Later On

A blog written for those whose interests more or less match mine.

Work for Uber is roughly like working in a sweat shop

with one comment

Management doesn’t care about its employees because they’re not employees—they’re “independent contractors.” And so management doesn’t bother to fix the tools on which these independent contractors depend. Claire Goodman reports in Salon:

Uber just lost a really good driver.

As a mom who had stopped working to raise my child, I decided to try driving for Uber part-time, for flexibility and some extra cash. I am a native English speaker who grew up in my major metropolitan area (San Francisco Bay Area), and these are two big advantages for a driver.  Having actually lived and worked from San Jose to Marin, I know how to get from point A to point B without maps or a GPS,  and I do not have to use Uber’s incredibly bad and misleading GPS, which comes with its driver app.  I also have a brand-new Prius and don’t mind keeping it clean.

It took Uber two months to complete my required background check and to “process” my driver’s license, proof of insurance and a $20 car inspection.  It took many weeks for Uber to mail me its iPhone 4 (loaded with its app).  I could not begin driving without it — or possibly, I could have used my own iPhone 5, but they didn’t mention that, because they wanted to charge me $10 per week for their iPhone 4.  The minute I found out I could be using my own phone, I sent theirs back, but not before they had deducted $30 for “phone rental.”

As a former software developer, I was interested to see how the apps work together to get the closest driver to the rider as fast as possible.  The first thing I found out was that Uber’s software sometimes wildly underestimates the number of minutes it takes to reach a rider.  The driver has 10 seconds (and sometimes less) to accept a request, which shows the number of minutes to reach the rider.  If you accept the request, you see the address of the rider.  About half the time, the number of minutes estimated is substantially less than the real time it will take.

Let me give you an example. I received a request indicating it would take “three minutes” to reach a rider.  I was in downtown Oakland and the rider was north of the Berkeley campus.  With stoplights and traffic I knew it would take 15-20 minutes to reach the rider.  As I began driving, I phoned the rider and gave him my ETA.  He canceled to try again for a closer driver – and I don’t blame him.

This happened to me over and over again that night.  At one point, I was on Piedmont Avenue in Oakland, and I kept getting ride requests “three minutes” away – that is, three minutes away from Piedmont Avenue in Berkeley.  Could it be possible that Uber’s GPS software does not use map coordinates to calculate distance?  It certainly seemed to be true, considering that this same error happened all night, until I finally logged off in order not to get “dinged” for too many cancellations.

Having accepted a rider, the driver has no idea of the destination.  The rider(s) get in, and tell you where they’re going.  I often had four riders at a time.  Many times, I drove two miles to pick up four college kids and drive them six blocks to a different pub.  This was a typical experience in my college town.  That’s a money-losing ride.

If you accept each ride request sent to you, you will end up a long way from home.  You must then go “offline” and drive home.  This is standard taxi driving – but for less money.

I didn’t want to do this job full-time.  Hourly rate is what mattered to me.  Uber kept me very busy, but the software malfunctioned at least 50 percent of the time, leading to cancellations when I let the rider know the real ETA. Uber has lots of hidden charges and fees.  However, since I was driving during “surge” hours, with back-to-back riders, my hourly rate should reflect the best hourly rate one can earn, driving for Uber. Bottom line: After subtracting all their charges and fees — plus Uber’s 20 percent — driving for Uber during surge pricing, with a constant flow of riders, pays less than $10 per hour.  Then you must deduct insurance, fuel, maintenance and taxes.  At least for me, driving for Uber is not worth it. And that’s a shame. Because I know the area, speak English and communicate professionally with riders.  But I also demand closer to $15 per hour.

Also, considering the company’s huge profits, . . .

Continue reading.

Written by LeisureGuy

30 November 2014 at 8:52 am

One Response

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  1. I’m a cab driver and Uber has affected mine and other drivers business, but there is hope: check out this company: asterRIDE.COM and see what you think.

    Thanks for your concern about a company that has no scruples at all. Sounds like this company is all for the independent cab drivers and legal as far as requirements for being a professional driver, commercial insurance, permits, meter rates posted plainly so you know how much the fare is. I’d really like to know what you think so that other cab drivers that follow you can get this in their city.

    I have been a cab driver now for almost 12 years most of those years was at Checker and Yellow cab with a radio then the mdt (mobile dispatch terminal). Now I’m driving a cab without either and picking up my passengers by either hailing me down or staged at night clubs or casinos, Football and Baseball games—basically being at the right place at the right time so as. So you can see this could be what we the cab drivers need to stay a little ahead of the game. Thanks for the interesting posts you put out daily for people to enjoy and hopefully learn something new everyday.


    1 December 2014 at 7:59 am

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