UHCL The Signal
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University of Houston-Clear Lake
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Houston, TX 77058
In 2009, Uber founders Travis Kalanick and Garrett Camp took the concepts and practices of a taxi service and created a ridesharing app. As of 2018, Uber is available in 633 cities worldwide. Engadget.com reports Uber averages 5.5 million rides per day as of July 2017.
Ridesharing is changing the car culture in America as people, especially the millennial generation, experiment with a car-free lifestyle. A Fortune.com study shows nearly a quarter of U.S. adults have sold or traded in a vehicle in the last 12 months. Nine percent of that group are turning to ridesharing services like Uber and Lyft as their main source of transportation.
The average cost of owning a vehicle, which includes gas, maintenance, auto insurance premiums and loan payments, is approximately $8,876 per year. At approximately $5.75 per fare in Houston, fare cost varies depending on vehicle selection as well as from city to city.
Some Americans find ridesharing more economical, especially in urban areas. Some are choosing ridesharing to help the environment, some for the convenience of not having to drive or pay to park. Factors can also include distance and choosing not to drink and drive.
Luis Leon, chemistry major, said he uses his car to drive to work and school but sometimes uses Uber to travel to the bars downtown.
“I’ve only used Uber about five times, but it was mostly to hang out with friends and have a few drinks,” Leon said.
Ridesharing is not economical for drivers with long commutes or numerous daily car trips. USA Today says childless adults are more likely to save by trading their car for Lyft or Uber.
Uber may be an appealing option for millennials living in urban areas; it is not always the most convenient option, especially for families. However, some households are using Uber or another ridesharing company to downsize from two vehicles to one per household.
With more people relying on Uber, Lyft or other ridesharing companies, the issues of safety have been under more scrutiny than ever.
“I would not ride by myself unless I absolutely have to; I am just very cautious,” Leon said. “When I do, I tend to be more alert of my surroundings.”
On the other hand, some individuals have a high level of comfort riding with an Uber driver.
“I’ve taken an Uber before in the past,” said Justen Reyes, communication major. “Knowing it is a trusted individual where they go through background checks, I am OK with it.
Travis Considine, communications manager at Uber’s Texas office, speaks on Uber’s commitment to safety for the rider and the process for applicants.
“All drivers undergo a thorough screening process (completed by CheckR, which is accredited by the National Association of Professional Background Screeners) before they gain access to Uber,” Considine said. “This includes a Motor Vehicle Records check and criminal records check that scours local, state and national databases.”
Considine also speaks of Uber’s current technology and recent features on the app, stating Uber is able to track every trip with GPS technology. By doing this, it allows them to see both parties on the map, providing 24/7 support anywhere. Uber’s Share Status feature allows riders to send the trip details to a loved one who is able to monitor his or her trip as it happens.
“We leverage technology to increase accountability and transparency in transportation,” Considine said. “Including logging the driver’s information and making it available to the rider to verify the right car.”
Considine also said Uber has clear community guidelines in place that explain in plain English what behavior is appropriate, what is not appropriate and what can get a driver banned from Uber, which includes any sexual contact whatsoever.
“We work to educate drivers and riders about those standards regularly and take action to hold them accountable,” Considine said.
Even with all the precautions, there have been instances where Uber drivers have been found guilty of committing assault, rape and murder while on the job.
UHCL Police Chief Allen Hill recommends that riders look at the driver’s ratings through the Uber app before accepting the ride.
“If riders feel uncomfortable or unsafe during their commute, they should ask the driver to pull over and let them out at the nearest safe place,” Hill said.
Hill also recommends looking for indicators before physically getting into the car.
“If a rider sees obvious things in the vehicle like weapons, ropes, duct tape, masks, etc., they should not get in the car,” Hill said. “Ultimately, if a rider does not have a good feeling about the driver, they should reject the ride and find another way to get to their destination.”
For more information on Uber guidelines for drivers and riders and how to apply, visit www.uber.com