Does Uber Save Lives?

Should have called Uber.

Should have called Uber.

Speaking of safer roads… Consider the impact of Uber on peoples’ driving habits. Richmond Biz Sense reports that more than 1,200 vehicles in the City of Richmond, Chesterfield County and Henrico County have signed up with the Virginia Department of Motor Vehicles to pick up passengers for hire under the Uber banner. That’s more than double the number of traditional taxi vehicles registered to provide service.

Twelve hundred vehicles is a lot of cars, seemingly enough to inundate the Richmond market. But Uber wouldn’t be contracting with all those drivers if there weren’t a demand for the service.

People employ Uber for many reasons, but the one with which I am most acquainted is to avoid drinking and driving. Most people know that driving while intoxicated is an exceedingly bad idea. But if staying alive and not killing others isn’t incentive enough, Henrico County courts are draconian in their punishment of drunk driving.

Many people of my social acquaintance carry breathalyzers with them. If their alcohol levels exceed the legal limit, they call Uber for a ride home. Some friends don’t even bother driving to social functions at all — they call Uber for rides both ways. I don’t know the percentage of Uber riders who are intoxicated, but I’d wager that it’s a high number.

Tough laws, breathalyzers and Uber — it’s a powerful combination. I’m betting that roads in the Richmond region are a lot safer these days.


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16 responses to “Does Uber Save Lives?

  1. I’ve become more comfortable with Uber since issues like driver and vehicle fitness and liability are being addressed as well as the issue of whether drivers are employees or independent contractors is now being discussed.

    but to give an example here.. of how little thought is going into the Uber craze….

    what exactly keeps an Uber driver from sitting with his cellphone in a bar waiting to be hailed by someone who does not want to drive while inebriated?

  2. All Uber drivers drink sodas in bars. Right?

  3. the biggest threat to Uber – is not the govt, but the simplicity of it’s business model. What keeps someone from putting an aggregator front end in front of Uber or Lyft like Kayak and Travelocity and TripAdvisor and have done for air travel and rental cars, hotels?

    The govt rules for Uber and Lfty are going to apply to ANYONE who wants to rent out their car …. as long as they follow the rules -they can have their own service… and arrange to have their service show up in an aggregator app.

    Uber and lyft say that rider/driver reviews will establish “their” reputation but what ferrets out and removes those who fail to meet the standard?

    what happens when the Uber that got there 5 times in a row fast – never showed? who do you complain to?

    I would say – that’s a (maybe not the only) bright line between employee and independent contractor. When you are depending on Uber to make sure you don’t get a bad driver.. that’s a company – not a technology s’ervice.

    Some of this is young people who do not see or understand what the purpose of a company is …. and they feel that they can get what they need done – without a company… just … peer-to-peer…..

    it’s an interesting phenomena…and who knows where it ends up but I think it will – from some hard experience – remind people that a company is more than a group of employees… each of whom has their own way of operating.

    and the odd part of this – is that this is the same generation who thinks Starbucks and McDonalds – means a clone-type experience… not a unique one with each store.

    • Well, and you can do it different ways. For example, you can choose a limited region, and more fully vet your drivers – and market yourself as “have peace of mind with the driver service with the background checks” and not push the reviews as much.

      And that’s short term. Self driving cars are expected to be on the market around 2020, assuming regulation keeps up. After that, anyone – you, me, Jim – can rent out our self-driving car while we’re working, and have it available for our own use when we need it. Think AirBNB for vehicles.

      Not just renting – you can also share a car more easily, because you don’t have to worry about getting it back from where it wound up. Think farmers CSAs (crop sharing agreements.) It’s do-it-yourself ride sharing.

      I actually think Uber and Lyft have relatively fragile business models, that could get nibbled to death from a bunch of different directions.

  4. It’s anecdotal evidence, but I know my young-adult children in NoVa all use Uber when they go out dining or bar-hopping in the City (DC). What they will tell you is (1) nobody drives a POV to those areas because parking is scarce and it costs a chunk if you find a place; (2) no one wants to be the designated driver (and they take that task seriously); and (3) the subway may get you there conveniently but not home, and hailing a cab on U Street at 1 am is iffy, and calling one from VA takes forever — that leaves Uber.

    Larry, it just doesn’t see likely that an aggregator will jump in to perform this service generically, there seem to be too many moving parts here and not much of a margin for the aggregator, although the Uber business model certainly doesn’t do much to reward brand loyalty.

    • I think it’s more likely that you’re going to have boutique services (“RVA Rides – know who you’re driving with – the fully vetted driver service!”) and, coming fast, car pools that are people sharing cars, not sharing turns driving.

      I think the margin is going to get razor thin really fast.

      • you beat me to it vgal! we agree.. an explosion of alternative services! I actually see – real options for folks who live in suburban and rural areas also! Folks who want to earn extra money will just “login” when they’re ready to offer passenger service in their own cars.

        • If it’s self-driving, all you’d have to do is login when you get to work, and log out in time for your own car to pick you back up.

          Could also organize ride share for the rides to and from work, and easily organize daytime trips (if someone wants to go out to buy lunch or for a meeting.)

  5. @Acbar –

    I’m a converted Uber-believer – but the basic business model of Uber is a simple cell phone app that really just about anyone is capable of doing.

    and have you wondered why companies like Kayak, Trivago, and “work”?

    Someone offers a Uber-like App to anyone who is willing to pay a subscription price.. and bingo – .. when someone uses that App – they’ll get back at any given time – 2, 3, 6 choices of which one will be Uber, maybe Lyft, sidecar, Shuttle, Curb (yes these are all competitors)…..

    Not only that – we may be on the cusp of Jitney type service – it will be a choice on the app as to what kind of service you want… perhaps dynamic transit service.. who knows… but I think it’s inevitable because putting an app on your phone for each service is going to be cumbersome… Access the Uber app will get you a prospective pick up time and a price – and someone is then going to go to the Lyft app to see if they can get a better time or price, etc.. why not one app that searches them all like Trivago or Kayak does and then you choose .. perhaps Uber gets there quicker but costs $5 more.. so you pick the one that takes 15 miutes but costs $5 less.

    One of the things that will affect people’s choices is – the quality and reliability of the service as well as price and that’s what will differentiate the services – not the fact that it’s available as a phone app… not when all such services are available in the same way.

    So Uber is the premier brand – right now.. but the entry level for competitors at the cell phone level is ridiculously low… Anyone who can write an App can start the service – if – and this is not a minor “if” – they and their drivers are able to comply with govt rules.

    which to this point are what?

    also – these services are going to get into home-to-work commute transportation. You’ll be able to – in the commuter parking lot – see which vans have available seats for what price.. in real time… This could do far more than give the inebriated a ride home – this could change the way that commuting and peak hour road congestion – work in some major urban areas.

    but again – it will go back to the fitness, reliability and quality of the services and what role govt plays and what role consumers play in making their preferences part of the requirements of the offered services.

    Finally – don’t forget – there are existing providers who if allowed to alter their services can just as easily get themselves on those same phone Aps.

    This is an exciting time… for transportation services..

  6. Introducing Donber. A “call” to Donber will result in a scantily clad male or female stripper (caller’s choice) being dispatched to give you a ride. During times of slow demand “callers” will be sent multiple pictures of the strippers at work from which to choose. In addition to transportation lap dances are available at an additional fee. All Donber drivers must use an in-car breathalyzer before starting the car to help guarantee sobriety of the driver. Passengers agreeing to a one hour (minimum) stop at the driver’s strip club will earn a discount of 1% for every $10 spent at the club.

    Lots of possible business models here.

    • Don, it’s a brilliant idea, harking back to Madame Bovary’s salaciusly elicit carriage ride round and round and up and down, a Uber Madame Bovary’s tour of the city of lights, hot flashes and star spangled nights.

  7. next up – rides for odd jobs… why limit yourself to scantily clad bimbos?

    BarterApp – a Ride app combined with Craigslist! – need I say more?

  8. Uber is greatest thing since sliced bread. Who could oppose it for anything other than a very self reason.

  9. ?? can u explain Reed for us “dense” folks?

  10. You can save a lot by taking cheap buses. But is it worth it?

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