Find Which Uber Is Yours With Its New Colored-Coded SPOT Lights

3 Dec 2015 | Author: | No comments yet »

Find Which Uber Is Yours With Its New Colored-Coded SPOT Lights.

Outside big events like concerts, tons of Ubers can be waiting, making it tough for passengers to figure out which car is theirs. Uber said Tuesday (Dec. 1) that it is testing a new program that will allow drivers in Denver, Colorado to rent cars for a discounted rate to drive on Uber’s platform.Uber announced Tuesday a partnership with Enterprise Rent-A-Car to provide vehicles to aspiring drivers who don’t own a car, the latest move in the company’s continuing quest to turn basically every American into a for-hire driver. Uber says this program is a big deal because traditionally rental car companies haven’t permitted customers to use their vehicles on Uber-like services. Through the program, drivers will be able to rent a vehicle for $210 per week—not including taxes and fees—which is automatically deducted from their earnings.

Uber is spinning this as a progressive, think-of-the-poor-people effort to give people who can’t afford cars “all-inclusive” access to a vehicle. Uber says it hopes to offer the deal in other cities “soon.” “What we’re trying to do here is lower the barrier to entry for someone who does want to work with Uber but who does not have a qualifying car or doesn’t have a car at all,” Andrew Chapin, Uber’s head of vehicle solutions, told The Denver Post.

While the passenger is waiting to be picked up, they can tap a colored button (yellow, orange, pink, purple, blue, or green), and then look for the Uber with the matching colored SPOT light. Uber is a bit vague on the details here, but says these restrictions have less to do with insurance requirements (a perpetually sticky subject for ride-hailing apps) than how rental-car companies have historically financed and rented their fleets. Yet this access comes with all sorts of strings attached that make the program a terrible job opportunity—but a great money-making grab for Uber and Enterprise.

The Uber-Enterprise partnership is the latest addition to Uber’s broader “vehicle solutions” program, a range of rental, leasing, and auto-financing options that help potential Uber drivers gain access to cars. Enterprise says it covers the car like a normal rental — for damage exceeding $1,000 — both when the driver is actively searching for fares using Uber’s app, and when the app is turned off. The website shows a Toyota Corolla as the offered vehicle, but mentions “or similar” next to it, indicating that some drivers may end up with a different sedan. Essentially, Uber is trying to shave seconds off every part of the ride, from the hail to the drop off, using features like suggested pickup points, back-to-back rides, driver destinations, and its mapping cars. One more suggestion for getting closer to that perfect ride would be for Uber to better understand how long it typically takes passengers to come outside.

Uber declined to provide data on the median earnings of a driver in Denver, but SherpaShare, a third-party firm that tracks data on Uber and other on-demand services, found over the summer that the average UberX driver in Denver was making $11.70 per trip in gross earnings—that is, before any on-the-job expenses like gas and maintenance that all Uber drivers as independent contractors are required to pay. (UberX is the cheapest ride option that Uber offers in Denver.) Or consider this data on median hourly driver earnings in six major US cities that the company released at the start of 2015: As you can see from the chart above, the median UberX driver in cities other than New York and DC was making between $15 and $20-ish an hour as of October 2014. Keeping in mind that typical, standard auto insurance is not always necessarily adequate for driving strangers around all day, the costs of joining this program are likely even higher. Over 400,000 people now drive for Uber in the US, both full- and part-time, representing a significant spike from the number of active drivers — 162,000 — the company said it had in December 2014. Here with SPOT, if Uber can get passengers into their cars faster, drivers burn less gas waiting and can finish their ride sooner and pickup someone else.

An Uber spokesperson doesn’t see it that way. “Insurance and maintenance is included in the price.” the spokesperson told Gizmodo. “The driver does not need to obtain any additional insurance.” This isn’t the first time Uber has teamed up with third parties for other programs to get people without cars behind the wheel and into its driver pool. So, at the highpoint of the one-to-15 weekly hours range, that person is earning around $225 before expenses; at the highpoint of 16 to 34 hours a week, it’s $510.

In an interesting this-startup-world-is-too-small twist, Enterprise Holdings (the parent company of Enterprise Rent-A-Car) has a history with Lyft too. In 2013, Enterprise Holdings bought Zimride, a ride-sharing business founded by Logan Green and John Zimmer that focused on long-haul trips and carpooling for universities and businesses. Just like inexperienced and gullible bands join “pay to play” Battle of the Bands shows for the exposure, someone using this “pay to work” program would be desperate. The company has clearly considered this possibility, as it’s included in a program FAQ. “No problem,” Uber says. “When you pick up your vehicle, Enterprise will take your valid credit or debit card to place on file.

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