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North Fork resident brings Uber to the Mountain Area

With more and more people being born everyday there has been a recent push for better public transportation across the globe. In order to Fret no more, the Mountain Area has its first Uber driver.

What is Uber?

Uber is a mobile-phone based transportation app which allows smartphone users to request a ride with just one click of a button.

Created in 2008 by Travis Kalanick and Garrett Camp, the concept of Uber sprung up when the two entrepreneurs found themselves unable to hail a cab on a cold snowy night in Paris.

During a brainstorming session at their shared apartment in Paris the two came up with the idea of app-based transportation company called UberCab. Although not initially thought to be lucrative by Kalanick, Camp took to the project almost immediately.

In 2010 the company launched its first version of UberCab in San Francisco with only a few cars and a handful of employees. Five years later the company can be found in more than 50 countries and 200 cities around the globe including now the Mountain Area.

How does it all work?

In major cities, where Uber drivers are more frequent, smartphone users simply download the app and input his/her location for pick up request.

The app routes the call to a number of available drivers in the area, notifies the drivers in the area and drivers have a 15 second period to take the call.

When requesting a ride Uber users can see the number of cars available in their area and their distance from their specific location.

The app allows both driver and customer to locate each other on the app’s map giving detailed information on the direct whereabouts of the devises. The app displays up to the minute information on the drivers name, license number, type of vehicle and location. On average request take anywhere between four and six minutes.

Uber is unique in the fact that it has connected yesterdays transportation techniques with today’s technological capabilities. Something cab drivers and other transportation systems have failed to integrate despite more than half the country now owning smartphones.

In an effort to better protect their drivers and to keep better tabs on what each driver makes, Uber drivers are restricted from taking any payments from customers as all transactions are handles through an in-app money transfer system. The system requires users to input their debit card/credit card information and expenses are taken directly out of the account when the ride is complete. The no cash policy makes it easier for users and safer for drivers who would otherwise be at risk of robberies. Something cab companies deal with on a daily basis.

In fact, Uber has become so successful at using technology to reach its customers that cab companies around the globe are starting to integrate online and smartphone friendly apps themselves. It was like a wake up call for cab companies who had become complacent as they had practically monopolized transportation in certain rural areas which do not have alternative forms of public transportation.

But it can be a little more tricky for those in the Mountain Area.

As of March 14, Bass Lake resident Cathy Freitag began operating as the Mountain Area’s first and only Uber driver. Freitag said she first heard about the service through a friend in the Los Angeles Area who started driving for Uber as a way to make some extra money after work. As a Mary Kay Beauty Consultant for the past two and a half years, Freitag said she was looking for a way to make a little extra money herself and said Uber could be the answer. Since joining the cause more than two weeks ago Freitag said the service has been extremely helpful as to provide her with supplemental income and at the same time provide safe reliable rides for those in need.

“I was looking for a little supplemental income,” Freitag said. “Everyone’s in a financial crunch right now and this was a way to make some extra money.”

But since Uber has not become “Uber” popular yet in the Mountain Area, and because Freitag can not be available 24/7, there are limited times that Uber is available for its customers in the Mountain Area. Something Freitag hopes to see change as more people become Uber drivers and more customers are available for pick up.

Freitag said because she is the only Uber driver in the area that she does not show up in everyone’s area and that mostly all of her rides have come when she spends her time in Fresno. To be more available to the Mountain Area, more specifically Oakhurst, Freitag is thinking about spending more of her downtime in Oakhurst to open up to more potential riders.

Freitag has made her information available to those in the area and you can get a discounted first fare by going online to www.Uber.com and using the referral code 47y1e.

Getting certified:

Freitag said she encourages everyone she talks with to become an Uber driver as it is quick and easy.

“It’s super easy to use and it only takes a few seconds to sign up,” Freitag said. “This is not about competition it’s about convenience. This is something we need up here. We are a tourist town.”

The process took Freitag four days to complete from start to finish before she was certified and ready to drive. Drivers must meet a list of specific requirement (listed below) and pass certification which includes a criminal background check, vehicle check and driving record review. The entire process can be done online.

Requirements:

  • Must be at least 21 years old
  • Must own a 4-door car (2006 or newer)
  • Must have in-state insurance with your name on the policy
  • Must have an in-state license
  • Must have In-state plates with a current registration
  • Clean driving record
  • Pass a background check - checking for criminal background

But Uber is not for everyone. Freitag admits that her first few fares were nerve racking and said she still wonders about driving during late night.

“I was nervous at first because I am not always sure of where I am going. There are parts of Fresno that I don’t want to be in and there are places in Oakhurst I don’t want to be. For me it was a safety issue because all of my fares have been guys,” Freitag said.

Despite its revolutionary concept, Uber has created some powerful enemies along the way. Taxi companies all across the country have cried foul against Uber saying it is not currently required to follow the same set of commercial business licensing regulations cab companies do. Companies currently trying to pass legislation against or suing the start up cab service include the taxi industry and regulatory agencies around the globe many of whom belief Uber is unlawfully running a commercial transportation business and is knowingly undermining transportation regulations.

In October 2009, the company received a cease-and-desist order from the San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency, as well as the California Public Utilities Commission. Both objected to the use of “cab” in UberCab’s name, since it was operating without a taxi license. The company since dropped the “cab” portion of its name and is know refereed to as Uber.

Along with lawsuits and cease-and-desist orders Uber also has a group of competitive low-cost transportation companies striking up all over the country offering similar priced services. These companies include Lyft, Sidecar, and Haxi.

Other problems with Uber include a reliance on mapping locations. Since Uber is a relatively new concept, and becoming an Uber driver requires limited training, many of the drivers are unfamiliar with the areas in which they are servicing. Instead of knowing where to go drivers depend on Uber maps to give directions to the riders desired location. This has been argued as causing distractions and potentially accidents.

These growing pains have done little to deter the thriving business however, as Uber has quickly become one of the most talked about start up business’ since Facebook. Worth an estimated $18.2 billion, according to Forbes, it is clear customers are using and reusing the revolutionary service.

Many questions are left unanswered but for now Uber remains atop the list for reliable public transportation.

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