Controversy over this challenge to the traditional means of paid private transportation is ripe. I have used UBER in Washington DC, NYC, London, Moscow, Palo Alto, Paris and now in Beijing. Today when the “people’s taxi” arrived right in front of the entrance of a destination we wrote in English but appeared in Chinese to the driver, after our phone lost service and we were not even sure we had ordered the UBER, I became convinced that this APP has really made my travel life significantly easier.
I began using UBER in DC way back before it was a headline event and before the existing taxi drivers were striking in famous cities around the world. While I have sympathy that change is hard for the competition, my sympathy pales compared to the convenience of using the APP to get a car, know what the driver’s name is, have the license plate number to find the car, get a bill charged to my credit card, so no cash – and see the receipt with the route in minutes of taking the ride.
I have used at least 500 UBERs thus far in all of these countries and cities from airports to navigating SOHO in London – which is tough. While the map feature does not always allow the pin the drop on the accurate pick-up point, that problem is solvable if you type in your address. And the fact that you can move between types of UBER to find a faster one if the cheaper ones are far away, gives some flexibility if you are in a hurry. While you can’t pre-book for an airport – which is scary for those who require certainty (I do not) – and the fact that they pick you up from departures because the competition won’t allow them to compete with taxis, I still find it better. As a fan of the “Learning” which requires a significant effort on the part of London taxi drivers, I still use London taxis where the route is complex and appreciate their courtesy and their effort, I honestly feel sorry for them because GPS obviates most of the need for that serious study. And little paper receipts don’t help me much. Even in NYC where the drivers take credit cards (some times) and print out a micro-receipt, generally NYC taxi drivers have limited knowledge of the City and I have to explain which way to go.
So for all the negative hype, I am a fan, appreciate change and am grateful that UBER has made moving around difficult cities globally so less painful!