In Tech on Monday 2nd Mar, 2020

‘Safe, easy to use and with no awful call centre: Why I’ll be using Uber again’

Mar 02, 2020
If you’ve got a lot of bags to carry or don’t fancy braving the traffic, getting a ride with Uber can take the hassle out of visiting the grandkids.

Starts at 60 and Uber, Australia’s most trusted ride-sharing service, have teamed up to create an exclusive offer just for Starts at 60’s community members – $20 off your first Uber ride! But if you haven’t used Uber before, you might be wondering how it works. That’s why we asked some of our amazing community bloggers to use Uber for the first time and report back on their experience. Lyn Fletcher‘s Uber ride ended up being longer than she expected – for the right reasons. 

I’ve been a driver since I was 18 and am a great fan of public transport, especially given that in Sydney I can travel anywhere for $2.50 with my Seniors Card. 

I’ve occasionally used taxis when travelling to the airport or back from an event where I’ve had a few drinks, the weather is awful or it’s very late. And I had a regular taxi driver, George, who I used for business trips. 

But I realise as I’m getting older, I may need some other means to get around for appointments, doctors’ visits and keeping up with my social life. I’ve also not always felt safe, just picking up any old taxi on the street, especially as a woman travelling alone. 

Getting a taxi off the street or ringing one of those infernal call centres or automated systems doesn’t inspire me with confidence a lot of the time, so I thought I’d give Uber a try. 

How Uber works

Uber is similar to a taxi service, but it’s private, individual drivers (who are checked and registered) with the Uber business and who are taking you to your destination in their own cars. 

There’s no meter – instead, you are given an estimate of your fare when you book or schedule a ride and it’s usually cheaper than a taxi. You use Uber via an application on your smartphone or tablet and you are kept informed every step of the way — from booking and pick-up through to ride completion and receipt. 

Uber works by being linked to your credit card or PayPal account, so there’s no worry about having or carrying cash (and the driver can’t be robbed either!) so in some ways it is safer for both the passenger and driver. 

You can also buy Uber gift cards and use these to credit your account, instead of having it linked to your credit card or PayPal account. You always get a detailed receipt, so you know where the trip was from and to, which driver and car you went in (which is great in case you leave something behind) and how the cost was worked out (distance and time plus any tolls etc.). 

The Uber app is free and easy to download onto your smartphone, tablet or computer. I didn’t have any trouble understanding how it works because I’m used to other apps on my phone, but there’s plenty of help available if you need it. 

Once you’ve downloaded the app and registered with your name and  email and connected it to a method for payment, you’re ready to go. 

Lyn was reassured by the fact she knew her driver’s name and vehicle details before she hopped in his car for a ride to her son’s house.

You can book a ride to pick you up straight away or schedule it for a time (again, great when you need or want to plan). You can plug in your home address to make it easier to book trips to or from home and set addresses that you go to regularly. 

The Uber app or your email is then used to communicate with you, including for confirming that you’ve scheduled a ride or letting you know what type of car that will pick you up, which includes details such as the registration number (another thing that’s great for those of us who don’t know all of the makes and models of cars) and the driver’s name. 

When it’s time for your ride, you can see on the map where your ride is and how long it will take before it arrives. 

You can also see what the driver looks like (and even read reviews other riders have written about their service), which I found reassuring. The Uber app also has a feature where you can let a friend or family member automatically know the details of your trip, if you wish, so I did feel a bit safer than I would getting into other forms of public transport, where the drivers rarely introduce themselves and no one would know where I was unless I sent them a message.

Uber to the rescue 

I’d booked my first trip with Uber to spend the day with my grandchildren at my son’s house. It’s only about 8 kilometres away, from the northern suburbs of Sydney to inner-west of the city, and I would normally drive or take the train. 

But this day, I had a lot to carry and there’s often nowhere to park near my son’s, as they live close to the train station and commuters take all the spots. 

I booked the trip on Uber the night before, got all the information I needed just prior to the trip, including the car’s registration and driver’s name, which was Prasit, and the ride turned up at my house on time. 

The car was very clean and comfortable, and the driver introduced himself and checked if I needed to put anything into the boot. Off we went …

What I didn’t know, though, was that a burst water main had closed the main road near my son’s house earlier that morning and traffic was in gridlock for kilometres, including over a main bridge. 

My Uber driver’s GPS was put to good use to get us around the problem and the 8km trip became an almost 20km trek to go via another bridge and a freeway. 

Despite the extra distance, the driver kept me well informed and even though we went further, we were still there safely within about 30 minutes. I certainly was glad not to be driving myself. 

Of course, the cost was a little more than what had been estimated (I paid $69.80 for a round trip), but I felt safe and reassured during the trip and the additional charges were detailed on my receipt (which I received as soon as the trip was completed). There is also now a record of my trip on my Uber app for me to review. 

Would I use Uber again? Yes, I probably would, and am already envisaging the circumstances under which I would use it.  

It’s a bit harder to use Uber in crowded places, such as at airports, in the heart of the city or shopping centres, though there are more and more designated Uber parking areas (similar to taxi ranks) in these places where your driver can meet you or drop you off. 

I felt safe, reassured and the additional features of using the Uber app make it likely that I would choose to ride with Uber over using any old taxi (unless, of course, George was still around!).

Are you a confident driver in tricky circumstances such as detours and traffic jams? Or do you prefer someone else is at the wheel?

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