I’ve only used it once, but I am already a fan of Uber. In fact, I liked it before I tried it. The way it works is first you register for an account and install the Uber app on your phone. When you want to go somewhere, simply open up the app, which finds your location via GPS, and request a driver. A comfortable town car will then be dispatched to your location, and you can watch the driver’s progress in real-time on the app, and even call them if necessary. Once in the car, you let the driver know where you want to go, and they take you there. When you arrive at your destination, simply get out of the car. No cash or tipping; the fare is automatically charged to your credit card. You can then use the app to rate your driver. (And they can rate you.)
If you’ve ever heard me talk about the unpredictable experience of riding an American taxi before, you will see why I like Uber. The first time I tried it was on a trip to the airport. I pulled out my phone, and set my location. This part of the UI needs a little work; it kept choosing an address on the other side of the street, and if I moved the marker too far, trying to force it to be on my side of the street, it would snap to a side street. I then requested a ride, and was told that Ronaldo, the driver, would arrive in six minutes. I was able to track the driver via GPS, and six minutes later, he arrived on the wrong side of the street. He didn’t see me, but that was no problem as I just tapped on the “call driver” button and let him know to do a quick U-turn. After that, it was a quick and friendly trip to the airport, and my receipt was emailed to me. A cool line item on the receipt was “Rounding Down” as they round down the fare to the nearest dollar. I saved 96 cents.
When I returned from my trip, I got in the regular taxi line at the airport. I was treated to a ride with a driver who was on the phone the entire time, communicating with me via hand motions to ask where to go, and a handwritten sign on the meter that simply said “CASH.” What a contrast.
Of course if you look at their site, you’ll see that the main reason you would go with a more traditional form of transportation over Uber is the raw price. But remember, the lowest price doesn’t always mean the best value, depending on what you value. Since I need a ride infrequently, using Uber isn’t going to make me go broke, and the last time I called for a regular cab they never showed up. Uber’s customer service is pretty sweet too. They noticed that I was once unable to find an available car in my area, and proactively contacted me to make sure we were still cool.
I’ll be spending some time in San Francisco this week, and while I don’t expect to have any transportation needs, if I do, I think I’ll choose Uber. Oh, and in case you came across this post looking for a pre-arranged pickup solution in the San Francisco area, Uber doesn’t offer that (that I know of), but PlanetTran is good.