Bear with me. Here’s a thing. My fifteen-year-old son is doing a university course – which is pretty damn cool. When we signed him up we assumed that the tutorials would be held, as they have been in previous years, in a local school which happens to be five minutes walk from where we live. Instead they are at UNSW: So that has him travelling to UNSW once a week for a three-hour tutorial after school.
The first-line options were basically that I drive him, and then sit around for three hours waiting to take him back, or that he catch a bus. From our house, the bus takes around 90 minutes each way, and that’s assuming that everything comes on time. Driving takes less than 20 minutes, so the difference is significant: Especially after a day at school.
Now, as we can afford it, catching a taxi was an option. But that leaves him out there very much on his own, carrying cash for payments, and so on. And that leads me to the point of this story – we’re using Uber and it is working perfectly.
We’ve signed him up as a family member. That means he can call an Uber and it is charged back to our account. Everything else works basically the same; just when he leaves the car it is us, not him, automatically paying for the ride from our credit card. But there’s one crucial point. The app tells me when he gets in the Uber. It tells me who the driver is. It tells me if he’s delayed by traffic or something. It allows me to track the journey if I wish. It tells me when he arrives. I’m in the loop the whole way.
Now in some circumstances that may be too much ‘big brother is watching you’; but in the context of ‘your father is keeping an eye out for you’, it is simply absolutely fabulous.
This isn’t supposed to be an ad for Uber. I’m not arguing everyone should use Uber; although I would argue, before anyone gets caught up in the cost, that my family uses a car share scheme and is very alive to the real costs of cars, and so what might seem like an extravagance is less so when you really factor in all the costs including your time.
Anyway, the point is that this is the way that businesses like Uber are changing the world. Taxi companies could have done this and more but they left themselves open to the disruption of people really ‘getting’ the possibilities offered by technology and using it to add value. In this case the added value is what makes the whole scenario viable.
The use of the Internet to add value makes this simple, makes it feel safe, and makes it convenient. That provides our family with a solution to a problem about the best use of everyone’s time, and my son with a sense of independence he might not otherwise have had. Uber and their drivers make money and we come away feeling good – that’s how the use of technology is changing our world.