A classic example of the shift of power to the people is Uber. This is a German based company that enables people to make use of their private car as a taxi service. My children had been talking it up for a month, but I was reluctant to try it because I was loath to be driven by a stranger in their own car. However, I made the plunge and cannot speak highly enough about the experience.
Here’s how it works. You open the Uber app on your phone, and it will show which Uber cars are available in your area. You then enter your pickup point and your destination, and immediately a message will come back giving you the make of car, registration number, and the Christian name of the driver which has been assigned to you. It will also tell you the expected time of pickup. The message includes the driver’s mobile number in case you wish to contact them.
At the end of the journey, you rate the driver and the driver rates you. So far in Brisbane, I’ve used Uber three times – the cars were an almost new Audi, a late model RAV and a brand new Skoda.
Their fares are significantly cheaper than taxis (except in peak hour), and there is no flagfall or 10% surcharge when using a credit card. All rides are automatically debited to my Amex card linked to PayPal.
Before Uber, the cab ride from office to home was about $19, which meant I always paid $20. The ride from home to office was always about $21 when the booking fee was added. This meant the driver got $25. With Uber, it’s $13 each way.
Tomorrow I’m off to Sydney to make a speech and will be using Uber the whole time. In fact one of my friends in Sydney likes it so much he sold his car and uses Uber exclusively.
I vividly remember an episode last year in Sydney when I called a taxi from Royal Sydney Golf Club at 4.00pm. I waited 10 minutes for the operator to answer, and when they did finally answer, told me they could give no indication of when the cab would arrive. After waiting half an hour I gave up and got a lift to Double Bay shopping centre, where I waited another 35 minutes in a cab queue with my golf sticks. If Uber had been available then, I would have known at all times where my cab was, and could have telephoned the driver in need.