We shot a video this week, featuring yours truly trying the Uber app for the first time. The video debuts at 9 a.m. Monday, June 9 for The Big Picture technology session at the LCT Leadership Summit in Miami Beach.
To spur the discussion, we wanted to explain exactly how Uber works by trying out the app. I must say it worked beyond expectations. We set up our Uber “order” for a pick-up at LCT offices in an office park in Torrance, Calif.
Within 15 minutes, a GMC Yukon Denali showed up. This was impressive, given that our location is not near a high-traffic area for Uber and our request came during a weekday early lunch hour. The late-model SUV was actually an unexpected “upgrade,” since I had simply ordered a black car. Our trial order was for a ride to a nearby Denny’s restaurant, about two miles away. The cost of the ride was $15 to $17. (We didn’t actually take the ride, but explained to the chauffeur what we were doing and tipped him for the hassle after he canceled the billing).
Here were the pluses: Late model, comfortable SUV; well-mannered chauffeur dressed in a suit; on-time arrival; chauffeurs officially don’t accept tips; e-mail confirmation includes name and photo of chauffeur; real-time GPS tracking of vehicle as it gets closer to pick-up; billing can be canceled within five minutes of arrival if customer changes mind; you don’t need to type in address for your destination. [I simply typed in “Denny’s restaurant” and it gave me local locations to choose from].
Here were the minuses: Rear seat floor was dirty, with actual caked dirt on the carpet (but chauffeur apologized for it); no bottled water or newspaper; right front seat was pushed back, not forward, making entrance to the rear seat difficult.
As is the case with chauffeured transportation, the chauffeur explained that Uber sends the closest available vehicle. So if it happens to be a vehicle type above what you ordered, you essentially get a free upgrade.
My gut reaction to my first Uber experience: Uh, oh — the limousine industry has big challenges ahead. Uber overall made a good first impression. Limousine operators will have to find ways to harness new technology, fleet turnaround and management techniques, and customer service communication to compete in the emerging tiered level of on-demand luxury transportation.
There’ll be lots to discuss at the Summit.
— Martin Romjue, LCT editor
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