Uber car sharing to replace waiting for a taxi that never comes 42



View Profile

I got in an Uber Car for the first time last week when in Melbourne for a couple of days, and the experience was something that made me want to talk about it.  In talking about it, many of my friends looked at me and said “What’s Uber?” and so today, I want to give you a deeper look into the application, the convenience and the controversy around this new way of booking cars and getting from A to B.  It is something every over 60 should know about in my opinion, if only for the convenience and cost effectiveness of the offering.

Uber is an online booking system for hire cars and cabs that can be used from your mobile phone, table or PC whenever you need one and it charges the ride straight back to your credit card or paypal account.  It is very convenient as when you log on to book a cab and to be assured of it turning up.   In a large city you can see the cars near you driving around, and see how far they are away from you as you book.  Rarely is a car more than 10-15 minutes away, meaning that you can quickly find a car that can come to your needs.

uber-ride shareWhen you book a car using the Uber app on your smartphone, you are immediately sent the car registration, the driver’s name and you can then watch it via live technology as it heads towards where you are.  It certainly saves the problem I had recently in Melbourne when I called a taxi four times and one never ever came, as I stood by the side of the road and eventually missed my planned appointment.

It is worth noting that Uber is upsetting a lot of people in the world.  According to a dear friend of mine whose families are in taxis, a Taxi license in Queensland costs about $650,000.  That is, the owner of a taxi pays $650,000m to the Taxi company to buy a car in their fleet and that fleet pays a proportion of that money to the government to meet their regulation requirements.  That’s quite a bit of money.

In contrast, an Uber car is really just a driver of a car (any car) that is less than one year old with comprehensive insurance, a valid drivers license and a background check.  Anyone who meets these standards can drive for Uber.

An Uber car is not a signed taxi-like vehicle.  In fact, there is two levels of vehicle you can choose from in most cities with Uber.  Uber Black and Uber X, and you need to take care when you book to ensure you get the one you planned.  My first Uber ride was in an Uber Black – largely because I didn’t know the difference and in my haste to try it out, I clicked on the first car on the screen.  Uber Black is a limosine style vehicle or “hire car”.  The car I got into was a top of the range black prius with a impeccable black leather interior.  The driver took pride in his car, his presentation and his service.  He was very friendly, and made sure I had a memorable first Uber experience.  In fact, I must commend him.  But it wasn’t hugely cheap like I has been led to believe about Uber – that is because of my selection of car type.

Uber first launched with only cars that fit the standard of Uber Black, before launching the ride sharing offering by normal cars and normal drivers in 2012 called Uber X.

An Uber X can be any type of car, driven by any qualified driver with an acceptable vehicle. They are priced very competitively with taxis, largely due to the lack of regulation and so it makes travelling in a vehicle from A to B without driving yourself very cost effective.  Rather than calling Uber a taxi service, people call it ride-sharing, but frankly, there is not much difference to the old “Mini-cab” from London, a phenomenon that has been around for a long long time… except that it is properly linked up online, through a clever and instantly manageable interface, and drivers can be tracked.  From a pricing perspective, uber’s charges are globally benchmarked.  In some cities, if the Uber car is travelling at a speed greater than 18 km/h, the price is calculated on a distance basis, otherwise, the price is calculated on a time basis.

Screen Shot 2014-11-29 at 11.44.01 am

My brother drives a taxi for a living, so he took great offence to my post on my Facebook wall about how enjoyable an experience my first ride in an Uber car was.  Taxi’s are placed right in the firing line of Uber’s convenient offering.  And the Australian and US State Governments are doing their best to defend the industry off which they make revenue.  The Queensland Government has issued a cease and desist notice against the car sharing company when it commenced operation in Brisbane in August and the Nevada government in the US has put up such a stiff fight that Uber has pulled out of the state temporarily.  Despite this, drivers continue to sign up and consumers continue to book through the company all over Australia.  Taxi companies and governments cite “dangers” of unregulated drivers and present all sorts of dramatic stories about what might happen to those who use the application.  But the cynic in me says that is the sad sounds of an industry and revenue stream under threat from a fast-moving competitor.

In one AAP report, Gold Coast Cabs chief executive Gordana Blazevic said passengers used a service such as Uber’s at their own risk.

“Gold Coast Cabs has been built over decades by hard-working small business people who live and work in our local community,” Ms Blazevic said in a statement.

“We would advise people to think hard and long before they drive for illegal rideshare schemes as regulators have indicated that they will be enforcing the existing regulations and fining those who are operating outside the law.”

I am, by all other standards a late adopter of Uber, but then again, it hasn’t long been in the cities I travel to regularly.

Uber kicked off in the USA more than three years ago, and has now been rolled out to 230 cities spread across 50 countries.   It is backed by companies like Google Ventures and Goldman Sachs and is now valued at $30bn as a business.  They own almost no physical infrastructure, yet turns over close to $10bn in revenue per year.  Uber lets drivers receive a good portion of the monies they collect, keeping between 5% and 20% of the fare as a management fee and charging $10 per week for access to the technology for each driver, quite effective in inducing those with a car and a license to drive for a few extra dollars.

Today, I’d like to discuss this new phenomenon of ride-sharing and whether you would feel comfortable considering Uber for your next taxi-trip or perhaps in a foreign country where you can immediately tap into this global resource?  Or perhaps you would consider driving for Uber as a way to earn some extra dollars?

Share yours thoughts today.

Rebecca Wilson

Rebecca Wilson is the founder and publisher of Starts at Sixty. The daughter of two baby boomers, she has built the online community for over 60s by listening carefully to the issues and seeking out answers, insights and information for over 60s throughout Australia. Rebecca is an experienced marketer, a trained journalist and has a degree in politics. A mother of 3, she passionately facilitates and leads our over 60s community, bringing the community opinions, needs and interests to the fore and making Starts at Sixty a fun place to be.

  1. My husband and I used the service for the first time last night. Absolutely brilliant. I must say though that if you order one after midnight, it’s VERY expensive. Mind you, there were no taxis to be had anywhere so if we hadn’t ordered an Uber we’d probably still be out there somewhere!

    8 REPLY
    • Kaylene what sort of car was it? Just curious as I am wondering if they are comfortable cars. From what I could see on the website you had to give them your credit card number, so may I ask if you felt safe doing that? As someone who relies on cabs to get around I would be really interested in having Uber as a back-up for an often unreliable cab service LOL.

    • Caryn the first car we had was a Mercedes Golf and the second one was a Subaru. Very clean and comfortable.
      The drivers were really friendly. They even offer you bottled water if you want it.
      My daughter uses the service regularly and loves it.
      I was a bit nervous about credit card details at first but it’s no different I guess to giving your card details when buying things online and people do that all the time.

    • Thanks for that Kaylene … I appreciate you answering those questions. I will certainly keep it in mind as the current taxi service provided to the public is abysmal and unreliable and often with rude drivers who won’t do short fares.

    • I think that’s one of the main reasons people are turning to Uber. Plus most taxi drivers these days have no idea where they’re going!

    • No it was a Mercedes Benz but a really small one. The driver described it as his Mercedes Golf. Maybe he was just making a joke. I don’t really know.

    • Incidentally the driver we had last night was going to buy a taxi licence with his super and said he was so glad he didn’t because now he drives for Uber and he gets to keep his super.

  2. Uber is a German word meaning “over”.

    5 REPLY
  3. Having owned a chauffeur car company for over 10 years, I say be careful they are outside the law. They are also more expensive than a chauffeur car.

    2 REPLY
    • Looking at the prices online I don’t think they are dearer. And how can they operate if they are “outside the law”?

    • We discussed this with the drivers last night. The Qld gov have put a desist order on them but I don’t think there’s much they can do. I believe a driver can get a fine if he’s caught but that seems to be rare.
      They are cheaper than taxis too by the way (except the one we got late last night) but you can request to know what the fare will be before you get in it and you can cancel it any time.

  4. Taxis – trip from airport to home price varies by up to $30.00 at same time of day; surcharge for using credit cards is huge; driver resembles driver photo one time in three; drivers frequently try to take the longest route; … an ill regulated industry.

  5. Sounds like a good alternative, certainly will give it a go, especially after my last taxi experience where the poor guy had no English and had absolutely no idea where that street was. Thank heavens I had a print out of the map, which I then had to read for him when I saw he held it upside down! He had a Garmin but just laughed when I pointed and suggested he use it!

  6. I use Uber and slowly all my friends are using it. My daughter and all her friends Melbourne use it also. Once you have tried Uber you will never ring a taxi again. I find them quicker to arrive, you can follow their journey. You see a photo of your driver with name and car type and rego details. I find them quicker, cleaner, friendlier, SAFER, and amazingly, cheaper as well. You need to register your details on-line and once you have the Uber app in your phone, you are ready to go. Try it. You won’t regret it.

    1 REPLY
  7. I sold my car – parking and driving in city hopeless – and now use Goget cars. Fantastic idea.

  8. Just remember that the taxi needs to get a return on the $4000000 he spent buying the taxi plate. Charging these ridiculous prices for taxi plates has created a massive problem. People have invested their entire superannuation in a taxi plate. If things continue as they are they will loose it all. If taxi plates were kept at a low price then they would not need to charge so much. There would be a lot more taxis. Uber is fantastic and probably the way of the future but I do feel sorry for those who have invested in a taxi plate. A mighty Government bureaucratic balls up.

    2 REPLY
    • I agree with you on that point Glen. The drivers themselves are the biggest problem (from a passenger and ex-radio room operator’s perspective) as they are often rude, don’t know the major roads and routes, talk on their mobiles (hands-free) throughout the entire journey and, by far the worst for me, refuse to do short jobs and call false “no jobs” so they don’t have to pick up a fare under $20.00 because they only want the airport jobs. I was picked up the other day to go somewhere that would have been about $15 on the meter and driver (one who had picked me up many times before) told me he was the eighth car in the area and the first seven had knocked back the job because the destination wasn’t far enough. This should not be allowed to happen as it provides a poor service and is one of the driving factors that push people towards a service like Uber.

      1 REPLY
      • Dont know where you live but I used to drive cabs in Brisbane ,in Queensland if you refuse a short job you can loose your liscence .
        I was on a rank one night and a woman with a large suit case hired me to take her to the hotel ACROSS THE STREET ,I could not legaly refuse the job the fare was $3 at the time .

    • Yes I agree with you on that point too Glenn. But what Caryn says is very true and in that regard it’s their own fault! They need to spruce up their service because people are going to go where they they get the best service and why wouldn’t they!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *