Uber launches in South Africa

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Johannesburg is the first city in Africa, and the 40th in the world, to get the Uber chauffeur service.

Calling itself “everyone’s private driver,” Uber has revolutionised car transport in big international cities by utilising owner-driver cabs with spare capacity and linking them to smartphone users in need of a ride.

Uber uses a sophisticated app (for Apple and Android; while there is a mobile site forv BlackBerry) that pinpoints your location and nearby cars. You enter your pickup point and destination, and the system gives an estimated time of arrival (ETA) and price. The payment is cashless, as you link your credit card when you set up the service.

Launched in San Francisco in March 2009, Uber is one of the poster children for the so-called sharing economy. It enables owner drivers to effectively freelance by picking up extra passengers, but has since been successful enough to make it their primary job. The drivers in turn can tap into a vast customer base, that was previously inaccessible.

It creates a more efficient ecosystem for both the drivers and passengers. The system is cashless and each driver is ranked after each ride, meaning they provide good service rather than risk a poor ranking. Interestingly, bad drivers or those with a poor attitude are worked out of the system.

The service started with a soft launch on August 7, and the first passenger, called Rider Zero, was soccer star Mark Fish.

Uber prides itself on transparency (showing times and costs) and security (the app shows the driver’s picture and car registration, etc, while the drivers are security vetted).

Cars tends to be Mercedes E-class, BMW 3 or 5 series and Audi A6s

Without much of a owner-driver culture in South Africa, Uber is currently partnering with high-end chauffeur services. The base price is R60, while an additional R11 per kilometre is levied. There is a minimum charge of R85. Cape Town is understood to be next on Uber’s radar.

Download the app, or visit uber.com or on Twitter @Uber_Joburg

This article first appeared on Business Day

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