by James A. Bacon
The Uber revolution continues apace, spawning a host of competitors, imitators and add-ons. An interesting example comes out of Richmond, where four former Uber drivers are developing an app for passengers who want to reserve specific drivers at specific times.
Uzurv (pronounced YOO-zerv) is beta testing an app that lets customers reserve rides ahead of time so they aren’t limited to drivers who happen to be on the clock for immediate, on-demand rides, reports Richmond BizSense.
The reservation service will not replace Uber, Lyft or like services, but will complement them. Co-owner Matt Donlon says that Uzerv will do for ride-hailing services what OpenTable, an online reservation network, does for restaurants. “Uber is a great engine,” Donlon said. “What we’re doing is a service that builds off that engine.”
The drivers will have personal profiles, and users can browse potential drivers and sort by preferences like the driver’s gender and whether the car is pet-friendly or look for their favorite drivers. Users can also pay extra to entice drivers to respond to their request.
On their side, drivers can review requests and determine the value of a potential ride. When drivers see a reservation they would be willing to fill, they submit a request to get the reservation, which then sends a notice to the rider. When the rider chooses a driver, a chat session is opened between the two parties.
Once the rider is in the driver’s car, both are prompted to open the app of Uber, Lyft and the like to complete the rest of the transaction.
In Richmond, fees for riders and drivers will run between $2 and $3 per transaction. Uzurv is testing the app with 17 Uber drivers in the Richmond area, and will commence beta testing in markets in Virginia, North Carolina and California.
Bacon’s bottom line: It remains to be seen whether passengers will be willing to pay that premium. I expect that there will be some market for the service, although I would not hazard a guess as to whether demand will be sufficient to support the enterprise.
My last Uber driver decked out his car with twinkling Christmas lights on New Years Eve. I appreciated the extra effort, and I would happily patronize him again. Would I care enough to pay a small transaction fee? Maybe, but I’m not rushing out to download the app. But I know other Uber riders whom, I suspect, would like to develop a friendly relationship with their driver.
Succeed or fail, Uzurv is example of the entrepreneurial innovation that is roiling surface transportation. The app rewards drivers for exemplary service, and provides more choices for passengers. The application of IT and smart phones to transportation will spur more innovation and transform the way we travel. The big question: Who will innovate faster, the giant auto companies moving into the Mobility As a Service market (See “Mobility As a Service Is Coming Soon“) or scrappy entrepreneurs like Donlon and his partners? The spectacle will be fun to watch. VDOT, are you paying attention?