Review: A Small Town Guy Uses Uber In A Big City For A Week

By Neal Grosskopf, Software Engineering Director

Published: September 9, 2015

If you follow tech websites like many of us do at Envano, you’ve probably heard plenty about the ride sharing service Uber. Beyond that, very few people I know have used Uber before so I thought it would make a good blog post to write about my experience with it for the first time.

I took a vacation out to Washington DC recently and during my planning, I began to think about how I was going to get around the city. For prior vacations, I would take taxis, but DC has several Metro stops plus there are buses that go to many of the points of interest. Then it occurred to me, I could use Uber.

If you’re not familiar with Uber, it’s very similar to taxis except it’s regular ol’ people driving their personal cars instead of taxi drivers driving their company’s car. I’ll get into more of the differences later in this post.

How Uber Works

First and foremost, Uber is 100% controlled digitally. That means you’ll need to visit the Uber website or use their app to hail an Uber car.

  1. Open up the Uber website or native app (make sure you’re connected to wifi or mobile data first).
  2. Move the green pinpoint icon to the location you’d like to be picked up (you might want to enable GPS on your device to get a more accurate location).
  3. Tap the fare estimate button and type in your destination.
  4. Viola, Uber will let you know how far your driver is away and all you need to do is wait for them to arrive. Uber will let you now what make and model the car is as well as the license plate ID.

Comparing Uber vs. Taxis

On the surface, Uber appears to be pretty similar to taxis. Yet, after doing about 15-20 rides with Uber, I can say there are some differences.

  • Uber tends to be 25-50% cheaper than taxis. For instance, my ride from our airport to our hotel with a taxi was ~$20 while our ride from the hotel to the airport on our way back was $11.75 with Uber.
  • Waiting for your Uber car typically takes longer than just hailing a taxi. For instance, I noticed that while I was setting up the Uber app to hail a driver and while I waited for the driver to show up, plenty of taxis drove by. I would say the average wait time after I entered my data into the app was about 3-5 minutes.
  • Many of the Uber drivers were friendlier than taxi drivers. It seems like it’s an unwritten rule that taxi drivers are quiet or uninterested in their passengers. With Uber, I found that many of the drivers talked to us and gave us recommendations on where to go in Washington DC.
  • When you’ve reached your destination, Uber will automatically bill your credit card and you can exit the car. You don’t need to mess around and pay the driver. This speeds up the process at the end of the trip and makes up for the slower process in the beginning of the trip.

Your Uber Driver is Coming For You & You Only

Probably my favorite thing about Uber is the fact that I don’t have to fight with other people to get a ride somewhere. For instance, one time I left the Field Museum in Chicago right as it closed. What this meant is: another 50 people ALSO left at the same time and we all needed a ride somewhere. This eventually devolved into a test of the human condition. It seemed like only one taxis would pull into the museum road once a minute. This meant it was going to be really long time until everyone would get their taxi. At first a line had formed, but that quickly dissolved and people started being passive aggressive and walking closer and closer to the entrance to the road until eventually, we were all leapfrogging one another to Lakeshore Dr.

If we had Uber at that time, the Uber driver would pull in and only pick up the person that requested it. We wouldn’t need to worry about everyone leapfrogging each other to be the first person the taxi driver notices.

Field Museum Map

How Uber Could Improve

  • My biggest complaint with Uber was the lack of information about the driver’s car. It would give us the license plate ID and the make and model of the car, but it would be nice if they provided a picture of the car. At a minimum the color of the car would help. Often times, the driver would have trouble reaching us due to busy traffic and would stop across the street or maybe 100 feet away. It’s hard to read the license plate from that far away.
  • The only way to enter your destination in is via an address. This works in most cases, but when I would enter in “The Washington Monument” it would only give me one address for it even though it might be a half a mile across and I really wanted to go to the east side of it vs. the west side. Ideally this would work just like the pickup process where I could drop a pinpoint on the map for where I want to be dropped off.

Overall, I thought Uber was a great service with being cheaper and the drivers being more welcoming. I plan to use it in the future when I’m without my car.