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Friday, December 12, 2014

Uber - the new taxi experience

Uber drivers use their own private vehicles as unlicensed taxis to collect passengers who have hailed a cab using Uber's smartphone app.

From Uber website

The idea is simple.  With UberPool, you share a ride and split the cost with another person who just happens to be requesting a ride along a similar route.  The beauty though, is that you still get Uber-style on-demand convenience and reliability:  just push the button like before and get a car in five minutes.  When we find a match, we notify you of your co-rider's first name.  Even if we don't find an UberPool match for you, we'll give you a discount on your ride.
Complaints about Sydney and Melbourne's taxis are on the rise, largely because 25 per cent of accepted bookings don't result in a pick-up, particularly if you are on a major road or only need a short ride.

Passengers love Uber because they are reliable and the fleet of black Holden Caprice, Audi and Mercedes vehicles are classy.  Drivers love Uber because they fill in their quiet time with extra work to boost their revenue. 

And it's true, getting a taxi when you need one is sometimes hard work, especially if the driver isn't interested in going your way, which happens all the time.  So there's no doubt that Uber is taking Sydney and Melbourne by storm, its quick, convenient and cheap.

But there's a problem. Because it's become so popular so quickly, there hasn't been enough time to screen drivers properly so ladies, there's a possibility you could get a creep who fancies his chances. 

On November 16, a Chicago woman was allegedly raped by a driver who asked her to sit in the front because he wasn't familiar with the area.

Also in November, Uber suspended operations in the state of Nevada after a judge granted the state's request to block the company.  They argued successfully that drivers' ability to use their personal cars to carry paid passengers goes against the rights of the taxi companies.

A London woman was offered $31 Uber credit after her driver allegedly "asked me if I wanted him to go down on me."  He was sacked but no further action was taken.

India has banned Uber in Delhi, Mumbai and Hyderabad after a driver confessed to raping his passenger.

Graham Fell with his vintage Cadillac works for Uber

Back in Australia, traditional taxi drivers like Harry Katsiabanis of Taxi Link in Melbourne paid around $300,000 for his taxi plate and he's understandably worried and upset.  Eighty infringement notices have now been issued to Uber X drivers in Victoria and $130,000 in fines and Uber has simply paid the lot.

And Uber has deep pockets.  In just five years, they have emerged in 50 countries and 250 cities with big backers like Google and it's latest valuation is around $49 billion.

The battle has only just begun.  Yesterday, after an undercover investigation, the Victorian Taxi Commission launched court action against 12 Uber drivers. 

And now everyone is waiting to see what happens.