What is Uber?
What is Uber?
To passengers, Uber is essentially synonymous with taxis, and to drivers, it's basically a referral service. The Android, iOS and Windows Phone app connects riders with drivers using their phone's GPS capabilities, letting both parties know one another's location and removing the question of when the ride will actually arrive. In addition, the tech company also processes all payments involved, charging the passenger's credit card, taking a cut for itself (which ranges from 5% to 20%), and direct depositing the remaining money into the driver's account, all in the background and completely cashless.
Depending on availability, Uber also offers several different levels of service. The service's lowest-cost option, UberX, runs in everyday cars like the Toyota Prius. Uber Black is the company's original service, costing a bit more but running in high-end town cars with professional drivers. Uber SUV is precisely what it sounds like, charging a premium for a larger vehicle.
Who drives for Uber?
Uber requires that its drivers pass a DMV and background check. They also must have their own car and it must be insured. Because of these minimal requirements, the service attracts an eclectic array of people. For example, one time in Seattle, I was picked up by a part-time biomedical engineer who moonlit as a rideshare driver to pay for his Tesla Model S (which he used as his Uber vehicle). Alternatively, my most recent ride was with Tony, a professional car service driver originally from Africa, who was using Uber as a full-time job to support his family.
In addition, the company has developed an Uber Taxi service that has been tested in multiple cities, and can be used by cabs (dependent on local regulations).
Where does Uber operate?
In 45 countries and cities from Abu Dhabi to Zurich, the company's reach is staggering and its effect is unifying. If you know how to hail an Uber in Akron, Ohio you can also figure it out in TaiPei, Taiwan. Still, in the U.S., where regulations vary by city, county, and state, the service hasn't been allowed everywhere. For example, though it is legal to sleep on the sidewalk in Portland, Ore., you cannot hail an Uber there.
Why is Uber so popular?
Much more than a catchy name, Uber has managed to capture its share of the market through a great app, excellent social media marketing, and aggressive courting of drivers. The background technology is remarkable, connecting riders and drivers with a smooth interface that rarely reports errors. It also has the potential to do much more than offer rides — in bringing flu shots, ice cream, and even kittens to users' doors, it's shown the ability to be a groundbreaking delivery service, too. However, Uber has also been criticized for allegedly questionable tactics in trying to woo drivers away from Lyft, its major competitor.