Nearly everyone today has heard of Uber, the American ride service network that’s branching out into many other countries around the globe. Uber, or Uber Technologies, Inc., is headquartered in San Francisco. It’s primary function has been the development and distribution of the Uber mobile app. This allows consumers to submit ride requests via smartphone which are automatically forwarded to local drivers who have signed up with the service. The app also calculates the fare and transfers payment to the responding driver’s account.
Uber was founded in 2009 as UberCab by Travis Kalanick and Garret Camp, founder of StumbleUpon. “Uber” is the German word for “super”, or superior. They received $200,000 in funding, and the following year raised an additional $1.25 million. The app and services didn’t officially go live until 2011. The same year, Ryan Graves, the original CEO, was replaced by Kalanick. By 2012, the company had raised another $44.5 million, and by today the Uber service has spread to 70 countries. Other companies have since copied it’s business model, leading to the “Uberfication” of many businesses that operate by providing services through online apps.
How it works:
To start using Uber as a taxi service you only need to create a user account at Uber’s website (https://get.uber.com/sign-up/). Once you’ve provided your name, phone number, email, and a password, you can download the Uber app. It’s available in iPhone, Windows, and Android versions, and is also available on those respective companies’ Apple, Microsoft, and Google app stores.
**Note: You must be at least 18 years old to use the service.
Once you’ve launched the app you can login and set up a payment method, including your PayPal account. There is no charge except for actual ride fares. Uber prefers a cash-less system to ensure the safety of both drivers and passengers.
When you need a ride, you just open the app on your smartphone, verify your pickup location (your location determined by GPS), and select the type of service you want:
This is the “value” service, which ensures a car 10-years old or newer, as a 4-passenger vehicle with working heat and AC.
An overseas version of UberX.
This brings an SUV carrying at least 6 passengers.
Black is a premium service where you’re guaranteed a back luxury vehicle, leather seats, and a commercially-licensed driver.
Provides the same service as UberBlack but ensures a larger SUV.
This is a mid-range option currently available only in certain locations.
Then you simply hit “Tap to Request”. Wait time can depend on a variety of traffic conditions, but the median wait time is under five minutes (http://www.newsweek.com/exclusive-heres-how-long-it-takes-get-uber-across-us-cities-289133).
Uber makes every effort to ensure their service is prompt, affordable, and safe. Both passenger and driver see “dummy” numbers to ensure their personal phone numbers remain private. In some cases you can even watch your driver’s progress on your phone.
Working as an Uber driver allows you to be your own boss operating from your own vehicle. The pay is good, but you can work when you want and accept the fares you want. If you like being your own boss, don’t mind driving in your local area, and like meeting new people, Uber driving isn’t a bad way to go. Many drivers enjoy it and do very well.
However, you must be at least 21 years old and at the minimum have a 4-door vehicle in good condition. Other vehicle requirements for certain services are noted above. Of course, you must also have vehicle insurance and have held a valid driver’s license for at least one year. Background checks are done, so if you have a criminal history an application will likely be denied. You must also pay for your own fuel and vehicle maintenance.
If you meet these qualifications, you can apply to be an Uber driver online (https://get.uber.com/drive/). The entire application process and background check can take up to two weeks. When you’ve been approved, you’ll receive a welcome email that explains the final steps to take to become a working Uber driver. Then you just keep your phone handy and wait for fare alerts.
Is it safe?
Uber is probably safer than more traditional taxi services. While the company doesn’t discuss accident statistics, users report that they’re rare, and Uber of late has begun carrying it’s own insurance to support drivers and passengers in case of accident.
Some foreign countries such as India have mandated an SOS button in each care for summoning authorities if needed, while France and German have both banned the discount versions: UberX and UberPOP (http://www.businessinsider.com/heres-everywhere-uber-is-banned-around-the-world-2015-4). But a core part of Uber’s safety features is that both drivers and passengers can rate each other through the app. Bad drivers and belligerent passengers will be rejected.
The future of Uber
In early 2015, Uber announced its commitment to driverless technology. It began a collaboration with Carnegie Mellon University (http://www.cmu.edu/), a private research college located in Pittsburgh, PA with a strong reputation in disciplines such as robotics engineering, among others. They formed the Uber Advanced Technologies Center in the city, and launched their first driverless Uber tests in September 2016. This driverless fleet consists of Ford Fusion cars, each equipped with an array of cameras, lasers, radar, and other sensors that interact with GPS to create and navigate a continuous 3-D model of its surroundings.
What this means for Uber drivers in the long term is uncertain. But in the meantime Uber continues to thrive; they provide millions of rides every month in 209 cities around the US (http://uberestimator.com/country/united-states). Uber is now a part of modern life, and it’s influence seems to still be growing.