Anyone who's spent time with New York's Upper East Siders, in real life or through an episode of Gossip Girl can tell you that for those for whom style is not a trend but a way of life the facts and rules of life are somewhat different. When the choice is between the relaxed luxury of a private towncar, and the alternative of standing on the kerbside flailing your arms in the hopes of stopping a road-going subway, the yellow cab just doesn't cut it.
In Dublin and London, where for the last few years, we've been blessed with the taxi-hailing app, Hailo, things are a little more civilised. Recent regulations have meant that cars have to be used as full-time taxis, and be less than 10 years old, and the GPS-tracking of Hailo has meant that the shortest route does actually get taken, and with Dublin having more taxis than New York, not simply per capita, but in raw numbers too, from opening the app to closing the door of your taxi is a process that takes just 2-5 minutes. If that's enough for you, read no further, download Hailo and get €5 off your first fare in Dublin, paying with card using the promo code STPADDY13.
But if you're suduced by the idea of a polite, discrete private driver... by complimentary mineral water in the back, privacy blinds, heated seats, yards of leg room, and the guaranteed wow factor when you get picked up and dropped off, your door help open and your bags in the boot, then Uber's for you, and you should read on, because your first two trips are free.
Uber doesn't operate any fleets, but rather connects passengers holding smartphones to drivers with luxury cars. You'll be picked up in a BMW 7-Series, 5-Series or Mercedes S-Class or other similar high-end current model car. Many cars have free WiFi built in so you can do some work on the go. In Dublin they'll be starting with this service (Uber Black), whilst in other markets, they've already expanded to include a hailo-rival service run with standard cabs, and a ride-sharing service connecting passengers with ordinary drivers called UberX.
In Paris, they've started a pilot program for micro city cars and in London UberX runs exclusively with Toyota Prius vehicles so that you can spin around zones 1 and 2. Your app will work worldwide so once you're set up in Dublin you can travel anywhere.
If you don't have a smart phone, don't worry, you can access the site from a semi-smart phone like any of the entry level Samsung or Nokia models using the mobile site address m.uber.com, of course, it's easier to do all the sign up and fare calculation on the computer but the app will work. You can also run the app from your iPad or android tablet, and you can even access the fare calculator and your account from your desktop computer.
Headed up by 37 year old co-founder, Travis Kalanick, and based in San Francisco, Uber are backed by some serions money, boasting a market capitalisation of $3,750,000,000 and an investor roll call that includes Google ventures, Goldman Sachs, and Jeff Bezos - the founder of Amazon and recent purchaser of the Washington Post. They've received criticism from 'the establishment' for their disruptive technology, offering a better service at a lower price than the traditional heavily regulated taxi. They've also taken some heat for what's known as 'surge pricing' where in times of extreme demand such as the recent winter blizzards in New York, they incentivise drivers to come out by offering them a multiple of the standard fare. That said, before letting you book during surge times the app will warn you twice and estimate for you what your fare will be, and this transparancy is one of the fundamentals of Uber. Your trip being tracked means that if a driver takes a longer route, you can request a fare review and have it adjusted to what it would have been had it been shorter.
By offering referral incentives instead of paying for traditional advertising, Uber guarantee that they only pay for the customers that have experienced, and fully signed up to their product. They offer drivers heavy bonuses too, giving out free iPads and iPhones, training, referral credit, and more. Their intention is to become the marketplace for personal transportation, and they're willing to pay big to get drivers and passengers signed up and hooked in. One of the great features of the app is that you get a full fare quote before you book, and you know exactly how long it will be before your car's with you, as well as an estimated arrival time at your destination, which you can share with whoever it is you'll be meeting as well as a link to a site where they can track your progress. Another unique bonus with Uber is that you can share the cost of the ride with a friend by clicking a link from within the booking, and you can also contact your driver by phone or text.
W/W/W/When? Sign up now using my promotional code uberbren and we both get €20 of credit!