I like innovation, and I like the idea of the smartphone as a concept. It’s a tool primarily designed to make our lives better, smarter, and more efficient. Uber is a good example of an application that uses all the power and potential of the smartphone to completely disrupt the current idea of how a cab/limo service operates, and it works. It works very well.
What is Uber?
When you need a ride, you open the app, the GPS in your smartphone determines your position, you set the destination, and you press “order ride”. Once a driver accepts your call, he’ll be on his way, and you can even see where he is on a map on your phone. It’s fun to watch the little car icon move into your direction, and see the car show up in real life exactly when you expect it.
You get in, and the driver takes you to your destination. In the mean time, Uber keeps running in the background and tracks your journey, which you can review later on the web. Once you arrive, the fare will get withdrawn from your credit card. The app automatically adds a tip to it, which is a percentage you choose in your settings. No more hassling with cash and change. It all goes automatically.
There are regular cabs on Uber, but anyone with a car and a smartphone can be a driver. This part of the service is called “UberX”, and it’s the most market-disruptive aspect of it. It renders our current idea of cabs and limo-service obsolete.
There’s no need to worry that you’re going to get picked up in a rusty beater, because drivers need to pass an extensive test and need to have a car that’s not too old or has too many miles before they’re approved. The best part: UberX is cheaper than getting a regular cab. I’d say that you’ll end up paying 30-40% less on average.
Besides UberX, the app allows you to order a regular cab (“UberT”), limo service as in Lincoln Town Car (“Black”), high-end limo-service as in Mercedes S-class (“Lux”), and SUV service for groups (conveniently called “SUV”). The options in cars and availability differs per city, and new options are constantly added.
In some places there’s also the option of calling over a bicycle courier to deliver a package for you.
If you’re near someone who needs to go in the same direction as you, the app pops up an alert and gives you the option of sharing the ride. It will automatically calculate who’s paying what by the time everyone has arrived. Clever stuff where again everyone wins. Hailing a cab or calling a limo service suddenly feels really old-fashioned compared to this.
Why I love it
The app is intuitive, beautiful, and fast, but the part that makes me love it is the rating system.
Both you and the driver give each other a score between 1 to 5 point after arriving. Drivers need a minimum of 4.7 out of 5 points to stay in the system. That’s a very small margin for bad reviews, which significantly reduces the chance of you getting treated badly or ripped off. The rating system works both ways, as the driver also gives you a score. So if you’re a belligerent drunk who vomits all over the car, don’t expect a high one. A low score won’t get you kicked out of the system as a rider, but drivers will see it when you order a ride, and have the choice to not accept your call. Like the driver, you’re doing yourself a disservice when you’re not on your best behavior.
You can review your trips the web afterward, which is a cool feature. Just like the apps, the interface is beautiful, clear, and very no-nonsense. Everything about Uber is a prime example of design and user-experience done right.
My personal experience with Uber has been nothing but positive.
I live in a city and don’t own a car, and UberX is a great thing to have when I need to go somewhere public transport or my bicycle can’t take me. I have used Uber Black (every cab here falls in that category) a couple of times, and I noticed that the driver I got was always out of the “nice and courteous” category.
There’s a certain sci-fi aspect to the app, and every time I use it, I can’t help but thinking “Man, this is cool”. My prediction is that this is just the beginning for Uber. They have a very solid software base here, and I can imagine it can be used for many other things that just ordering a ride, as the courier service shows us.