Taxi companies are facing tough competition from a new transport service called Uber.
Uber is a new service that runs much the same way as a taxi, only instead of calling for a cab, users are required to download a smartphone app which they can then use to book a ride.
There has been a fair amount of bad press for Uber lately – some of which is warranted and some of which may simply be scaremongering. So, just who is this new kid on the cab rank?
UberBlack is the company’s original service. It is a premium transport service that is more expensive than a taxi, because you’re actually paying for a ride with a certified chauffeur in a luxury car.
UberX is the company’s less-expensive offering, which it claims can cost up to 50 per cent less than the equivalent taxi ride. While UberBlack employs chauffeurs or taxi drivers who must have specific licences in order to operate, UberX doesn’t have these strict driver requirements.
UberX drivers are subject to screening, such as police and background checks and they must have a valid driver’s license with a clean driving record and comprehensive insurance policies.
There are no real roadworthy tests for UberX cars, whereas taxis must be inspected by mechanics every four to six months. Taxis have two or three GPS devices and security cameras that are hardwired into their systems and cannot be disabled by the driver. In contrast, UberX cars can only be tracked via smartphone.
Taxi drivers are subject to regulation, but that doesn’t necessarily make them saints. However, if you do have a complaint about a traditional cab driver, you can call a dedicated phone number, which by law must be visible in the cab, along with the driver’s full name and ID number.
The safety of Uber may be under scrutiny at the moment, but spokesperson Katie Curran claims that it is simply the victim of a “scaremongering” campaign by the taxi industry.
To stay safe, a further Uber spokesperson Lane Kasselman recommends that riders take advantage of the app's ‘share your ETA’ feature, where family or friends can use the Uber app to watch your journey on a map in real-time. “As soon as your ride is confirmed and the driver is on the way, you can actually input your destination into the app and share that with anyone via text message,” says Kasselman.
Here are some tips for staying safe when traveling by cab or by Uber.
- After booking your Uber ride, the Uber app will send a photo of the driver, car and license plate number so you know who to look out for. You can also forward this information on to a friend as further security.
- If traveling by Uber, make sure you use the ‘share your ETA’ feature with a friend.
- If possible, always catch a cab from a cab rank, or pre-book your cab. This way, your journey will be recorded from departure to destination in a central database.
- When you get into your cab or Uber car, check the driver against the identification provided. If your driver refuses to show you ID, don’t get into the car.
- Before you go out, put your taxi fare in a safe place separate from the rest of your money. By doing this, you are less likely to spend it during the night, ensuring that you have the fare to get home safely.
- When you hop into a cab, let someone know you are on your way. Give them the taxi’s licence number and if possible, make sure someone is waiting for you at your destination.
- If you are travelling alone, sit in the back of the vehicle on the opposite side of the driver, so that you can see him / her in the rear-view mirror.
- Make sure you don’t give out any of your personal details when chatting to the driver.
- If you ever feel threatened or uncomfortable for any reason, ask the driver to stop in a busy area, pay your fare and get out of the car.
Read more about Uber safety.
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