Is Uber Going to Let Us Down?

A long, but excellent piece by Emily Guendelsberger on being an Uber driver:

And after 100 rides, I felt like I had enough to work with. Over that duration, during which I maintained a 4.83 adjusted rating, high enough to qualify me for Uber’s VIP program, Uber would say I “earned” $17 an hour in gross fares. But subtract the 28 percent that went to Uber and the 19 percent that went to expenses, and I actually madeĀ **$9.34 an hour ** (plus a grand total of $16 in tips, $10 of which were for meeting up with a guy who left his Porsche keys in my backseat).

Uber continues to be all the rage amongst everyone I know in major cities. No one takes cabs anymore, mostly because Uber is cheaper. And for a while it also presented a better riding experience than typical taxi cabs. But the latter is starting to dwindle a bit, and surge pricing (NSFW language) can sometimes ruin all the savings over time as well.

More and more riders are finding themselves with drivers who don’t know where they are going. Sure GPS devices help solve this some, but it is still frustrating to find people who don’t know where basic things are. And the prices are still better than cabs most of the time, but surge pricing can leave surprise bills well after the fact, and it’s clear than many people don’t understand how bad the surge pricing can be until it’s too late, at which point they have likely lost all the money they have ever saved by taking Uber.

Then there is the regulatory problem, which at some point will come to a head. Uber continues to fight cab companies and municpalities who want stiffer rules and/or a cut of the business. It is pretty amazing they have avoided more regulation, and yet have gained so much trust amongst riders. The idea of random strangers picking you up in their own car and driving you somewhere would have been unfathomable five years ago. Thankfully there have been minimal incidents, and from what I have heard no deadly crashes, yet. But this is where the conclusion of the article linked at the top comes in to play. As more and more people discover driving for Uber is not financially feasible over the long term, the quality of cars and drivers is going to decrease. And when that happens, the demand for the service will also likely drop a bit, as the savings might not be worth the service. That tipping point might draw people back to cabs, or whatever the next fad is.

Like so many tech startups before it, the idea is good, and it makes sense on a small scale. But eventually things stabilize and a more clear picture becomes evident. And in the case of Uber, it might just be that this isn’t going to revolutionize transportation like we thought it was.