How Do You Feel About Uber?

Portrait of a taxi driver at rest in the back streets of Kolkata, India

Indications are that Uber may, over time, put traditional taxi drivers out of business by providing more competitive fares in addition to often cleaner and more modern cars. What’s more driver/consumer interactions are often said to be more positive.

Uber And Driverless Vehicles

Uber’s medium strategy is to dispense with drivers in favor of autonomous (i.e., driverless) vehicles. That can’t be good for the drivers, but it’s for each of us to decide whether we believe such technological advancements are good for us individually and as a society. Either way, they’re coming.

I Love The Notion Of Autonomous Vehicles

There’s said to be over one million deaths on the road, worldwide, each year. Once the technology is proven to be safe I believe the advantages driverless cars offer us will far outweigh the perceived disadvantages. Though, with the demise of the taxi driver, reporters may have to look elsewhere to gauge public opinion.

Wouldn’t it be great to touch down in a city, board either an Uber or autonomous hire car, and be offered options to be delivered to a scheduled meeting or your abode for the leaving that might include the following:

  • Quickest Route
  • Shortest Distance
  • Scenic Route  

Just Think Of It | No More Dodgy Taxi Drivers

Regardless of where you stand on the issue of driver assisted vehicles Uber, as it is today, can be a fantastic option for tourists. The taxi to and from the airport is, outside of the actual airport experience, the first and final experience a traveler has of a particular city or country.

In so many countries around the world, taxi drivers simply rip off tourists by negotiating exceptionally high fees and, when on the meter, by taking overly long routes to substantially raise the fare. Worst yet are the unwanted stop offs at carpet and trinket sellers all over town. When you do, finally, reach your hotel you’ll likely be frustrated, with less money than you should have and with a good deal less of your day to explore the city in question.

How these people sleep at night is, frankly, beyond me.

If you haven’t already you might like to download the Uber app and check if it's available in the city or cities you're traveling to. If it is it may well provide you with a cheaper, more comfortable and more enjoyable experience. But continue with your research before completely trusting any such app and related service. For example, Check reviews from other travelers who've used Uber in the cities to which you're planning to travel.

My Experience With Uber

Uber exists and functions well in major cities throughout Australia. Nevertheless, I was surprised earlier this year to find that, while I had a great experience hiring an Uber ride from my place to the airport, I was unable to use the Uber app at Melbourne’s Tullamarine International Airport.

I had just returned, via the domestic terminal, from a photography adventure to Darwin and Kakadu National Park. It was very early in the morning and I was worn out. I didn’t understand why I was unable to access the Uber app on my smartphone.

I was told that the Uber app was, somehow, being blocked at Tullamarine Airport, perhaps in response to pressure from Taxi drivers. I wasn’t happy about not being able to book an Uber and, in the end, lined up at the taxi rank.

Balancing Compassion With Customer Expectations

Clearly I’m looking at this from the position of an industry outsider. I am not unsympathetic to the concerns of taxi drivers. Nonetheless, I remember feeling that it wasn’t just taxi drivers, but a monopoly that was being protected by blocking the Uber app. I wondered if that could be seen to be infringing basic consumer rights.

While writing this post I did some research and it seems that Uber is now being given the kind of access to Melbourne Tullamarine Airport that is more appropriate to the many, many people who make use of it. That can only be a good thing for consumers and a great look for Melbourne as a modern, international city.

Clearly, there’s much about Uber that’s contentious. However, whether we’re talking about autonomous vehicles or a driver operated alternative to a taxi, I think this kind of innovation and competition is a good thing, particularly for the traveler.

Here’s to the future, which is already here.  

Glenn Guy, Travel Photography Guru