CHARLOTTE, NC, August 10, 2014 – Thanks to two relatively new ride-sharing services, Americans are currently getting a lesson in how the country used to work and how it has changed.
Uber and Lyft are two rapidly growing San Francisco-based car-sharing services that have become so popular that taxi companies around the world are spinning their wheels as they fight back.
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Uber is the older of the two companies, founded in 2009, three years before Lyft. Today, Uber is operating in medium to large cities throughout the U.S. and in 42 countries.
So successful have the ride-sharing services become that traditional taxi services have literally been challenging their new competition throughout the world.
The concept is pure genius. Taking advantage of modern technology, both Uber and Lyft have revolutionized the ability for travelers for obtain transportation quickly and easily.
Though slightly different the two systems are basically the same. Riders download an app to their cell phones and provide their credit card information and other pertinent data. When the time comes to call for transportation, riders hit the button and the closest driver to their vicinity gets a call to pick them up.
Riders receive the driver’s name and other information including the type of car that is picking them up, the approximate time until arrival, an estimated cost and a contact phone number
Driver’s get the rider’s number as well as a GPS locator telling them where the pick up will be and how long it should take to get there.
Once the ride is in progress, the meter begins. It stops again when the route is complete. Riders get in and get out without exchanging money except for any tips they may choose to offer.
Most riders do not tip and drivers do not expect them. One mistaken conception among Uber riders, however, is that driver’s tips are included which is not true.
Controversy arises mostly from cab companies who argue that ride-sharing services are unregulated and are not required to comply with various other factors that may be particular to one city or another.
Here’s where the disputes get interesting. The things that taxi companies are complaining about are the very things they are most guilty of doing themselves.
True ride-shares are not regulated in most places, but they also provide faster, more efficient pick up times, the cars are cleaner, drivers usually know the cities in which they drive better than taxi drivers and, in most cases, Uber and Lyft drivers can speak English well enough to communicate with their passengers.
There are also built-in security aspects for both riders and passengers. Since no money changes hands, there is no threat that a driver will pick up someone with the intent of robbing him.
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Passengers not only get the driver’s names and license numbers, they also receive a picture of the driver and all the information about the trip.
The ride-share services also monitor every trip by each driver and keep a log of every trip. Drivers are paid on a weekly basis through direct deposit to their bank accounts.
Driver’s use their own vehicles and are required to maintain them to an acceptable level of service. Background checks are also done. In addition to a driver’s personal insurance, ride-share companies provide supplemental coverage for the possibility of other contingencies.
The old saying goes that if “you build a better mousetrap, the world will beat a path to your door.” Until recent times, that was the way the United States worked and prospered. Entrepreneurism was encouraged and, as a result, American products and services were always in a state of getting better.
Uber and Lyft created a “better mousetrap” that captured the imagination of the world. They work and people are flocking to the new ways to use modern technology thanks to the America’s entrepreneurial spirit. Furthermore, both services are creating jobs for many people, such as senior citizens and college students, who have had difficulty finding jobs for years.
Enter the government and its love of regulations. In virtually every city where Uber and Lyft operate, taxi services are up in arms about the new competition.
Unfortunately for cab companies, Uber and Lyft found a niche and capitalized upon it. That’s what the American ideal is all about.
The founders are making money because they had simple idea that works.
Customers love ride-share programs because they are safe, fast, convenient, fare competitive and efficient.
Drivers have new opportunities for employment. Some use the services for supplemental income while others are able to drive full-time if necessary.
Taxi companies are caught in the middle. In many cases where local and regional authorities have tried to step in, consumer response has been so strong against the regulations that they were removed.
It is an interesting phenomenon to see a business model evolve in such a dramatic manner that captures the imagination to such a degree that the old tried and true services are no longer accepted by the public.
Perhaps this should one of those “teachable moments” Barack Obama used to be so fond of talking about. The president could learn much from the ride-share concept.
In the meantime, as proponents of the new “taxis” like to say, “Uber on!”
Bob Taylor has been traveling the world for more than 30 years as a writer and award winning television producer focusing on international events, people and cultures around the globe.
Taylor is founder of The Magellan Travel Club (www.MagellanTravelClub.com)
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