This morning in a relatively nondescript location on the North Shore, Uber, the private on-demand car service, soft launched with rider zero, Kala Alexander. The Uber launch team has been in town quietly scoping out the transportation options. The business is a disrupter to the traditional taxi and limousine car services.
I got a chance to talk to one of the Uber reps and he told me the model is quite simple. They sign up independent car services that have applied and received a Motor Carrier Certificate from the State Public Utilities Commission. This is the same certification a limo service would be required to have. Uber works out a pricing agreement and with all the t&c completed the car services becomes an Uber Partner.
Uber has no hardware on the ground. Uber hires an Associate General Manager and a Community Manager for Hawaii to work the market and partner relations. The rest is done with with Uber mobile app which you can download to your iPhone or Android smartphones. You don’t have to hail a taxi which evidently you can’t do in Hawaii anyway. Instead you use your Uber app and find the car nearest your location and schedule a ride.
In a recent blog post, Uber makes it simple to share the fare with another rider. This way you can easily divide the fare amongst multiple riders eliminating that awkward moment of settling up the bill. Right now the Uber service on Oahu is Uber Black. Since the service is ramping up, don’t expect cars to be available everywhere. Uber is signing up Partners as we speak. It will be interesting to see how this service takes shape in Honolulu. There are no plans yet for neighbor islands. In other cities across the country, variations of lower cost options are cropping up due to competition. But for now Uber Black is comparable to your own private car service and you can expect the service to be Uber comfortable.