Transportation app Uber is now available in 38 countries, has a market value of over $18 billion, and thanks to a recent wave of European protests, signups for the car service are up 850%. It seems a plan by cab drivers in London, Paris, Berlin, and Madrid to disrupt commuters backfired in a big way for the angry cabbies.
Uber is a car service that his handled completely through your smart phone. The app shows you where Uber drivers are in location to your area, you select a car and they come and pick you up. Cars range of a yellow taxi to black luxury cars/ SUVs to Uber X — cars that in my experience are young adults driving their own car and picking up fares on the weekend. And yes, living in Boston I use Uber a lot – almost every weekend, and I think the service is great.
Why great? Well for one thing there is no cash transaction because everything is handed through a credit or debit card linked to your account on the app. Not only is this convenient, but it is safer too. Speaking of safety, Uber sends you information about the driver who is picking you up, name of the driver and such. Not only is this information safe and helpful for the passenger, but the driver knows who they are picking up too. Additionally you can rate your driver. If a driver receives bad ranking continuously, Uber will let that driver go from the program. Conversely, the driver can rate the passenger, and so if you get a poor ranking for being a jerk in the back seat all the time no one will pick you up.
The company is forward thinking too, having invested in Google’s GX3200 vehicles and electric vehicles and also has a good sense of humor. A recent promotion that has passengers being picked up in Optimus Prime from the Transformers (in vehicle mode of course).
While I (and many other city dwellers) think that Uber is great, not everyone does. Traditional medallion carrying taxi cab drivers have been in an uproar about Uber in Europe and North America, with their argument being that Uber drivers are unlicensed or unregulated cabs, and therefore not legal in many cities. In London for example, only London black cabs are allowed to use the meter system to collect fairs.
Uber cabs use a meter system that is similar to the black cab system, and thus, London black cab drivers see this unregulated car service taking money out of their regulated business. Add to this that Uber cabs are usually less expensive than traditional city cab rates, and it is easy to see why the cab industry might be upset. Uber is counter arguing that their service is a private hire car service, and so is outside the scope of the meter regulations. So far, Uber has been fighting a running battle with governments across the world, though the recent wave of protests only served to increase signups to the effect of 850%.
I think that the debate over Uber will not be decided in a court of law but rather by the market –simply, do people want the service? With a market value over $18 billion and signups for the car service up 850%, I would say the cab paying public has already answered with a resounding “Yes”!