The sharing economy: Taking a ride

A few weeks ago I was visiting Washington on business (attending our EclipseCon North America)  when I took my first ride with the Uber service. Actually – when my colleague used the Uber up to get us the driving service of a young Colombian kid that picked us up close to the White House and drove us for 12 miles to our dinner place.

We were a little surprised when the driver advised us that we have to pick up another guest, drive her home and continue our trip from there. Explanation was simply that Uber had just started that service. During the ride, we started chatting a little with the driver. He’d bought the car and was full-time driving for Uber. And he said that he has to drive a lot, because he needs to pay off the car and make some money. We didn’t get into details, and I didn’t ask questions about insurance and so on. What struck me though was his driving style. It was clear that he didn’t know where he was going, and he was closely following the little iPhone navigation app from Uber. He appeared to be quite distracted by it and didn’t pay the attention to traffic that I would have hoped for.  Anyway, we made it to our destination.

Thinking about it later, a lot of questions remained. First of all, I was wondering about the driver’s qualification. He clearly had no local knowledge, and he clearly wasn’t an experienced driver. At least not to the extend that I’m used to from a German taxi driver. His car was new, but my colleague told me that’s not always the case. How can Uber control the status of the cars? And really – I had expected a person that does some driving on the side. But clearly the guy was more or less full-time.

So I started investigating a little, which led me to some interesting sources and insights into the sharing economies. More in the next post.