Changing the way Australians travel by car

Rp Uber Passenger Australia.jpg

Uber is changing how Australians get to where they need to go

Unless you’ve been hiding under a rock in the Australian outback, you’ll no doubt have heard of Uber and its ridesharing platform uberX, that has grown at a phenomenal pace over the last few years.

uberX, described as a peer-to-peer ride-sharing service, is revolutionising point-to-point transport by providing a safe, reliable and affordable way city dwellers get from A to B.

It’s quite literally changing the way we use car services to travel around Australian cities and transforming the lives of the drivers who use their own cars to provide that service.

But if you have been hiding under that outback rock, we’ve unpacked everything you need to know about Uber – from its early origins to a bright future.

What exactly is Uber?

Headquartered in San Francisco, California, the technology company was originally founded as UberCab by Travis Kalanick and Garrett Camp in 2009. They released the Uber mobile app the following June, allowing ‘riders’ with a smartphone to submit a trip request, which is then routed to Uber ‘driver-partners’ who use their own cars to provide a transportation service.

By connecting riders to drivers through their innovative apps, rather than relying on traditional methods of hailing or booking a taxi, cities suddenly became more accessible to people, while the potential to do greater business increased for Uber drivers.

australian man getting a lift with uber driver partner

Uber Passenger Australia

From it’s founding in 2009, and as consumer take-up began to increase, so the company started to expand at high speed. Today, the Uber service is available in 58 countries and more than 300 cities worldwide, with the company estimated as being valued at close to $51 billion USD.

What’s more, the app continues to be downloaded at an incredible rate. Consistently ranked in the top ten downloaded apps on Google play and Apple stores, no-one is in any doubt that Uber has arrived.

How does Uber work?

With Uber, a registered ‘rider’ can request a ride from an independent ‘driver-partner’ at the tap of a button.

A user requests a car via the app, which is matched with the closest available uberX driver. Uber takes a 20% commission on all rides, with 80% going to the driver-partner.

uber mobile app features on white iphone

Uber Mobile App On iPhone

By using a mix of latest technology, data and service, a driver can be brought to your doorstep, you will then be alerted and, because Uber already has your credit card details, you don’t have to worry about sorting out the bill, as it’s already taken care of. You just jump in the car and off you go.

What Uber services are available in Australia?

There are currently four Uber services available in Australia, which vary across the cities of Sydney, Melbourne, Brisbane, Perth, Adelaide, the Gold Coast and Geelong.

  • uberX (ride sharing of private vehicles) – available in Sydney, Melbourne, Brisbane, Perth, Geelong and the Gold Coast.
  • uberASSIST (car service for people with disabilities) – available in Sydney, Melbourne, Brisbane, Perth and the Gold Coast.
  • UberBLACK (SUV and luxury hire car vehicles) – available in Sydney, Melbourne, Perth and Adelaide. 
  • uberTAXI (standard taxi and wheelchair accessible taxi vehicles) – available in Sydney.

All services facilitated through Uber are unable to accept rides via street hails and driver-partners do not use taxi ranks or a taxi dispatch model. No meters are used for fares, except for uberTAXI.

In Australia, all uberX cars must be a registered 2006 or newer four-door vehicle that has passed a third party vehicle inspection.

Why is Uber proving to be so popular?

Since launching in hundreds of cities across the globe, Uber claims that its service has brought people and their cities closer together, ensuring that riders have access to reliable and affordable ways of getting around town.

What really makes Uber a preferred alternative to the traditional taxi service are its simplicity and convenience. Taxi apps are improving the way passenger’s source taxis and ensure fares are correct, says Jonathon Hutchinson, Lecturer in Online Media at the University of Sydney;

“Most of all, they reassure us that our taxi will arrive on time to connect us with our imminent flight. The overall experience of those who use ridesharing apps to travel in taxis is generally positive“.

Chrysostomos Apostolidis, Graduate Tutor from the Newcastle Business School at Northumbria University, agrees. He believes that Uber owes a large part of its success to offering an innovative, more convenient and higher quality alternative to a seemingly unchangeable service (read: taxi service), and receiving positive word of mouth from satisfied customers.

But Uber doesn’t actually see itself as a taxi service – it sees itself as a new way of transporting people from point to point and this kind of transportation revolution is creating fantastic opportunities for driver-partners.

What do local Australian Uber drivers say?

Uber’s drivers come from all backgrounds – they might be students or engineers, teachers or tour guides. They usually hear about Uber through word-of-mouth, news reports or from other drivers, but they all have the same goal – to take control of when they work and boost their income through new ventures.

australian uber driver partner in suit buckling in seatbelt

Uber Driver Partner Australia

A typical Uber driver might work for twenty hours a week taking home more than $2,500 each month but, because of the flexibility that comes with the job, a driver can choose how little or how much they work and they can set their own hours.

Mark Aliprandi, a driver-partner from Sydney, is a rural property developer who supplements his growing property development income with driving for Uber. He drives full-time five days per week for a total of 65-70 hours.

I’ve been driving for seven months and have made about $80,000 in fares from more than 4,000 trips, he says. I budget to make $2,700 in fares per week and I always achieve my target.

For Mark, the benefits of driving for Uber are that it’s fun, profitable and, most importantly, empowers him to pursue his personal goals without fear of not having an income.

Uber is an exceptional company to work for. They think of everything in advance and they care about me and the community, which is sadly lacking in much of today’s corporate world.

Mark offers the following advice for any aspiring Uber drivers;

If you want to change your life and get to where you want to go, try Uber driving. Make a plan and have a balance between work and rest. Uber will do everything it can to help you create a better life for yourself and enable you to achieve your goals. I certainly have.

Another Uber driver-partner, Hadia Allam, lives in Brisbane but grew up in country Queensland. A mother of five, she has worked in promotions, banking and administration. She was introduced to Uber through a family friend who started driving for the service just after its launch in Brisbane last year.

A fairly typical Uber driver-partner, Hadia averages about 20 hours of driving each week.

I probably make about $25-$30 per hour after costs but I don’t tend to work during the busy hours, she says.

She had never previously driven taxis but what really sold her on the idea of driving for Uber was the personal experience of private ride sharing, combined with the flexibility of the working hours and the security of knowing the identity of the rider sharing her car. As a woman, she was convinced that picking up a registered rider and not having to handle money transactions was far safer than a regular cab ride.

Hadia’s experience with Uber has been positive – she finds the staff to be extremely helpful and supportive, feedback is always welcomed from the driver-partners, and Uber always provides relevant information and tips for improving the ride-sharing experience. You do need to maintain your vehicle and be prepared, Hadia says;

A clean car is a must, as is having cold water for customers during summer, plus some mints or lollies. Chargers are handy for all mobile phone users and I try to play the tunes they want to hear.

As with any ride sharing service, Nadia acknowledges the importance of knowing your city and what’s on around town.

It’s also key to communicate with your rider in an appropriate and helpful way that ensures they get to their destination safely and comfortably. Ask them for their preferred choice of route and always be friendly and helpful, she adds.

If Uber is so great, why has it been in the news?

Not everyone is in awe of Uber. While the company has been vying to get bums on moving seats and changing the face of transportation, the ‘establishment’ is feeling threatened.

Some city bureaucrats, local politicians and taxicab companies have declared the ride-sharing service unsafe and illegal, alleging that peer-to-peer ride services can’t ensure the safety of passengers because the drivers aren’t licensed to drive taxicabs and that comfort and cleanliness standards won’t be met.

It’s a moot point when you consider some of the standards of established licensed taxi companies but one that won’t go away any time soon, particularly as cab companies face increased competition from Uber drivers and politicians remain unable to control services like it.

Stephen King, Professor at the Department of Economics at Monash University says; “Uber is the first of many ride-sharing services in Australia. The government can either adapt the laws so we gain by sensible regulation of these services. Or the government can fail. But ride-sharing is not going to go away“.

According to John Harvey, a researcher at the University of Nottingham, services like Uber need to be able to justify their existence not only in terms of ease of use, but also by assuring passenger safety and fair pricing. He believes that while legislation can help this, legal change cannot “force innovation on those unwilling to adapt to social change” such as the cab companies.

A case in point is the London black cab. The long-established black cab companies of London are notorious for resisting change, particularly when it comes to pricing and Harvey makes the case that perhaps the onus should be on the old system to adapt first by lowering its prices.

Is Uber as safe as the rest?

 Talk of a lack of standards is largely unfounded.

Before being able to offer rides through Uber, all drivers must undergo background checks (driving history and criminal checks), hold a full licence, drive a fully registered vehicle that meets Uber car requirements, be insured and at least 21 years of age.

2009 silver subaru forester wagon front

2009 Silver Subaru Forester Touring Wagon

(This 2009 Subaru Forester Wagon is one of many vehicles which meet Uber car requirements – image submitted by Gumtree user. See some of the many reasons we love Subaru’s here).

All Uber drivers must also submit abstracts, agree to have their identities published on the Uber app, accept customer review tracking and allow Uber to keep GPS trip logs.

For the Uber rider, they are provided with their driver’s name, photograph, licence plate, vehicle type, past rating from other passengers and ways to contact the driver directly. They can monitor his or her approach on a map app so they don’t need to wait on the street to be picked up and they can even see what the fare is before setting foot in the car.

Plus they can share their journey with a friend or family member so that their trip can be followed in real time. Customers can also pay through their phones, meaning no cash changes hands, cards don’t need to be carried late at night, and Uber drivers aren’t targets for fare evasion or theft because every transaction is cashless.

When you think about it, how many regular taxi companies provide this kind of service?

What next for Uber?

The future certainly looks bright for Uber with plans to expand into logistics and handling by offering businesses a different way of delivering packages between two destinations, similar to the way it offers an alternative to taxi services.

Uber is changing the way we move around Australia by car and it looks like it’s here to stay.


This Post Has 4 Comments

  1. I would like to know if I have to have SUV, FWD car to be able to drive Uber or any five door car that is made after 2006?

  2. I had a good read, thank you for sharing this informative article. Uber has really changed the way people travel, not only in Australia but in every part of the world. I’ve heard about Uber from a colleague who’s an Uber driver himself and eventually got interested in it. For years of driving, I can say that Uber is one good way to generate extra income but you should not rely on it fully. Always have a backup income resource in case unforeseen things happen.

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