Technology, Cars, and the Big City

Screen Shot 2014-04-15 at 7.07.28 PMI don’t live in a big city. I live in a busy area, part of the megalopolis that is the northeast US….. but not in a city. However, my adult children and their spouses all live in cities. And when I visit them, I always learn something new.

If you are a city-dweller, you can stop reading, now. This will be old news for you. But for the rest of us …… it is so interesting to watch technology changing something so basic as the old “TAXI!” hail.

But let me back up a bit. It is often not practical to own a car when you live in a city, and entrepreneurs have focused on that need over the last few years, filling the gap with Zip Cars and Cars2Go. Zipcars can be found parked all around the streets of a city, and if you are a member, you just reserve one (find it on your app), unlock it and drive away, using the car for just hours or days.

For really short trips (maybe you just want to drive a few blocks) a Car2Go might be the solution. With a member card, you just get in and go. The description from the car2go website sums it up nicely: “A car2go is always a pleasure to drive: just take it, drive it, park it. Simple and straightforward. You can always find a vehicle in your area. You open it with the member card you receive after signing up. You go from A to B, park your car2go again and that’s that.”

New-to-me for this city-trip was a service called Uber. (thanks, Jinna!)

Uber has been around now for several years, and is located in cities all over the world … but was jaw-dropping goodness when my daughter-in-law whipped out her iPhone and said that she was going to get an Uber car to take us home.

We didn’t have to stand on a corner to try and hail a taxi. Nope. She just pulled up her Uber app on her phone, and tapped to call a car. Then, on her screen, we saw a map. This map showed our location …. and also the location of the Uber car that was on our way to pick us up!

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We watched as the car got closer, so we knew when to start looking for it. No curb standing for us. She also had been given the license number of the car and a photo of the driver.

Car arrived and we hopped in. After a lovely ride to our destination, we said goodbye to our friendly driver and left the car with no money exchanged. Your trip and your tip is simply charged to your credit card, which you gave when you signed up for the service.

Remarkably convenient. And the price was similar (I think in this case cheaper) than a cab ride would have been for the same distance. *****Note to new Uber users: you need to select UberX to get cab pricing that’s similar to taxis. Uber Black car service is VERY EXPENSIVE (it’s equivalent to a town car service). and unfortunately it’s easy to accidentally click on. So be careful (and frugal) and choose UberX for the best price.

This is extra interesting to me since this is a service that I might actually use when visiting Philadelphia or NYC. As a day visitor I would never grab a car2go to navigate city traffic, but an Uber car would be a wonderful opportunity to skip the smelly yellow cab and the whole “I have to find a cab” experience.

A quick google search showed me that many cities (taxi companies) are not pleased with this service, fighting to limit the number of cars, etc.

But I’m hoping this wave of “alternatives-to-taxis” prevails. It is marvelously convenient.

Uber cars are in service all over the world. Click here for a list of all the participating cities.

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8 thoughts on “Technology, Cars, and the Big City

  1. Living in (very) rural MN USA, I have never heard of the above services. They sound great!!. Using a cab in Chicago, years ago, had many thoughts going through my imagination…..none good, unfortunately!!! This definitely avoids a bit of that. Thanks so much for the education!!!!!!!

    • These are not the only options …. there are others, as well. Lots of creative folks seem to be trying to improve the “how to get around in the city” experience. I agree with you …. cab rides are not pleasant! 🙂

  2. I put the Uber app on my phone when I first heard of it, but haven’t had a chance to use it yet. I am big city adjacent, so I’m looking forward to trying it soon. I’m glad you said the cost was reasonable. All other feedback called it ridiculous. …but when you need a ride, ridiculous is relative…

    • Genevieve… you raised such a good point!! And I added to my blog post to address it. There are actually several choices on the Uber app, and apparently it is all-too-easy to click on the WRONG one (i.e. VERY expensive, like a town car). You must select UberX to get the taxi-price. 🙂

  3. I have never heard of or seen anything like any of these here in Arkansas. I guess we have no cities large enough to have them. This was interesting and thank you for sharing it. Hugs

    • Yes, these services are only appearing (so far) in very urban areas. As you walk along a city street you’ll see zip cars and cars2go parked all over the place. It is nice to have alternatives to smelly taxis. Thank you for your kind words!

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