Experiencing an Uber ride, from the other side!

Some of you would already be aware that I signed up with Uber as a commuter few days back.

And that I completed my first ride just 3 days after that. 

Have been wanting to share my experience but waited to complete a few more rides, which eventually I didn't because of reasons mentioned in the second half of the post. And so I thought, I might as well pen down the experience from that one single ride for now. Before I do so, want to specify that my motivation to sign up for this was purely curiosity and definitely not money. Also maybe the thought that more people can move around using the same amount of fuel which I am consuming by traveling alone.

I commute from Delhi (home) to Gurgaon (work) and back every day and I logged on to the Uber Partner app, ready to go "Online". 

Few things about the app:

  • It shows the map with an overlay of random geometrical shapes in different colours that indicate surge values in the entire area (zoom out to get the surge view of the entire city).
  • There is an option to enter the destination in the app (after I slide a button to go 'Online') and Uber's algorithm then pushes only those pickup requests which are on my way. Not sure if the same option is available with regular GOs and Xs.

What could be a good indicator of demand for rides even with surge pricing is that even in the few seconds lag between me going online and entering my destination, I got 2 pickup requests which I had to ignore (there is no option to reject). Whenever you get a pickup request you see a pin on the map indicating the pickup location along with the address, estimated time to reach there, rating of the rider and type of car requested (GO, Pool, X, etc). So after ignoring these 2 requests (I think driver is given around 10 seconds to either accept the request after which it disappears from his screen and perhaps goes to the next driver). Those 10 seconds were way too less to comprehend the amount of information on the screen (I did want to be sure of the rider rating and had made up my mind to ignore any request with rating less than 4.5), especially when the request comes in while you are driving.

So, once I managed to enter my destination and started from office towards home, I got a pickup request from somewhere close by in less than km of me starting from my origin. I was crawling in the heavy traffic when I got a call. As soon as I received it and before I could say 'hello', I heard "Bhaiya, booking aayi hogi XXX ke naam se". I spoke to the rider and told them about my location and estimated time before I reach.

I took around twice the estimated time that was shown to me because of heavy traffic. The rider sat in and surprisingly knew about Uber Commute. I learnt about the destination and sighed as it was Dwarka, which was off my route as I could no longer take the highway (a problem that occurs even when I choose UberPOOL as a rider myself) but still pepped myself up for this new experience and began driving. Little did I know how tough would the next 45 minutes be. Before I explain 'tough', few things about me and my usual driving behavior.

  • MBTI pesonality test indicates my type as ENTP.
  • I like listening to loud music or at least FM with volume levels anywhere between 15-25. Music/mood also at times dictates how I drive.
  • I do fiddle with my phone occasionally when the car is idle (in jam or a signal) to check notifications, traffic situation on maps, etc.
  • I turn off the engine on signals longer than 40 seconds or when traffic doesn't seem to move at all (habit I have ever since I started driving as it helps save fuel, lesser pollution)

Now in the approximate ride duration of 45 minutes, the rider barely spoke. If I remember correctly it was once at the start of the trip when I was told there is a route from the other side which could help avoid traffic, 2-3 reminders of right/left turns and then once at the end of the trip to stop. Also, to avoid imposing my music (and high volume) preferences, I turned off the music player as well.

I am type ENTP! Though the 'E' here stands for 'extroversion' and not 'extrovert' still this video (at 00:31) perfectly describes how I usually feel - "Insaan kaha hain?"

And here I was sitting next to an insaan for 45 minutes but that insaan barely spoke! Plus no music not even the virtual insaan in form of the RJ on FM (which I eventually couldn't bear and turned on some music, albeit at volume level ONE). And I wasn't even fiddling with my phone because that's most likely to give the impression of being distracted as a driver and that's the last thing even I would want as a rider. 

To top it up further, I was driving cautiously, conscious of the fact that I will be rated perhaps (eventually got 5 star)? Heavy traffic and the knowledge that this trip means I would take more than twice the time I usually take to reach home didn't help either. And my OCD of turning off the engine while idle was being challenged in name of the summer heat that would cause discomfort to the rider if I turned the AC off.

Alas, the 45 minutes got over sooner than I expected and as soon as I heard "yaha left pe rok do", a picture of only a few hundred rupee notes in my wallet flashed in my head and the thought of further activity just in case this is a Cash trip added to my already eventful experience. When I confirmed if I should end the trip, I was glad to hear, "Yes, thanks.. and the ride will be paid through PayTM" #win.

With my car still stationed in one corner of the road, I immediately increased the volume of the music player, reached out to my phone and returned a call which I had to disconnect because I was on trip.

I thought about whether I should stay online or go offline and head home and did the latter because I had been driving in heavy traffic.

Talking about payouts, like has been confirmed by another Uber Commute Driver, the surge amount was passed on to me and Uber charges a 20% commission on ride + surge charges.

Post that first ride, few factors have played on my mind that have prompted me to not go for another trip. And no, my own preferences with regards to music, phone, talking, etc are not responsible for this.

  • What if the next trip is to Dwarka again? That's off my route!
  • Extra ride time. I seldom enjoy driving in heavy traffic. Doing that towards the end of the day post office leading to extra commute time is not very enjoyable an idea. I don't do trips in the morning because I may get late for work.

I've given it a try once while returning from Gurgaon on a Saturday and I did get a trip but it was again Dwarka so I had to call and refuse which I didn't like at all. 

If you look at the larger picture, Uber's intent is simple - more people in fewer cars which according to me is a great initiative. What will really help me particularly and other commute drivers as well is if Uber can display the destination of the rider for commute rides (that's the whole purpose for commute right?). That way I can avoid Dwarka trips and wait for other ones. Today, I just don't log on because I only get to know the destination when the rider tells me and then refusing isn't the best thing to happen. 

Having said that, I'll still give it a few more tries on other non-work travel routes as well (like I just did an hour back though I didn't get any ride requests). As far as my personal preferences while driving are concerned, if not anything, I think such experiences are lessons on patience :)

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