“I charge Uber price!” says the exasperated metered taxi driver as his last-ditch attempt to lure me into his car. I turn to him, while grabbing a pack of droewors off the Woolworths shelf and explain that it isn’t about the price.
Hell, it would probably be cheaper to take his ride with the surge pricing at airport rush hour. But right now it’s a matter of principle. This is a man who, in his desperation to get a fare, hounded me all the way into a store.
He should’ve channeled that energy into building a GPS-based app that I can hail a ride from. Then tie that to a secure payment service that I can safely upload my credit card details to and trust to bill me with the exact amount to cover the fare. How he would then extract value is all dependent on how much funding he can raise to get his company to a point where investors would want to get involved and he can make some bank by going public.
Ride-sharing services were founded on the idea that if you’re driving somewhere and there’s another person nearby who is also going to that destination, the two of you could be matched and the other person pays you for the trip. What it became in this capitalist world of ours is an army of drivers who only drive people around and wait near the drop-off point for the next fare.
The rider doesn’t need to worry about maintenance or fuel costs, only that there is sufficient credit to cover the cost of the trip. What meagre income the driver gains from this transaction – after the company that developed the application and made the deals with the local authority gets its cut, and the bank was paid for the car loan, and maintenance was done and the tank was filled up – is inconsequential.
All we’re concerned about is the extra round of drinks we can have because someone will arrive at the press of a virtual button, if we are in close enough proximity to the service’s operating area, to cart us home. The technology is so magical that we don’t even need to interact with the driver – but feel pressured to, lest we get a bad rating – because he already knows where we’re going and the quickest route to get there.
Hey, at least you didn’t pollute the planet by driving your own car and cause an accident because you’ve been behind the wheel for 12 hours straight, carting busy people around a city. Maybe if you lift your eyes from your phone the next time you’re using a ride-hailing service, you can better appreciate the beautiful crescendo of technological harmony that brought this complete stranger to your door.
And just maybe you can greet him and ask how his day is going.