We’ve all heard of Uber, the new buzz “taxi” app. Your friends use it when they’re coming back home on Saturday nights when they’re a little too drunk to drive themselves. You might have used it a couple of times, back and to from the airport, to get somewhere close by when you don’t feel like driving, or even when you want to go pick up your fast food and there’s too much traffic outside for you to patiently hold your feet off the gas pedal.

Uber has been exponentially increasing their presence in the community, boasting convenience (I mean, who thought a press of a button on your phone could do so much?), cheap fares, and accessibility. Uber’s biggest appeals stem from its convenience and low fares. By streamlining the process of getting a cab through their mobile application, Uber has cut down the hassle of having to call someone and set up a pickup time and location. Fares are comparatively much cheaper, since Uber doesn’t go through the same certification process and regulations regular cab companies have to deal with. Additionally, Uber allows users to rate their drivers and make the ratings available to other users, which creates additional incentives for the drivers to provide quality service to their customers. Some may even argue that Uber drivers are providing better standards of service and care compared to regular cab companies, driving and increasing competition (in some cities, hostility is reportedly rising between cab drivers and Uber drivers because cab drivers feel that Uber drivers are reducing their clientele).

Not only for the user, but also from the driver’s point of view, Uber offers relatively easy and quick ways to make substantial profit. As long as you have a valid driver’s license and auto insurance, Uber requires minimal training and qualifications to become a driver. Flexible hours, no experience required, and making up to $1250 a week (according to Uber’s advertisements), becoming an Uber driver has appeals to anyone and everyone. This includes people either looking to make some extra cash on the side as a part time job, or to drive full time without having to go through the hassle of contracting with cab companies.

In Phoenix, Arizona, where I currently reside, minimum wage is around 8.05 USD per hour. Given that UberX minimum fares are regularly 4 dollars (when not in special demand), even picking up two five-minute rides within the hour can make enough comparable to Arizona’s minimum wage of an hour. With longer rides and additional tips, the amount of money that Uber drivers can make per ride only increases. Uber also offers different levels (i.e. UberXL, Black car, SUV) for users looking for higher quality rides and drivers with more experience, making it possible for Uber to cater to different clientele and drivers alike. Speaking from first-hand experience, a lot of the drivers that I have encountered also have day jobs and drive Uber during their spare time or on the weekends to make extra money on the side. Even for full time Uber drivers, most drivers that I have spoken to are content with their jobs and the ability to make “easy money” over working a minimum wage job, say for example, at a local fast food restaurant. Especially for those with limited job experience and/or specialized training, Uber is quickly proving to be a reliable and acceptable way to make money.

Here I raise a question on how Uber might impact our society and the economy in perhaps a novel way that even the founders of Uber might not have predicted: is Uber becoming the new way for people to move up the socioeconomic ladder? Uber has so far shown promising growth in terms of driver and customer base (projected revenue for Uber is 10 billion dollars by the end of 2015)1. For people who own a vehicle, a valid driver’s license, and insurance, Uber might prove to be one of the easiest ways to generate substantial amounts of money. This increases their yearly income, providing a means for people to move up and out of their current socioeconomic status without years of additional training/education and incurring debt.

Uber’s next challenges lie ahead in obtaining universal legal status, fighting over government/state regulations, and addressing competition and hostility between Uber and regular cab companies. Despite some opposition, Uber has also gained positive support from the general public and certain state governments. Recently, Arizona Department of Weights and Measures stopped their investigations on Uber and other ride-share based companies to encourage entrepreneurial business and job creation, in accordance with the state governor Doug Ducey’s policies.2, 3 If Uber is able to persist through the challenges mentioned above, how it would shape the future of cab rides and the lives of people attempting to climb up the socioeconomic ladder is something to watch out for.

References:
1. Shontell, Alyson. Business Insider. http://www.businessinsider.com/uber-revenue-projection-in-2015-2014-11. Retrieved 2 May 2015.
2. Anglen, Robert. The Republic.                                                                               http://www.azcentral.com/story/money/business/consumer/2015/01/29/arizona-ceases-enforcement-uber-lyft/22511197. Retrieved 2 May 2015.
3. Christie, Bob. Associated Press.                                                                      http://www.washingtontimes.com/news/2015/jan/29/arizona-stops-citing-rideshare- drivers-as-new-law-/?page=1/. Retrieved 2 May 2015.

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