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Uber the new way of getting where you want

Posted: 2015-01-17

For those of you who are not familiar with this term, Uber is an app-based transportation network. Basically, it works like a taxi company, the difference being that everything is done using a smartphone application. When somebody wants a ride home, they send a request through the Uber app, and the company sends this trip request to its drivers. From that point on, customers can track their reserved cars and follow it until it reaches destination. This is a major benefit, because you know exactly where your Uber taxi is and how much it will take it to come to you. You even know the driver's name, the kind of car they are driving, the license plate and the ratings. However, we have to mention that Uber's drivers do not work for the company; they are independent agents, mostly self-employed. Moreover, Uber does not own cars.

The company was founded in 2009, in San Francisco, California, USA and is now available in 53 countries worldwide and more than 200 cities. Uber started as a high-end service, offering luxury cars for hire (the company still provides this service, now called UberBlack). In 2012, Uber launched a more accessible program, UberX, using common vehicles at lower rates. The first city outside USA where Uber was available was Paris, in December 2011. Canada was next, in March 2012 and several months later the service was launched in London, with an initial group of 90 drivers. Later that year, in November, the Uber app was officially introduced to the public in Australia and in January 2013 the company extended its services in Singapore. Uber became available in the South Korean capital of Seoul in August 2013 and football player Koo Ja-cheol was the first Korean to use the service in the city. Last year, the app was launched in Beijing and it is now available in four major cities in China.

As regarding the pricing, Uber is similar to a metered taxi, although payment is handled through the company and not to the driver directly. In some cities, if the car is travelling at a greater speed than 18km/h, the price is calculated based on the distance, otherwise the customer is being charged on a time basis. At the end of the ride, the fare is automatically billed to the client's credit card. Uber uses an automated algorithm to establish prices, based on the supply and demand in the market. That is why customers have sometimes complained about the extreme changes in the fares. During New Year's Eve 2011, prices were seven times higher than normal and during the 2014 Sydney hostage crisis, Uber's fares were four times higher. However, when customers reserve a car using the app, they receive a notice regarding the prices, so they know in advance how much they would have to pay for the ride.

Although some issues concerning the fares were reported over the years, Uber often charges lower fees than some traditional taxi services, due to a lack of regulation. This is one of the reasons why Uber was banned in several cities, following a wave of protests from the local taxi companies, which stated that their business had to suffer because of this new and somehow revolutionary way of transportation. Protests have been staged in various European countries (such as Spain, Italy, Germany, France and England), in India, Australia and even in some states from the US. These riots sometimes led to the company being banned. Several governments stated that Uber does not follow national regulations and therefore is considered illegal. This was the case in India, Canada, Australia, Thailand, Taiwan, Spain, Belgium, United Kingdom, Philippines and even USA.

However, despite all its controversy, Uber remains a revolutionary way of transportation and there is no doubt that in the years to come it will emerge as the new way of getting where you want.

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