system is set up so that driver and rider can communicate with each other but neither sees the other’s phone number. Calls and texts are sent through the Uber system.

Benefits to the rider:

– Faster service. I have heard from many riders how the regular taxis can take up to an hour or more to pick-up. The longest I’ve had to travel is about 23 minutes.

– Cheaper ride. One of the frequent comments I hear from riders is that Uber is cheaper than cabs. I know from personal experience when I was forced to take a cab (because no Uber driver was out at 5 am) and I had to go to work because of my car being down. The driver wanted to take me on an out of the way route to pad his fare. I had to keep redirecting him to the correct route. The trip from my house to downtown was $55. About twenty cents for each tenth of a mile. An Uber ride from a gas station near Southridge to my house was about $9 and would have been less than $15 or $20 from downtown. There are exceptions in that a lot of time there are Surges. Increased cost for increased demand. Better for the drive, but it costs a bit more for the rider. However, I think it’s still cheaper, because the cabs will also increase their prices.

– Friendly drivers. I enjoy conversing with the riders and have shared a laugh or two with many.

– Navigation. Riders are intelligent and they know if a driver has missed a turn. That’s why there is the map system. Drivers want to earn higher ratings so they’re going to be more honest and not try to pad the fare.

Benefits for the driver:

– For me, it’s a chance to get out of the house instead of spending time at home doing nothing or trying to think of something to do.

– Ease of payment as explained above.

– Drivers choice. I think this is the biggest asset to the driver. I can choose when I go online and offline. I have no boss over my shoulder telling me to get out and drive. (Well, not since I stopped the irritating texts from the system. Lol) My schedule is usually Friday nights and Saturdays. But not always. I drove the evening of July 3 since I had the holiday off. I drive until I feel tired or just don’t want to drive anymore. A cool aspect of the system that is recent is that they’ve set it up to where I can plug in my home as destination and the system will look for rides going my way.

I have met a wide variety of people, and have seen more of Des Moines and the suburbs than I ever imagined I would.

So, that’s Uber. There are other details I could have gone into, but I thought a nice intro would be good. I’ll delve into other aspects of Uber-ing in future blogs.

In the meantime, if you have any questions or want to know something specific about Uber, please, ask them in the comment section and I’ll include them in future blogs.

If you need a ride, try Uber. I might show up in your driveway.

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