Uber: A Paradigm Shift in Transportation
Uber means “super” in German, and it is super.
Understandably, 99% of my blogs deal with cosmetic surgery but from time to time I enjoy writing about noteworthy situations and Uber falls into that category.
Uber is a ride service that is digital, easy, affordable, safe and hip. It also represents a paradigm shift. A paradigm shift is a process where older technology is replaced by a newer advancement that makes the previous technology obsolete. For instance, horses were the main form of transportation until the combustion engine was invented, then it replaced horses on the streets forever.
Taxis are rarely fun. Too often there are unfriendly drivers, cabs can be dirty and smell of cigarettes. In big cities, taking a cab is as easy as walking out in the street, but in smaller cities like Richmond, taking a cab (if you can find one) can be an arduous and expensive process. I live and work on the Southside of Richmond. My office is technically in Midlothian. We frequently have out of town and international patients and surgeons coming to our office for surgery or learning. Getting a taxi from RIC to our office is not too hard, but trying to get a cab to go from our office to anywhere else can take over an hour and sometimes, you can’t get anyone. This has been a real problem for years.
In addition, no one wants to drink and drive. A dinner with one or two glasses of wine could put the average person over the legal driving limit. Trying to get a taxi to and from the Richmond surburbs can add hours to an evening and having to wait around an hour for a cab to get to you for a 20 minute ride was frustrating. Finally, no cab driver wants to take someone on a short fare because they don’t make money. I have had rude drivers that resented having to take a short fare.
Enter Uber! Uber is a 24/7 ride service that has been around bigger US cities and other countries for some time. Drivers apply to use their own car and there is a stringent review process of the person and vehicle. Most of the drivers are younger, but I have ridden with some seniors as well. I have had drivers that were dental students, graphic designers, pizza delivery people that do better here, and a variety of drivers that just enjoy the “adventure” and extra cash. The hours are very liberal and basically the Uber drivers can decide if and when they take a call. They make 80% of the fare and tipping is optional and not expected. This is entirely electronic. You must download the Uber app on your smart phone and register with PayPal or a credit card. Everything is digital and no cash is ever exchanged.
To get a ride, you log on and the phone GPS shows your location, then you simple select your destination (Uber is preprogrammed for most common locations in any city). The driver acknowledges that they are on the way and you can actually see them on the map. Their time to pick you up is updated in real time, so you can actually see an icon of their car coming towards your house with the exact time of arrival, i.e. “6 minutes”. An automatic text message is generated when they arrive at your pick up location. I have done about 10 Uber trips and every single driver was nice and polite and their vehicles were spotless. We have had fun conversations and they have pretty sophisticated computers in their car to get you to your destination. If you want to, you can split the fare with your other riders. Most cars can only hold 4 passengers although I am told they will have vans, town cars and SUV’s. Alos planned is a “pick up service” for deliveries, such as food or goods. The taxi industry is understandably upset with this competition but what surprises me is they were not the ones to innovate passenger transportation. It is sort of like when Kodak did not see digital photography coming and lost out on the biggest photographic innovation in a century due to lack of foresight. I am told that Uber will also let some taxi services participate by their rules and paradigm.
I can leave my home on the Southside and get 4 people to Carytown for about $15. Then if we desire, we can hop around the area with short rides and smiling drivers for a couple of bucks. I don’t have to worry about umbrellas and especially parking which can be a big problem. When you get out of the car, you don’t do anything, it is all automated and you receive an email receipt with the details and map of your trip. You can rate the driver and the driver can rate you! Very Gen X!
Since the service is new in Richmond, I have had several instances where no car was available in my area but his has improved as college students have returned and more people are using Uber. In the Fan, Slip and Bottom, rides are usually less than a minute away,
There are other similar services that compete with Uber and one is in Richmond. This is likely to be the future of taxi transportation and I have been very happy with it and now use Uber when traveling to other cities.
Joe Niamtu, III DMD
Cosmetic Facial Surgery