Photo: Uber Blog
Uber, the startup that wants to be everyone’s personal driver, launched in New York City two weeks ago. The Twitter community and The New York Times have been raving about it.But New York City seems like the last place a personal driver service should launch. Most executives already have free black car service through their companies and yellow cabs are easy to come by.
Cofounder Travis Kalanick doesn’t agree. He says New Yorkers demanded Uber. Before coming to the east coast, 1,000 New Yorkers had registered their credit cards on Uber’s site for a service that didn’t yet exist for them, he says.
We wanted to understand what all the fuss was about, so we tried Uber. Twice.
It was prompt, hassle-free, and the drivers happily took us to New Jersey. Both times, the driver was outside waiting within minutes. Two trips to Hoboken cost $44 for the first time (from Union Square) and $34 for the next (from midtown east).
When we asked one of the drivers if Uber was bringing him business, he said yes, and that he had driven multiple Uber clients earlier in the day.
All in, Uber wasn’t a have-to-have service. It was just nice to have (especially at 2 AM on Sunday morning). But in New York, the city where one in four of the world’s taxi dollars passes through, there are plenty of people that like to live luxuriously and conveniently.
To experience Uber yourself, we documented the entire trip. Read on to see if it’s worth it.
Uber makes deals with car companies in New York and San Francisco, so they always have cars on the road. They don't actually own or store any of the vehicles their service uses. On the iPhone app, you can see available Uber cars roaming the city.
Uber works via iPhone and Android app, as well as via SMS text. When you use a mobile app, Uber locates you and you can send your pick-up location with the push of a button. When you send an SMS text, you send your city and address to 827222.
Uber takes a few seconds to contact a driver on your behalf. We were told via text that the process could take up to two minutes, but within 12 seconds we received another text that said our car was en route.
You can track the black car on the iPhone app and see exactly where your driver is. If you're using SMS text, Uber will send a note with the driver's number and whereabouts.
The interior looked just like any other black car -- five seats, clean and sleek. Donald even wore a driver's cap.
At the end of our trip, the total was $44.48, but Uber rounds the cost down to $44.00. On the iPhone screen, Uber asks the driver to rate the passenger, so make sure you're on your best behaviour.
Uber texted us the final cost too. No money was exchange with Donald. Uber automatically charges the total amount and tip to the credit card the Uber user lists on its website.
It also sends an email detailing the cost of the ride. It charges more than usual, with a $7 base fare alone. And if your driver doesn't know the fastest route, it will cost you since Uber calculates costs based on distance and time.
If you're a guy, it could also make a great impression on a first date.
But after our experiences, we'll only use Uber sparingly -- like when it's raining, absurdly late, or on New Years.
For every other time, a cheaper alternative like a cab or the subway will do just fine.
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