October 4, 2011

628 words 3 mins read

Review: Uber (Private Driver Service)

Since I’m in San Francisco now, I have had a need for taxi service on occasion. The biggest issue with taxis in San Francisco is that like any big city, it can take a while to get one — especially on busy drinking nights. I had heard about this service called “Uber"; that it was a cab service with a mobile app to request rides, so I figured I’d give it a shot. In the last couple of weeks I’ve taken four rides with Uber and it’s been really nifty so far.

The basic process for an Uber trip is very simple. Once you are signed up you can either text them an address to pick you up at, or use the

mobile app. The mobile app uses GPS to find you and lets you put in a request to just about anywhere. Before you make the request, you can see where the nearest drivers are and how long it will take to get to you. Once you’ve requested a trip, Uber will text you to let you know what the ETA is for a drive. They will also text you again when you’re Uber driver is arriving — this way you can know when to look for them and/or actually go outside. The rest of your trip is much like any taxi, you tell them where you want to go and away you go. The major difference is that you don’t need to pay them when you’re done — it’s all done automatically via GPS charged to your credit card on file.

Uber originally called itself “UberCab”, but then changed it’s name to avoid being associated with taxis (for legal reasons). They style themselves a “Private Driver Service” and that really is more correct. All of the vehicles I’ve been in are Lincoln Town Car’s or similar black Luxury Sedans. Most of the drivers will hop out to open the doors for you and many of the cars have free water/candy/etc. So it really is more like a limo service than it is a Taxi.

Now, taking into account that Uber is more like a limo than a taxi, it is more expensive than your average Taxi (by 2-3x, if not more). They have an interesting pricing system where they charge you per mile when above 11 mph, and per minute when below 11 mph. In San Francisco it is currently (at time of writing) an $8.00 base + $4.90 per mile or $1.25 per minute. The four trips I’ve taken have been in the 1.5 to 2 mile range and have cost between $18 and $25. Not cheap by any stretch of the imagination, but there are a number of offsets for this price.

#1 — You don’t need to tip, as that is included in the price.

#2 — You are traveling and arrive in (limo) style.

#3 — The Ubers show up VERY fast. I don’t think I’ve had more than a 4 minute wait on any request for Uber (whereas SF taxis, even on request, can be 20+ minutes).

Will I be taking Uber exclusively instead of taxis? Probably not, it is a little rich for my blood. Will I be using Uber for any time I want to have a fancy evening out (say to the opera) or impress someone? Definitely! I can’t really find anything with the service to complain about. All the drivers I’ve dealt with are nice and courteous (you rate them at the end of the trip, and the drivers rate you — the passengers — so be nice), the cars are nice and clean and the service is fast. It sure beats the heck out of standing on a corner trying to flag down a damn taxi.