Simon Wamahiu started driving a taxi 6 years ago. He was popular with customers. Being a cab driver was however not gratifying or lucrative especially working for someone else. He eventually got his own car and things changed but being a cab driver was still a monotonous task.
The one day, Uber came calling. The guys at Uber put him through a training program, gave him a free iPhone that serves as the dispatch which he mounted on the windscreen and set him rolling. Simon, a well dressed man with impeccable English and quite knowledgeable on practically everything happened to be my Uber Driver on Saturday night when I took my first Uber ride.
“Its been good. I have been with the service for close to a month now and the number of users is growing rapidly”, he told me in a phone call conversation. This, ladies and gentlemen defines the future of transportation and in a large way, a disruption to the traditional cab driving. Uber launched in Kenya in January.
What is Uber Really ?
Uber was founded in 2009 and started as a map on a smartphone connecting drivers to passengers using GPS. It still does the same albeit neatly. Since inception Uber has grown into a Multi-billion dollar start-up currently valued at a staggering 41 Billion dollars. About four years ago, Uber decided to introduce the idea of allowing the passenger to book the nearest uber ride by smartphone and then track the vehicle on a map as it approaches their location. After the ride, the service then deducts the ride fee from the preloaded credit card. This allowed the user to reserve the car by sending a text message, a call or by using the app and subsequently track the location of the car you reserved. They hit home run with the new service which has since expanded globally. Besides that, Uber expanded its services to appeal to different clientele.
When Uber launched, its main focus was the premium paying client who needed a personalized service especially in cities like New York, San Francisco with massive usage of cabs. This was catered for under the Uber Black service. Uber Black, typically a Mercedes S-class limousine edition, costs the same or less than the taxi to ride. The drivers are licensed chauffeurs and Uber conducts thorough background checks on these drivers. The Uber Black offers $1 million in liability insurance in case of an accident and the vehicles are thoroughly inspected to ensure they meet a strict metrics.
Uber X, which was launched locally. Its a low cost option in which drivers use their own cars. Uber X covers $1 million primary coverage when the driver accepts an order to pick a passenger. Uber came under sharp criticism in other parts of the globe over the insuarance cover and a few weeks ago, they announced additional coverage when the Uber X driver is logged on and have no customer. This part is in addition to the driver’s own insurance if they did not cover an accident. Uber X maximum size is set at 4 passengers.
Other services include Uber XL that seats 6 passengers for a higher price. UberPlus complements UberXL but with vehicles of higher standards and charging higher prices.
UberX cars must be model year 2006 or newer and pass an independent vehicle inspection. Simon picked me in a Toyota Allion. On its Kenya website, Uber states that it offers Toyota Corolla, Toyota Fielder and Toyota Allion. The UberX driver must have a valid police background check doe on them. Both passengers and drivers are rated after each trip on a scale from 1 to 5. If the driver gets an average of less than 4.2, he or she risks being cut out of the service. Passengers who are rated poorly risk not getting a car. Uber app has a report feature. If something happens during the ride, and it is reported via the app.
The Cost is one of Uber’s biggest selling points. Its cheaper (for the UberX service) and the service excellent. The service costs a Base fare of KES 100 that is added to KES 4 per minute spent on the ride, added to KES 60 Per kilometer of travel. The minimum fare cost is KES 300 while it costs KES 400 for cancellation.
I thoroughly enjoyed my first UberX ride that i took the service again and again in a single night. I think i might just take an Uber again today. I am a fan. Stick around for part 2 as i tell you about my first trip and a can of beer.