Everything You Need to Know About Uber
Unless you've been living underneath a rock, it's likely you'll have heard the word "Uber" slipping into casual conversation over the past few months. From London to Leeds and now Newcastle, we've seen Uber spread rapidly throughout the UK in the past few months, something dubbed in the media as "Uberification'.
Uber has sparked both praise and protests, has polarised the general public, has been the subject of government investigations, and in some countries has even been banned altogether. If you've just been thinking that your friends or colleagues have been brushing up on their German, it might be time to read our guide to everything you need to know about Uber.
What is Uber?
Uber is a "ride share" service, a mobile app that allows users to book a taxi with the push of a few buttons. Founded in 2009 after friends Travis Kalanick and Garrett Camp spent an evening struggling to get a cab in Paris, the service has spread worldwide from its home base of San Francisco.
With Uber, a user's location is determined through GPS, allowing drivers nearby to be seen on a real-time map. Once users select a free driver, the driver is notified of the user's location. In some locations, users may be able to select a specific type of car to pick them up. A price estimate is given, and there's no hard cash involved; all rides are paid via a credit or debit card previously connected to a person's account.
How is an Uber different to a taxi?
At its core, getting a ride in an Uber is pretty similar to getting a ride in a regular Taxi; a destination is set, you're driven to the destination, and then money exchanges hands. Sure, the way this is done might be slightly different to the traditional model, but it's not that far removed; many taxi companies now have their own apps, offer card payment, and price estimates are nothing new.
However, there are a number of fundamentals that set Uber apart from the traditional taxi company model. For example, Uber's drivers technically aren't Uber's drivers - they're self-employed - and the company owns zero cars. This is because the company views itself as a crowd sourcing service, meaning that drivers and their vehicles are merely sourced for work rather than employed. At the moment, drivers automatically pay Uber a 20% commission on any earnings they make.
Where can I get an Uber?
At the time of writing, you'll only be able to find an Uber in 6 of cities around the UK and Ireland; Birmingham, Leeds, London, Manchester, Newcastle, and Dublin. They have a much larger presence around the world, especially in the U.S, where the service was founded.
Certain U.S states, cities worldwide, and a handful of countries have placed restrictions on Uber. Some countries, like Spain, Brazil and China have banned the company from operating altogether, making the Uber app illegal to download, and fining drivers found to be operating in their name.
The legality of Uber is also currently being assessed in a number of countries, with decisions set to be made on whether drivers would be breaking laws by offering services on behalf of the company. However, Uber still operates in some countries despite their operations being declared unlawful, with the Netherlands and India being two notable examples.
Why is Uber controversial in the UK?
It's safe to say that Uber's worldwide expansion has been met with a mixed reaction, for a number of reasons.
Many people are concerned with the safety of the company, as so long as a person has a car they're eligible to register as a driver. However, in the UK drivers must conform to city council legislations, meaning that before registering they'll need to pass a DBS check.
Lack of regulation
Concern has come from the established taxi industry, with drivers of council regulated and private hire concerns launching protests and strikes at the announcement of Uber's spread to the UK. Many have concerns over Uber's "crowd sourced" business model and apparent lack of regulation, viewing Uber as operating separate to established laws and codes of conduct governing taxi drivers. Most councils in the UK have countered these claims by stating that in order for Uber to operate it has to abide by current legislation; for example, all vehicles operating on behalf of Uber here need to be licensed, whereas in some countries they do not.
Perhaps the most widely reported disagreement with Uber occurred after the company announced its expansion to London in September 2014. Registered black cab drivers took to the streets to protest, causing controversy and widespread traffic disruption. The main concerns of the protestors came from Uber's fare estimate service, and the fact that rides are priced based on distance and time – something that drivers equated to a meter in a black cab. As in London its only legal for black cabs to operate with meters, drivers believed that the company was acting illegally. However, Transport for London disagreed, stating that Uber was doing nothing to break the law.
Many users have also faced problems with Uber's payment system. Cases of passengers being charged too much, and drivers purposefully overcharging by thousands and then unregistering from the company have been reported. As Uber doesn't employ its drivers, they claim no responsibility for cases of overcharging or fraud, limiting how those affected can seek resolution or compensation.
Whatever you think of Uber, it's safe to say the company's introduction to Britain has already altered the face of taxi operations in the UK. Whether you're thinking of putting together a fleet and competing against the service, or getting your own taxi and hitting the streets as a self-employed driver, you'll find everything you need at The Taxi Centre. Why not get in touch today, and we'll be happy to help you out with your decision.