Uber is a smartphone app that quickly connects drivers with people who need a ride. They’ve been helping tens of thousands of people to earn income as drivers around the world. They started their business in 2009.
They started a trial service in Lagos officially yesterday, Wednesday 23rd of July.
Uber is available in more than 150 cities and in 41 countries. They've caused a stir in some of the countries they operate in. I was reading recently how a man was arrested for riding an uber car in a city in the US where it is not legal.
Uber is really disrupting the taxicab business in most of the markets it operates in. In a blog post, they explained that they are testing it out with people around Victoria Island (VI) being the first people to experience it. I was lucky enough to hitch a ride with Uber (not sponsored).
I was with a friend hitching a free ride home when a tweet linking to the Uber launch in Lagos caught my attention. I downloaded the app again (I had it, but deleted it as they had not started in Lagos). I added my GTBank Card and I immediately hailed an UberBLACK car.
I was alerted by the app that it is going to take UberBLACK 3 mins to get to me. I was tracking the cab’s movement on the app as it moves towards me. As the cab pulled over into Shoprite (where I was), the app alerted me that the driver has arrived. I called him on the phone and we hooked up.
How does Uber get its drivers?
I understand from research that Uber is signing drivers. The Uber drivers are freelancers that are provided with rides by Uber. If you are a car owner and you want to be a driver, you can check up the criteria and register with them.
Once you are accepted, you are provided with a smartphone with the Uber app installed and you can start earning immediately.
The Ford Fusion Titanium that I was in is owned by Sixt--a premium executive car rental company in Lagos. Sixt is a subsidiary of Coscharis Nigeria LTD. I suppose they registered with Uber just as an individual is free to register with Uber.
Uber is a software company and they do not own the cars. It is stated on their website that the registration to be driver is open to car owners.
Apparently individuals and businesses that have fleet of cars that meet with Uber standards and requirements are allowed to come on board and start providing rides.
Rides are limited to Victoria Island in Lagos for now and it seems to have all been started with fleets of Sedan and SUVs from Sixt.
As a registered Uber driver, you decide when you want to be available to receive rides from Uber users who wants to hail a ride. Once you are online (logged in to the app) and close to a customer who wants to use Uber, you’ll get a ride assigned to you.
In the Uber app, I saw the driver's picture, name, car plate number and option to call or text the driver at the click of a button was available within the app. The Uber app is well designed and intuitive. (I'll do a full review of the app in a different post).
Who can use Uber?
To use Uber, you need to register.
Registration is done by first downloading the Android or iPhone mobile app. They just launched an app for Windows Phone yesterday.
You then proceed to add your details to the app which includes your credit/debit card. Only a valid debit/credit card will be accepted. You enter it once and you do not have to bring out your card each time you have to use the app.
A code is then sent to your phone to verify your phone number.
As soon as I got in, the driver asked me where I was going and I told him. I could have filled that in the app, but I was using it for the first time.
I could pick a pin and drop it on the map that's built into the app to signify the location I was going to, or I could type the location. When I indicated my destination, it is sent to the driver, who himself has an Uber app (but a drivers' version).
The driver was notified when I hailed Uber using the app and he had my registered details already, excluding my card details. I suspect some people won’t register for Uber because they are not comfortable adding their card to a website or an app.
The car that came to pick me up was a Black Ford Fusion Saloon Car. Neat. The driver was wearing a black pant and a white shirt, but with no tie. The air conditioning was working well too.
The driver mentioned to me that the app, loaded on his blue iPhone 5c provided by Uber, will
track the distance and decide how much it'll cost.
He can't tell me how much the ride will cost. The app allows you to check the cost estimate of the of the kind of car you're riding in. You could be riding on a sedan car or an SUV. The prices won't be the same. But how much the ride will eventually cost won't be known to you until you finish the ride and get your receipt sent to you in an email.
Uber has different class of rides. Each class determines how much your ride will cost. They have UberX, UberTAXI, UberBLACK (the one I rode in), UberSUV and UberLUX. But it appears the options are currently limited in Lagos for now.
The UberX is the cheapest offering while UberLUX is the most premium offering.
What my receipt revealed
My receipt provided further info on how Uber charges.
There's a standard 1,000 Naira charge even before the ride started (I am guessing this is standard for all UberBLACK rides). There's a further charge of N250/km for the Sedan (Might be different for an SUV). Then there's a charge of N10/min.
This goes to show that you're charged even when the automobile is not moving during the ride.
A typical case will be when you're in Lagos traffic that lasts 2 hours. That's going to be at N10/mins where 2 hours is 120 mins. 120 minutes in places gives N1,200.
If the car is not moving for an extended period of time, only the time charge is counting, the km count doesn’t read. Aha!
Looking at the summary of my ride from my receipt, you'll notice that it contains:
The car type and name.
The kilometers covered.
The time spent
The time the ride started and the time it ended
The map and the fare breakdown.
This is transparency at its best and I am enamored by it. If you know the distance you're traveling yourself, you can know how much you'll be charged when you hail a particular cab.
Is it affordable?
That's the question a few people asked me.
That's a question everyone will have to answer themselves. If you want your own personal executive driver, the type Uber provides, it cost as much as I broke down for you here.
While some folks might say the service is expensive, I think people to whom this service is aimed at are going to get real value for the bucks they will be required to pay.
How does it compare with other taxi services in Lagos?
I believe it is too early to compare.
I used UberBLACK which happens to be one of the mid range rides they offer. If I had used a low range Uber ride like the UberX or the UberTAXI, it will be a totally different experience and cost.
If I hailed a yellow Taxi, it would have charged me Between N1,000 to N2,000 for the same trip. An EasyTaxi would have charged me between 3,000 to N4,000. A tranzitNG would have charged me between N2,000 to N3,000.
But the total charge, minus the discount voucher from UberBLACK, was N5,595. Uber’s offering is more expensive than car hire services that park at various hotels and event centers.
While Uber is opening their business in many more cities, it doesn’t appear to be an offering that will pick up very fast in Nigeria.
They are targeting a niche market.
They’ll need to do some form of promotion to target the niche audience that can afford to have a card or a PayPal account and then have the courage to add the card to the app.
Cover & Image Credit: Uber