Uber: your own personal driver

The current battle between ride sharing services Uber and Lyft has produced a large amount of publicity. I traveled down to the city of Chicago to test the service and learn more about the innovative company.

Senior Jordan Wolff steps into an UberBlack car in Chicago.
Photo by Scott Wolff
Senior Jordan Wolff steps into an UberBlack car in Chicago.

Uber, founded in 2009, received over $1.2 billion in venture capital back in June. Lyft has raised a total of $335 million since 2007. With its capital, Uber has slashed prices, creating a hostile war with Lyft, and, unintentionally, with taxi services. Uber has been accused of canceling thousands of rides with Lyft drivers—causing a decrease in revenue—and stealing taxi business. But despite the negative accusations against Uber, named USA Today’s tech company of 2013, it remains the most popular riding sharing service.

Uber is like your own personal driver. You wait inside a building or stand on the street corner, use the convenient app to contact a driver, and watch your driver approach through the app. Once you get in the car, you tell the driver where you’re going and, upon arrival, you just step out of the car. Uber is simple, convenient, and safe. I traveled down to the city of Chicago on September 6, 2014 to test the Uber service.

Levels of Service:

  • UberX,
  • UberTaxi,
  • UberBlack
  • UberLux

All use Uber’s app to match drivers and riders. The different levels of service translate to nicer cars, but also higher prices. When using UberX, a rider will get picked up in an entry-level sedan, such as a Honda Accord; UberTaxi picks up riders in taxicabs. UberBlack and UberLux transport riders in luxury sedans and SUVs.

During my trip to the city, I was able to test UberX, UberTaxi, and UberBlack. My experience with all three levels of service was incredible. The drivers always arrived on time and called me to make sure they were picking me up in the right location. The drivers often opened the door for me and provided complimentary bottled water. They were courteous and friendly, and made an effort to get to know me as a passenger. The drivers always got me to my destination on time and, most importantly, safely.

Safety and Pay:

Uber drivers have to go through a full day of background tests and interviews. In addition, they’re required to have their car checked to make sure it passes all of the necessary safety precautions. Uber drivers are mandated to drive cars that are no older than model year 2004, and are also only allowed to pick up riders through the app. But, despite the amount of regulation, Uber drivers are very pleased with the company.

“The best part of the service is the convenience. I can work whenever I want, wherever I want. Uber pays its drivers weekly, and takes 25% of our earnings, but I never have to wait very long between rides and I have a frequent amount of business,” said Anis, an UberBlack driver.

Many drivers are earning more money with Uber than they were with conventional taxi companies. According to the Washington Post, UberX drivers can make up to $90,000 a year. Considering the price of an UberBlack is almost twice as much as UberX, black drivers could make significantly more.

“Uber can cost 60% less than a taxi cab, which actually causes more people to use the Uber service. Uber always has a promotion going on, which makes more people want to use the service as well. This translates to more business for me, and I make a lot more money driving for Uber than I did when I drove for a taxi company,” said Ahmad, and UberX driver.

Another way drivers use Uber is as a supplement to a normal taxi company. This allows them to fill open time with guaranteed rides, and save them money on gas fees.

“I drive Uber and two different taxi services from 4am to 4pm. Before I had Uber I used to drive around the city, waiting for somebody to flag down a ride. But now, I can constantly watch my app for when people need rides, and as soon as I drop someone off, I can go to my next ride. Uber is really good for supplementing my normal taxi rides and I am making good money since I started using the service,” said Jacob, an UberTaxi driver.


The Uber service however is not perfect. For instance, riders cannot tip their driver through the app, which causes problems because most drivers do not carry cash for safety purposes.

“I use Uber about 70% of the time I am working. 95% of my clients are businessmen, who want to tip me. The worst part about the service is that these riders cannot tip my through the app, and they have to tip me in cash. And when I don’t have any cash, it can make receiving a tip difficult,” said Mihai, an UberBlack driver.


Overall, both riders and drivers love the Uber service. As a result the service is gaining popularity all across the United States and is expanding worldwide (they’re already in 45 countries). According to Travis Kalanick, Uber’s CEO, revenue is doubling every six months. If this trend holds true, watch out for Uber to revolutionize the way people travel.