Since the launch of the Uber ride-sharing service, much has been said about the safety aspects of accepting a ride from a stranger. This week’s mass murders in Kalamazoo, Michigan, US by a Uber driver have only added to the Uber vs. taxis debate, especially when you take into account that the Michigan murder actually continued picking up Uber customers BETWEEN KILLINGS.
Uber management, as well as supporters of the service, have said that the driver in question passed all background checks, and that using Uber is still as safe, or even safer, than using a normal taxi. However, I disagree, so I’d like to give my thoughts here on why I’d rather choose a normal taxi cab over a Uber ride.
Disclosure: I live in the UK, so my experience of taxis is based on the UK, and my experiences in Japan. I have also never taken a Uber ride, so my opinions on that service are based on my perception of it from what I’ve read or heard from others who have used it.
Taxi drivers are normally known to each other, Uber drivers are not
Taxi drivers tend to operate from a physical taxi office or depot, so they will often come into contact with other employees. In between jobs, they also often wait at designated taxi ranks, where they mix and chat with other drivers, not just from their own company, but often from other taxi companies.
Now, I’m not saying that this means you won’t get the odd bad apple slip through the taxi net, but the other drivers and staff are much more likely to spot any character flaws, and this close scrutiny is going to make any driver less likely to commit any offence whilst working.
A Uber driver, on the other hand, might not be known by any other Uber drivers in the area. Their own friends and neighbours might not even know that they’re a Uber driver. They just leave home in their car and start picking people up through a mobile phone app.
Taxi drivers tend to be licensed
Taxis are normally radio-controlled
Taxis are normally in constant radio contact with a dispatcher at their office. They call in on the radio when they make a pick-up, giving the dispatcher their destination, they call in when they’ve made the drop-off, and they normally call in once they’re back at the taxi rank. This means that, most of the time, the dispatcher knows exactly where every one of their working drivers is throughout their shift.
Of course, it’s possible that a taxi driver could lie to dispatch about their location, but dispatchers aren’t stupid, they normally know the time it takes for a cab to get from one location to another. It’s possible that a taxi driver could go “off grid”, but it’s a lot less likely that a driver will have the opportunity to commit crimes undetected between pick-ups.
Taxi drivers normally work shifts
If a taxi driver is working a shift, and, as previously mentioned, their location is pretty much known for most of that time, it’s unlikely that they would attempt anything untoward whilst working.
The way I understand it, with a Uber driver, there’s nothing to stop them doing a drop-off, then taking a break of several hours before they decide to pick up another fare. In fact, if they wish, there’s nothing to stop them dropping off a passenger then just stopping work for the day, after which time nobody knows where they are.
There was the story last year about a Denver Uber driver who picked a woman up from her house, dropped her off at the airport, then went back to burgle her house, knowing that it would be empty. Of course, it would be possible for a normal taxi driver to burgle the house of somebody they’d taken to the airport, but they wouldn’t have the opportunity to go back right away. They’d have to wait until later in the day, after their shift, when they’d start to become a bit more unsure about whether the house is still empty.
What if you leave something in the car?
Most people try not to leave anything in a cab when they get out, but sometimes it happens. So, what do you do?
As i mentioned earlier, most taxi cabs are controlled by an office or depot, so you can call them if you think you’ve left something behind, the driver can drop the item off at the depot, where you can then pick it up. In Japan, the taxi company will even apologise to you, as they feel that it’s their fault that their driver failed to ensure that you had all your belongings with you when you left.
What do you do if you leave something in a Uber car though? There’s no local office to call. How do you get your item back? Do you have to pick it up from the driver’s house? Does the driver have to bring it to your house? How long does this process take if it’s something like a wallet that you need back in a hurry?
The Uber “Surge Pricing”
If you’re having a night out on the town, you normally know roughly how much money you need to keep spare for the cab ride home. You know that if you intend going home after midnight it’ll cost a bit more than normal, and you know that if it’s New Year’s Eve then it’ll cost a lot more than normal. Either way, you have a ballpark figure of what getting home will cost you.
This isn’t the case with Uber, who suddenly activate “surge pricing” whenever things get busy. The idea behind surge pricing is that the higher rates will attract more drivers to the area where the surge is occurring, providing more transport options for the people their. However, when you have £20 in your wallet for the trip home, and surge pricing suddenly pushes the price of a Uber ride up to £60, you’re a bit stumped. On New Year’s Eve, some people on Twitter were posting screenshots of their Uber app with surge pricing at 8 TIMES the normal price. Imagine having £20 in your wallet and the price shooting up to £160!
How can you enjoy your night out, if you’re never sure how much it’s going to cost you to get home? What happens if you suddenly can’t afford to use Uber? You either walk home, or you use a normal taxi cab, which was probably the better option in the first place.