San Francisco-based startup Uber is primed to shake up the luxury car service and taxicab industries, serving as your “on-demand private driver” in over a dozen cities. Powered by a mobile app, available on the iOS and Android platforms, the taxi service offers a reliable transportation experience by connecting drivers and passengers within minutes.
The service launched its fleet of black luxury cars with existing for-hire car services contracted to use the Uber technology in 2011. Uber has its eyes set on the mass-market taxicab industry, unveiling its hybrid service Wednesday—an offering that will make rides approximately 30 to 40 % cheaper than the luxury sedans in the standard service.
Beyond presenting passengers with a ride to their next location, the service benefits users in various ways:
- Hassle-Free Payments – Your credit card information is stored in the mobile app on your phone, hence; no money is exchanged in the car. When you reach your destination, the money is automatically deducted and the tip is included in the original transaction price. This is a great safety feature!
- Track Drivers – You request a taxi directly via the mobile app, no calls required. The app notifies you of the cab’s expected arrival time, as well as the location of the driver.
- No More Flagging Down Taxis: You can eliminate the manual labor and anxiety of hailing a taxi.
I had the pleasure of using the Uber taxi service in Washington D.C. during Startup Day 2012, and I was extremely pleased with the service. Wondering how it works? It’s pretty simple, the passenger requests a driver via the mobile application. Once a driver receives the request, the mobile app confirms location and arrival time. When the driver accesses the pickup location, his/her name, picture and plate number appears in the app, which will ensure your safety before hopping in your car. As for payment, the expense is automatically made upon drop off. Keeping with the times, Uber automatically emails your receipt to the email address provided. The experience doesn’t just stop when you exit the car, the service allows you to grade the driver with a five-star rating and leave comments.
While my wait time was 3-10 minutes, and the pricing was about 1.5 times what a taxicab service in the area would cost, times and cost vary slightly from market to market and surge charges apply during high traffic or rush hours.
The competitiveness within this industry is increasing with numerous car service providers such as Cabulous, Limos.com, GetTaxi and Hailo, all of which have received venture funding, gunning for the top spot. Uber appears to be a market leader, securing $43 million in funding. Available in cities such as Boston, Chicago, Washington D.C., this premier service has launched across the pond in London, just in time for the 2012 Olympics.