I’ve started using Uber in the last few days, and it’s transformative to the taxi industry. It’s one of those concepts which makes you think “I wish I thought of that first”. But not everyone agrees, and unfortunately for them, that resistance is probably one of the success factors in any consumer digital transformation offering.
In essence, Uber is a mobile app to call a taxi. It replaces the call to the minicab/ taxi office, and provides more functionality than the old model, because as soon as you call a car, you can literally watch that car drive towards you on a map.
Uber takes care of two previously annoying niggles. The first is the payment – Uber requires a payment card upon first registering. (Even this process is implemented nicely – you take a photo of your card inside the app and it recognises all the numbers on your card and fills the form in for you). No more paying the driver with cash or plastic, it’s all done behind the scenes in the app. Uber provides an estimated cost for a journey, eliminating the bill shock at the end of the ride.
The second is receipts. As soon as the journey is complete, Uber automatically emails a receipt to your email account. Personally this makes expenses easier, especially that I only use taxis for work anyway.
Uber offers a couple of other features – firstly, it allows users to call different ‘classes’ of taxi, such as a minicab, black cab or executive car. One of the nice user interface parts of Uber is how it offers these classes of taxi differently in different cities and countries – and some geographies will have differently numbers of taxi ‘classes’. The second feature is that users can rate a driver after the journey. I suspect that this rating is used behind the scenes so that when a user calls for a taxi, the nearest one is hailed, and if there are two taxis equidistant the one with the highest rating gets the job.
Uber has seen resistance across Europe. Taxi associations say that they have to comply with regulations and Uber doesn’t. I fully understand that position, however when I have called a taxi through Uber, I’ve asked the driver if they like the system and every one of them has said yes. They claim to receive more pickups (I can understand this – the payment system is so far removed from the user that it makes the payment frictionless). And the taxi drivers that I’ve spoken to have no issue with how they are paid by Uber after the journey.
Uber demonstrates how a traditional, non-technical industry, which was previously thought to be untouchable by the Internet revolution, can be improved by the mobile app revolution. And best of all, it’s to the advantage of both users and taxi drivers. Super.