Your ride home

What is the story behind ride-sharing company Uber?

Uber officially launched in Australia in Sydney in 2012. The company is basically a ride-sharing car service. Smart phone users can book a driver using their phone’s GPS, and watch as a driver comes to pick them up.

An Uber transaction takes place entirely through the app. The cashless transactions are one of the reasons Uber is so popular. Customers can also view a fare estimate before they book.

Senior communications associate Caspar Nixon said that since uberX (private ride-sharing vehicles) launched in April 2014, Australians have rapidly embraced ride-sharing.

Uber places a lot of emphasis on both rider and driver safety. Riders can see their driver’s profile on the app, and can rate the driver after a ride. (Drivers are also able to rate a passenger.)

Driver-partners also undergo criminal background and driving history checks before they can provide any rides.

Uber offers three services in Melbourne – uberX ride-sharing (in private vehicles), uberASSIST (a service for people with disabilities) and uberBLACK (a more prestigious service).

According to Mr Nixon, Uber has nearly 3000 driver-partners in Melbourne.

“We have… made a commitment to create 20,000 new jobs in Australia by the end of the year, in partnership with governments,” he said.

Mr Nixon does not believe that ride-sharing has decreased the demand for traditional taxi services.

“UberX is a ride-sharing platform that better utilises existing private cars to provide rides. While ride-sharing competes with the taxi industry, ride-sharing is not a taxi service,” he said.

“Notably, ride-sharing trips are not anonymous, cannot be hailed on the street or picked up at a rank, do not have taximeters and uberX driver-partners cannot accept cash.”

He also said that in more mature markets, the availability of ride-sharing had actually increased the demand for drivers in general.

Is it cheaper than taking a taxi? That is perhaps the million-dollar question.

Uber adds what is called “surge pricing” in times of high demand. This generally makes it more expensive during those times, and it varies the rest of the time.

Uber might be a company surrounded by controversy, but it now operates in 57 countries and is rapidly expanding.

Mr Nixon said that hundreds of thousands of Australians had signed up to use the Uber platform (or “Uber it”, to use the slang). Their growing popularity is undeniable.

So, how will you be getting home this weekend?

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