Uber taxi service app launches in Raleigh [The News & Observer (Raleigh, N.C.) :: ]
(News & Observer (Raleigh, NC) Via Acquire Media NewsEdge) April 24--RALEIGH -- Uber, the taxi-service smart phone app that connects passengers with private drivers, is launching in Raleigh on Thursday.
The company promises to offer passengers fares that are 30 percent cheaper than a taxi, and for the next three weeks Uber will offer free rides for fares of up to $40.
Uber is initially launching its ride-sharing product only in Raleigh. Local drivers register with the service after passing background checks, and undergoing in-person interviews with the company, said Rachel Holt, regional general manager for Uber East. Drivers also must be insured in North Carolina for up to $1.5 million, she said.
"These drivers are undergoing requirements that are at the highest end of what we see across ... any city for taxis, limos, etc." Holt said. " ... It also enables folks who may not have been in the transportation business to make a little bit of extra money -- in some cases make a lot of extra money."
Consumers who download and open the app in Raleigh will be presented with a map showing different Uber drivers and an estimate of how far away each is. When a passenger is ready to be picked up, they hit a button and are connected to the nearest Uber car.
"At that point you know the driver's name, you have a photo, you have their driver's license, you know what type of car they drive," Holt said.
At the end of the ride, the passenger's credit card is automatically billed through the app based on the time and distance of the trip.
"You don't even need a wallet," Holt said.
Uber takes 20 percent of each fare, with the rest going to the driver. There's no tip included in the basic ride-sharing service Uber is initially offering in the Triangle.
Uber increases its prices during peak times or bad weather to get more cars on the road and ensure reliability during the busiest times. The app has a fare estimate feature, as well as a feature that allows passengers to split a fare.
Uber is now operating in about 40 markets in the United States. The company has faced backlash in some markets from existing taxi and limousine services, with accusations that it is operating an illegal taxi operation. Some consumers also have complained of price-gouging.
Holt said the company expands to new markets based on the legal and regulatory environment in a state and potential demand for the service. The General Assembly last year passed enabling legislation allowing the company to begin operating in North Carolina. Uber launched in Charlotte in September.
Consumers can still open the app even if they live in a city where Uber isn't offered, and Holt said the company has noticed a growing number of Triangle residents showing interest in the service.
"What we've been seeing over the last few months is this huge surge in demand from consumers in Raleigh," she said.
Uber is initially just providing coverage in Raleigh and to the airport. Within the next few weeks, the service expects to expand to Durham, Chapel Hill and other Triangle communities.
Holt said the company plans to eventually bring its Uber Black service here, which uses licensed sedans and town cars.
The company declined to disclose how many drivers it has signed up initially in Raleigh.
"We ensure that we've got enough folks on the system to really be reliable," Holt said. For Uber, that means pick up times of between 5 and 10 minutes.
Bracken: 919-829-4548; Twitter: @brackendavid
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