Cape Town - The international driving service has recently come under local fire for Uber drivers working without permits to threats from metered taxi drivers. However, Uber has clearly made its mark in South Africa and is gaining momentum as more people are using it for its convenience and safety.
We’ve rounded up 10 things you might not have known about Uber:
1. Your driver ratings actually matter
Uber allows you to rate your ride experience with your driver after you’re dropped off at your destination. This would be an awesome way to weed out bad drivers if the rating criteria were clearer. It seems that Uber bosses have exceptionally high standards and even anything below a 4.6 star average rating could place the Uber driver at risk for deactivation.
2. Your driver can rate you!
Yup, your driver can give you a rating too. After a journey, your driver rates you out of a score of five stars. According to the Independent, Uber is not specific about what criteria drivers rate you on, but factors like being “unsafe” and “disrespectful” are listed as some examples that could lead to poorer ratings which might prompt Uber to give you a "cooling off period". So watch your manners!
3. They may not operate in your area just yet
Ever been stuck in the middle of Port Elizabeth, whip out your phone to use the Uber app all your friends in Cape Town and Joburg have been raving about, just to discover there is no Uber service in your area? Despite Uber expanding its foothold into 58 countries and about 300 cities worldwide, it’s slow to reach smaller towns and cities. In South Africa, you can currently only find Uber operating in Cape Town, Johannesburg, Pretoria and Durban, but Uber has hinted at future expansion across South Africa.
4. Trip costs vary during busy times
Uber trip prices are generally pretty reasonable – with a minimum fare of R20 and about R7 per/km (with Uber X). Prices are sometimes subject to change especially over busy periods but you will be forewarned when you open the app. For example, Fin24 reported that a Cape Town resident was unwittingly charged R2 800 for a 35km ride from Clifton to Muizenberg on New Year's Eve earlier this year. According to Mwambu Wanendeya, spokesperson for Uber, the company uses a ‘dynamic pricing’ model during busy periods – fares increase to incentivise more drivers to come onto the platform to operate and reduce the massive demand for rides. Plan ahead and check Uber’s social media and app for pricing updates.
5. Encourages entrepreneurship
With South Africa’s unemployment sitting at an all-time high of 26.4%, Uber’s development in South Africa has helped everyday people with cars to become entrepreneurs. Anyone can use Uber as a platform to operate as a driver as long as they have a Professional Drivers Permit, are medically fit, commercial insurance and in possession of a police clearance certificate and never had their driver’s license revoked.
6. You can use your Uber app overseas
You can also use the same Uber app when you’re travelling abroad. Just make sure your phone has a working internet connection so you can book your trip, be notified of your driver's arrival and to get in touch with them and vice versa.
7. There are more Uber drivers in SA than you think
To date, Uber has created over over 2 000 economic opportunities in South Africa since they launched in 2013. Anyone who meets the criteria can apply to drive with Uber but the company doesn’t actually employ the drivers or own any cars. They’re also wanting to create over 15 000 more opportunities for people over the next two years. Just in the first half of 2015, Uber clocked up over two million booked trips.
8. Your driver is trained
Drivers who operate on the Uber platform are given basic training to use the Uber app, some customer service tips and tested on their local city knowledge. Wanendeya explained that the drivers have to undergo a comprehensive background check and their vehicle are inspected by DEKRA and can’t be more than four years old, with less than 100 000km on the clock when they begin driving.
9. They want to up their women drivers' game
Have you been picked up by female driver yet? The chances are pretty slim, but Uber is apparently looking to ramp up the number of women drivers who want to make use of Uber’s platform. They want to have over 2 000 female drivers on the platform in the next two years.
10. They may go driverless… someday
We’re in an age where humans still do most of the work and Artificial Intelligence is in its infancy. But technology is rapidly advancing and driverless cars are a future possibility. Earlier this year, Uber partnered up with Carnegie Mellon University to create Uber Advanced Technologies Center in Pittsburgh to focus on ‘long-term technologies that advance Uber’s goal of bringing safe, reliable transportation to everyone’. Autonomous cars are something that Google has been working on for some time so we’re interested to see what Uber has to offer in the future.
Have you used Uber, what has your experience been like? Post a comment below or email email@example.com. Share your travel experiences with us on our Facebook, Twitter or Instagram accounts.