Today Uber began offering service in Lexington, Ky. I know a lot of people out there wonder why I’m such a fan of Google’s ride sharing service. The answer to that question is simple. Uber is interesting to me because I consider it a good case study for streamlining services with technology.
For a moment, forget about ride sharing or taxi services and think about the growing pains of the music and media industry. Legacy business practices have attempted to maintain status quo when better options were available. Music labels tried to remain relevant but added little value to justify their existence. Customers had better options and musicians wanted to get their products to listeners. Over time, new players in the industry created more streamlined solutions that competed with legacy music labels.
This is basically what Uber does. Customers have an app on their phone. This app shows the real-time ETA of nearby Uber cars. The app then uses the GPS to assist in dropping a pin and requesting a car at a specific location. When the driver accepts the request, the customer receives a description of the car and a picture of the driver. The driver interacts with the dispatch process using an app on his phone. At the end of the trip, payment is automatic and cashless via PayPal. The receipt is then emailed to the customer with the exact route shown.
This process eliminates the need to talk to the hotel concierge or call the cab company’s dispatch number. Technology streamlines the interaction. Based on my personal use of Uber, the resulting customer experience is better than that of traditional cab services. It also eliminates the unnecessary human components required to deliver the service. The technology connects the driver [almost directly] to the customer.
In this scenario, the winners are the customers and potentially the drivers. The losers are those who are invested in traditional taxi and competing car services. The moral of the story is that everyone needs to prepare and accept change. Ignoring a better or more efficient way of doing things is a sure path to failure.
So what’s next for Google and Uber?
Anything more I say would be pure speculation. If I use my imagination, I think about their driverless cars. Could Google bundle Uber and driverless cars in a way that makes their drivers obsolete? Could this obviate the need for the private ownership of automobiles? Could a huge army of computer controlled hybrids cut down on carbon emissions? Can I someday work on my way to the office?
Disclaimer: I have nothing to disclaim about this article.