Yeah ... no. I got fed up with taxi service in SF about 2 years ago and started using Uber. At first I was astounded: very clean cars, very nice drivers who were accommodating and pleasant (all I want is a quiet ride without the radio blaring or the driver shouting into his phone the whole way). Best of all, the drivers were knowledgable about the city and didn't need me to tell them turn-by-turn how to do something basic like get across town. It was what I always wanted, and totally worth the extra cost vs. a regular taxi.
It's hard to put my finger on exactly when it started, but in the last few months the "black car" service has degraded to the point where it feels like the old taxi days. Usually the car is dirty, smells bad, the driver has the radio blasting loud (and doesn't exactly react all that well if I ask to turn it down or off), and the driver's attitude is frequently incredibly grouchy (I've had to listen to them complain about their jobs quite a bit lately), and worst of all, they don't know their way around the city at all.
Just to make sure I wasn't experiencing what Mr. Kalanick is suggesting in terms my expectations being calibrated differently, I have made it a point to take regular taxis a few times lately. Instead of a categorically different experience (which is how I would have described the difference between Uber and a taxi in the past), the only differences now between the taxi and the Uber "black car" service seem to be the price and the color of the outside of the car. Oh, and in some cases the regular taxi drivers actually know the city better than the Uber drivers.
I don't really blame Uber for all this, as I'm sure it's really hard to maintain that level of quality while growing at double-digit rates. But I do think they need to take a good hard look at the "black car" service and make sure the drivers know what kind of experience they are supposed to provide. It really should not feel like a taxi with a different coat of paint on the outside.
A theory of mine is that disruptive startups always evolve to look more like the incumbents as they scale, and I think this might be another case in support of that.
Good insight. And that's another reason (not just thinking of Uber here) why startups shouldn't be exempt from the rules and regulations that incumbents need to follow. They're in the same business. Alternatively, if the rules are bad, scrap them for everyone.
This is my main concern. I am notoriously bad at directions and hate having a driver that I basically need to direct. Especially because that just means I'll be pulling out my Maps app instead of him using the navigation that I can clearly see sitting on his dashboard (I am SO confused by this behavior). Sometimes they'll just get frustrated with me (because I don't know how to get there!) and then finally type it in themselves as if its some huge inconvenience.
I have not necessarily been to a particular destination before. Even if I have, I might want to have my attention on something (my phone, my laptop, how much I want to go to bed..) other than the road.
It'd be nice if I can get in the car and get to my destination without feeling like a got damn TOM TOM by the time I arrive.
Recently, a few weeks ago, I used Uber to go from Mtn View to SF, then later from SF to Alameda. While I spent nearly $300 in cab fees that night, the experience was just as fantastic as always (It was my first date night out with my wife after our latest child was born - so her first night out in nearly a year).
The driver from Mtn View to SF was fantastic and accomdated us wanting loud music playing the whole way.
I Love Uber - what I have a tough time with is cost -- but really because I think everything is overpriced.
Over four rides to the airport this year, these things have happened:
1) Three of the times the drivers claimed the AC wasn't working, and we had to drive on the interstate with the windows down.
2) The driver missed the exit for SFO, and drove through the median to get to it
3) Two drivers did not know how to get to OAK
4) I (a pregnant woman) was traveling alone with my infant son. Driver did not help load stroller and luggage into the trunk. Threw luggage out of the trunk onto the curb when we arrived at the airport.
Transportation always kind of sucks, and maybe this is the best you can buy for $72 from Berkeley to SFO. My Uber experiences have been uniformly worse than my taxi to/from airport experiences. But they are slightly cheaper and easier to schedule.
Most drivers, don't give two shits about the job. And it's hard to blame most of them if you understand the dispatcher-model they generally work under. It's very cut-throat and has high pressures.
While this isn't an excuse on Uber's part, I think it's where Uber can step in and improve things. Originally Uber's goal was too make Taxi's an app. They've succeeded with that. Now they need to improve quality, and not necessary the quality of the app, but the drivers. They have to force a cultural shift through an antiquated market, where education levels are highly variable. They should test a drivers knowledge about Uber and ensure they know what customer expect in terms of service. On the flip side, it should be very clear to the customer what they should expect in terms of service.
They also need to improve there mechanism for feedback. They need this because they must force out bad drivers. It's single handily ruining their reputation.
Uber is great, the drivers are variable.
All that said, I live in a city and almost completely replaced my taxi usage with an eBike, so I hardly use the app anymore, but when I was a regular user (10-20 rides a month). Classical dispatching companies were much more reliable then Uber.
If true, that would seem to address your point about screening driver quality. But a number of people are reporting drivers who don't really know their way around the city, which suggests (if those reports are true) that the city-knowledge exam is either not rigorous enough, or somehow not testing the right thing.
Uber could try to institute both a rigorous knowledge exam, and a high level of enforcement of the rule that only people who actually passed it may drive cars under Uber's name. But they would need some credible way of doing that, like roving undercover inspectors.
So I'm not sure exactly how you'd get around that problem. Maybe you give people who report that they have a different driver say $20 credit, and the ride is free or something. Of course then you'll have people trying to cheat the system.
Which is why a feedback system is critical: bad drivers need to be expunged from the system, IMO.
EDIT: Perhaps undercover employees would be a good mechanism to flush out these drivers.
I have never made that SFO exit & had to drive through the median every single time. Been to SFO about a half dozen times this past year. The signs to that SFO exit aren't really in sync with the actual exit...you sort of have to know where the SFO exit is & ignore the sign. Even when I mentally make a note to do that, sometimes the sign confuses me & I end up missing the exit.
If you called Uber Taxi, I believe the taxi drivers are paid less than if you were to call a normal taxi.
With UberXs and the black cars, I've always had great experiences and at least 50% of the time they'd offer me water, open my door, and sometimes have candy available.
I guess not relying on GPS map routing is something that I cannot fathom. It always impresses me when friends can just rattle off highway routes and directions.
You might be lost for a while. What would probably happen next is that you'd start to build a mental map of the relevant territory, augmenting personal experience with some kind of map, paper or digital. Then you'd start developing the habit of getting directions or studying a map before you went somewhere there was a gap in the knowledge in your head.
At least, that's how it worked for me when I moved from a city so small (and grid-based) that nobody I knew used any kind of nav aid at all... to Los Angeles. I'm a little hesitant to say it would certainly work this way for everyone, given that variety in people's backgrounds and brains. But I suspect navigating is something people are generally more wired for than not. Chances are, you could do it too.
Here's the original complaint:
I'm a huge #Uber fan, but the service has been getting really bad lately. Anyone else experiencing these issues?
-App shows a car 2 minutes away, and when I reserve, it then says the car is 8 minutes away
-Drivers who increasingly have no knowledge of the city and/or driving routes
-Drivers who increasingly have trouble communicating in English
-After booking, the car gets further away (significantly) before it gets closer on their way to pick me up.
-Surge pricing becoming the norm--even during traditional "non-peak" hours
Again, I've been and continue to be a huge fan of Uber, but the past couple months have been disappointing. On the plus side, I had an awesome Pakistani driver yesterday who had a great story to tell about how he emigrated to America and is making twice as much driving for Uber than his old taxi. Pretty cool.
Recently I saw this for the first time on a trip to SFO, which actually makes a lot of sense - since its a fixed price, they're not giving anything up by marking my ride complete as soon as they hit the exit for SFO.
In case you didn't know, as a customer of uber, the driver gives you a star rating just like you give the driver. A lot of people in SF have figured that out, and a lot of time I'll get an offer of "5 for 5." The drivers are letting you know that if you give them a 5 star rating they will give you one.
On top of that, drivers more and more push for a good rating, trying to make you feel bad if you don't give them 5 stars.
I can't recall these pressures in the past, and if they are working, then quality numbers staying flat actually mean they are quite down.
That said, I am still an avid user of Uber, using it almost every day. My biggest concern is the same others have voiced, the drivers have no idea where they are in the city. I'm not talking cross streets, I'm saying a lot of time they don't even know how to get to a whole neighborhood. They also don't appear to be good 'city drivers,' and frequently seem to put bikers at risk due to that.
Wow. As someone who has never used Uber, this surprises me. It's repeating an obvious mistake that it took Ebay ages to correct.
> if they are working, then quality numbers staying flat actually mean they are quite down.
Source: Uber drivers, so biased, but have you ever seen a driver with a 4.5 rating?
As an anecdote, the one time I left a 1-star review, the next day I had a 20-min wait to get a car. Not sure if it was bad luck or I was getting penalized for leaving a bad review...
I've gotten the 5 for 5 thing a few times. I don't mind it, if it's going to be a 5 anyway.
I use Uber every day. I've had maybe two sub-par experiences with the black car—ever. A few iffy experiences with UberX but nothing bad.
Using an app that seems to treat driver's more fairly is worth something to me, YMMV.
You mention the experience for cab drivers. Do they have some sort of smarter queuing or other benefits?
It seems all these apps address the consumer facing side of things, but to truly address the driver side, wouldn't it make sense to leverage data to try and better predict needs or routes so that there is less time lost waiting or traveling between fares?
This potentially has some truth to it. Many times, to operate a passenger service to/from the airport requires the operator to purchase a (costly) license from the airport authority. Depending on bylaws etc, unlicensed operators who provide passenger service to/from the airport will be subject to fines. In other words, providing access to ground-transport operators seems to be a revenue stream for the airport, but also likely serves to protect the air passengers from cowboy/dodgy transport operators outside the terminal.
Anecdotally, I once struck up a conversation with a taxi driver in Sydney, Australia. We'd passed a pedestrian who (for some reason) was standing on airport land, some distance from the terminals, trying to hail the passing taxis. The driver remarked to me that they'd be waiting for a while, as no taxi would ever stop there: Apparently it is stipulated in the contract that the taxi company has with the airport, that they can only collect and drop fares in the designated areas outside of the terminals. If they pick up a fare at any other location on airport land, they are subject to large fines (he said $10k, but perhaps this was hyperbole). I found this an interesting insight into the level of regulation apparently applied to airport ground-transport operators.
We're both just a data point, but I'm surprised you've had such a bad experience where I now refuse taxi service in favor of Uber. The quality difference is night and day.
Interestingly, this hasn't been the case any time I've taken a taxi in NYC (where taxis seem even more a fundamental part of everyday life than most places) in the last decade or two. Now the drivers usually just yell into a cellphone nonstop for the entire ride...
Actually now I'm a bit unsure: what is the regional etiquette on whether a single passenger should sit in the back or the front? When I lived in LA, I usually just sat in front, which nobody ever complained about, but in retrospect maybe that was weird? It's definitely more conducive to smalltalk if you're in the front passenger seat, sitting next to the driver.
I love this company and use them any chance I can. I know that they're doing everything they can to be the best company and the best service for those that want to use them.
I will Uber again, as it is easily the most convenient way to get to the airport, and I can tell that the software is rigged to continuously improve the company. After a lifetime of cab nightmares, I'll take Uber with double the warts.
This seems to be a particular problem as regards UberX. With the Surge pricing making UberX more expensive, it's not really worth it for me if I have to show the guy where to go and he's not nice or accommodating in any way.
PS: I'm extremely happy with Uber. My experience with calling cabs was forged on the south side of Chicago, where they seldom ever actually came. It was miserable.
At least it's better than being promised that a cab would come in 15 minutes, and then having to wait in the rain for 50 minutes instead.
The only way that seems like it would happen is if the driver who was 2 minutes away rejected the call.