Uber taxi service taking off in SA

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IOL mot sep4 uber taxi Independent Newspapers Team: Uber taxi driver Maboyis Dube with Uber general manager Alon Lits in Joburg yesterday. Picture: Dumisani Dube.

Johannesburg - Maboyis Dube has learnt to be very tolerant of drunk people.

He maintains his dignity and treats his passengers with respect even though they can be unruly and rude in the early hours of the morning.

But that is his job as a taxi driver with the new Uber taxi service, now operating in Joburg.

His smart Audi, which is a family-owned car, is his baby.

It’s immaculately clean, has a copy of The Star newspaper on the back seat for his passengers to read, as well as mints and bottled water – all to provide them with a comfortable ride.

Dube, a Rosettenville resident, says he enjoys his work and is kept very busy on weekend nights as his services are required by people unable to drive after a party.

“If people get difficult, I try to keep them calm and do whatever they ask, within reason,” he says.

Dube used to work as a driver for another company, but when he got this opportunity, he took it. It is his brother’s car.

“He bought another one and we are making money from this one,” he says.

The Uber taxi service is an innovative concept for transport in Joburg.

It is run through an app downloaded on cellphones.

The central operations are run by the company, but each driver runs and manages his own vehicle. They range from smaller, inexpensive cars to luxury ones.

Alon Lits, Uber’s general manager, says it is a new concept in South Africa that was fast taking off.

“The drivers and their cars are carefully screened. Security and criminal record tests are done continually.”

“Also, when requesting a ride, the information, photo and details of the driver are sent to the passengers, who can share them with a family member or friend if they are nervous,” he says.

The service does not do pre-bookings as with normal taxis.

Passengers simply log in, set their destinations, and within five minutes, a taxi will arrive.

“The closest taxi gets routed there. They are unmarked, to give privacy to the passengers,” he adds.

Many drivers who were previously self-employed have joined Uber.

“They have freedom to work their own hours. Once they log in to say they are available, they will automatically be dispatched to the closest passenger. We have empowered many drivers, who are now making a good living,” Lits says.

The system is cashless. Once the booking is requested, the fare will automatically be deducted from the credit card that was used to register.

“A person therefore knows exactly how much they will be paying upfront and not be left to wonder how much the trip will cost.”

“The drivers are given the route through a GPS system, so they aren’t able to deviate or make the trip longer to make more money.

“The drivers don’t expect tips, and if they are offered, they are told to decline. It is only if the passenger really insists that they may accept,” he says.

Drivers are also given ratings on their service, as are customers.

“If a passenger gets unruly and gets sick all over the back seat, we will blacklist them from our service.”

Lits notes that Uber is operating in many countries.

It has started in Durban and Cape Town and also operates in Pretoria.

The Star



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