My experience with car service Uber

Posted on December 17, 2013
This past week in San Francisco, I finally had the opportunity to use Uber and was intrigued by the people who drive.  During each of my rides, I spent the entire time asking questions starting with “How long have you been driving with Uber?”.
The answers were very interesting and revealing.
Average time driving with Uber: Less than one month
Every single driver I had both in San Francisco and in Silicon Valley had been driving with Uber for less than one month except for one.  One person had started three days ago and was loving it.
Most were already drivers
Perhaps not surprisingly, almost all people had driving experience from another job including medical transport, limo, or taxi  There were only two people who had joined Uber part time without previous driving experience.
Multicultural but male dominated
I was blown away by the varied backgrounds of the drivers and the different races.  One driver had just retired after 35 years from the US Air Force and was driving with Uber so he had something to do.  Another had started driving with Uber about 6 months ago after coming from Brazil.  The majority of drivers were men with a lone female driver out of my sample.
Competition hurts
Several of the drivers had worked for Lyft in the past but had switched to Uber for two reasons: higher pay and more flexibility. All of the drivers who had tried Lyft complained about their policy of requiring drivers to schedule themselves for available hours in advance.  This policy made it very difficult for them to get rides because they weren’t able to get onto the schedule or could only work part time.  Every single driver felt that Uber was paying them the highest amount out of the competing services (Lyft, Sidecar, etc).
For those who had previously driven a taxi but switched over, the biggest advantage with Uber was they only paid a percentage of their fares.  For those not familiar with the taxi model, the owner of the cab will “rent” it out to another driver for a fee.  In my conversations for San Francisco drivers, that fee averaged about $115 per day plus the driver is responsible for their own gas and a “tip” to get a good car.  So, the driver starts the day in the red $150 and has to make that back.  With Uber, they only take 15% of the fares meaning that if the driver doesn’t get any fares he hasn’t lost any money.
Final thoughts
Uber and similar models are definitely here to stay.  The relative ease on both sides (customer and driver) to connect and deliver a service makes this an ideal opportunity to disrupt an industry.  It is even more telling in other countries as Uber expands.  I spoke with a person from Mexico who has recently purchased a car and hired a driver in Mexico City now that Uber has launched in that city.  The difference in service that one can provide with Uber compared to a traditional taxi is massive.  No more attempting to call a dispatch that is unreliable, no more arguing over cash in the car, and complete transparency in the pricing model.  The biggest losers in this shift will be the taxi cab owners who have paid for the rights to operate a cab in the city.

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