We at The Escape Pod take a lot of cabs. Chicago weather can be a bit extreme so you naturally end up grabbing cabs to meetings, editorial houses, going to the airport etc.
And the cab you get into tends to be a hit and miss affair. It can be wonderful and smooth. Or, the cab can stink to high heaven and the driver can drone into his phone in some guttural sounding foreign language.
Once I literally prevented the cab I was in from being T-boned by an SUV approaching a junction at high speed. The SUV was trying to beat the light but sped up as his light turned red. My inattentive cabbie was on his phone and didn’t see this guy approaching. I grabbed him by the shoulder and screamed “STOP!”. The SUV ploughed into a similarly inattentive cab right next to us that stuck his nose out into traffic.
So there was at least a market of one for a better cab service. But how might that happen? It costs a lot of money to buy cars and train and recruit cabbies etc.
Then. recently, we discovered UBER. Uber is a phone app that uses the GPS in your phone to locate the cab nearest you and connects the two of you.
When you sign up you enter your credit card info and your phone number and email. And that’s it.
You no longer have to carry cash to pay cabs. That right there would be enough. The tip is included too. You just get in and get out.
And you get to watch on your phone as the cab approaches your destination. It’s counted down minute by minute and then a text is automatically sent to you when the cab is approaching you.
After every trip you are asked to rate your cab/limo/SUV ride. And a receipt is sent to your email address.
Uber is great because it takes advantage of inefficiencies in the system. Before Uber there were a lot of empty cabs wandering around Chicago looking for fares. Wasting gas and time. And there were a similar number of frustrated Chicagoans standing in the snow and rain waiting for cabs to happen along.
Uber gets rid of that.
But here is the best part. And it doesn’t leap out at you in the beginning.
The cab drivers that sign up for Uber are the keenest of the bunch. They tend to be polite and switched on and not talking into their phones. They are tech savvy and cooler than the rest. Just like their customers.
And one of my Uber drivers recently pointed out a reason that he and other drivers love Uber: they know exactly who’s getting into their cab. They have all their passengers crucial details. So they are that much safer.
The other side of that is of course that the passenger knows which cab he took. So, let’s say, the passenger left his wallet in the cab (ALWAYS take one last look at the back seat before you shut the door. Always), the passenger can just text the driver.
Uber. Just get it.
UPDATE: Escape Podder Jeff Kwiatek just told me that the driver also gets to rate YOU on his phone. This Uber thing gets better and better.
See all the wee cab icons swimming around like fish on my phone? The whole thing is like a very pleasant game. What a game changer that is!