Ten things you probably didn’t know about Uber

Uber is described by Uber as a ridesharing service with its headquarters in San Francisco, USA. It currently operates in multiple cities and works with the use of a Smart Phone App that arranges rides between riders and drivers. Would-be users have to have an account with Uber and use the app to request a ride, and thereafter use the app to track the reserved vehicle’s location. At the time of writing this piece, Uber is available in 45 countries and 200 cities and, depending on who you believe, is valued at between US$18 and US$40 billion. Some of the key shareholders include Google, who is widely rumoured to be interested in the service to run its Autonomous Mobility on Demand (AMOD) technology that it is developing.

1. Three-employee Policy

Uber has a strict policy of hiring just three employees in each city that it operates. These employees are responsible for all operations in that city, including the vetting of driver suitability. There is no information on how the vetting takes place though.

2. Pricing Policy

Uber’s pricing is similar to the local metered taxicabs. The trip is calculated on time, when the average speed is below 18kph, and on distance, when the speed averages above that number. At the end of the ride, the fare charged is displayed on your smart phone with the phrase “NO NEED TO TIP” and this is automatically billed to the customer’s credit card. During periods of high demand, such as rush-hour or festive seasons, Uber increases its prices to what they call “surge-price” levels in what they describe as an attempt to attract more drivers and thus keep wait times down, obviously appealing to customers.

3. Founded by a College Dropout

Uber was founded in 2009 by Travis Kalanick who had previously dropped out of the University of California. Uber was his third attempt to hit the big time after his earlier attempts had been less than successful. The company was initially funded by former Google Exec, Chris Sacca, and Amazon CEO, Jeff Bezos.

4. Uber is Watching You

You may be used to receiving a customer rating form when you visit a restaurant but when using Uber, beware they are rating you and your performance as a customer as well. So, if you keep the driver waiting or leave a mess in the cab, or perhaps even fail to tip him, you may well find yourself listed as a “less-preferred” customer.

5. Uber is Global

Uber is not the only company to use Smart Phone Apps to ease the locating of a taxi. There are numerous apps available with which you can have a licensed taxi turn up at a given location and pay for your ride in the ‘conventional’ way. But it seems that even in the face of stiff opposition from licensed taxi drivers using smart phone apps, the Uber service has captured the imagination of the world’s cities with over 200 of them now allowing Uber to ply their trade. However, you will never see an Uber cab bearing an Uber logo because Uber drivers are free to operate other taxi or tour services at the same time.

6. Uber uses iPhone

In most territories, Uber has a policy of giving a free iPhone to all of the drivers. This way around, once the customer has locked their location on a map after “requesting a ride”, the driver can track it and reach you on time. However, the iPhone is locked and cannot be used to place calls or be put to any other use.

7. Credit Cards Only, please.

The entire Uber system works on a cashless basis. If you want to use its service, you must have a credit card. You absolutely cannot pay the driver using cash or debit cards, or goats. Before you try to “request a ride”, you must register with Uber by creating an account. Uber authenticates every transaction with a two-stage password; this has caused some issues and Uber may be forced to tie up with local payment gateways in the future.

8. Foreign Remittance and Tax Objections

It is not just the taxi man that is looking seriously at Uber but also the TAX-MAN. Whenever you use the service and they charge your credit card, the payment goes via Amsterdam, Holland, from where it is transferred to a Wells Fargo account. Approximately seven days later, 80% of the funds are then sent back to the taxi driver/operator account back ‘home’. Several tax authorities are now looking at this with a view of taking their cut.

9. We don’t like your insurance, UBER!

There has been a spirited if yet ineffectual response to the creation of Uber services across the world, with the chief complaint being the lack of proper insurance coverage. In most countries, to operate a cab, not only do you need to have a driving license but you also need Police clearance and an upgraded insurance policy to compensate your passengers in the event of an accident. This insurance is expensive and licensed taxi operators claim the lack of this insurance gives Uber drivers an unfair cost advantage, ultimately leaving the passenger inadequately protected.

10. Only a Ride-share Facilitator

Uber does not own any cars and claims that it only acts as a middleman between people needing a ride and people who are willing to share their cars. Frankly, it is all a bit of a semantic game, really; after all, a rose by any other name would still smell as sweet! In fact, Uber owns very little outside of a software platform, a payment gateway and a very large bank account.

top image: http://nhoffmanandco.com

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