HUNTSVILLE, AL (WAFF) - Uber officials have confirmed the ride-sharing service plans to begin operations in Huntsville on Friday.
Raiser, LLC, an affiliate company of Uber, obtained a business license to operate in Huntsville Feb. 25, shortly after city officials approved an ordinance amendment allowing such transportation services to operate in the city.
Tom Maguire, an Uber general manager, told us Thursday afternoon the hope is to launch Friday. While he said the exact timing is not official, local drivers who have registered with the service have been told via email and text to expect a 4 p.m. launch.
Maguire said the best way to find out when service begins is to register an account online.
The following are tips from the USA Today you should keep in mind if you decide to take an Uber.
1. Verify the identity of the driver and their car before you get in.
The Uber app provides riders with their driver's first name, photo, license plate number and a picture of the vehicle and their driver's rating. This information is intended to prevent riders from getting in a car with a fake driver.
"We encourage them to use all this information to verify the car and the driver before getting in," Uber spokesperson Kayla Whaling tells USA TODAY College. "On the flip side, the driver also verifies the account holder by making sure it
is the correct person."
Whaling says drivers are supposed to address the rider by name to further verify their identity. Also, the only way to request an official Uber driver is through the app. Street hails are not allowed on the platform.
Matthew Feeney is a policy analyst with the Cato Institute who has researched the safety of services such as Uber. He wrote a report that was published in January that evaluated the safety of these services for both riders and drivers.
Feeney tells USA TODAY College that Uber has made sufficient efforts to inform riders about how to verify their driver's identity so they do not get into the wrong car.
"Uber, at least in my experience, does a pretty good job of asking passengers to make sure they get in with the right person," Feeney says.
This is an extra step passengers may not have to take when using a taxi, but it is worth the time.
Dave Sutton is a spokesperson for Who's Driving You, an initiative of the Taxicab, Limousine & Paratransit Association that seeks to raise awareness about the risks of services like Uber. Sutton tells USA TODAY College that "students need to be very careful and make certain that the car they're getting in is the actual vehicle that they ordered."
"Most taxis have obvious external markings, but Uber vehicles do not," he says.
2. Wait inside for your ride to come.
Another precaution built into the app is notification of the driver's arrival, Whaling says. Riders will receive a message when their driver has arrived, so they do not need to wait in a potentially unsafe area before their driver comes.
"They don't have to go to a dark street corner and wait for their car," she says. "They can actually be inside — be it a house or a restaurant."
3. Keep in touch with friends or family.
While the app gives riders the information they need to verify their driver's identity, riders are also able to notify their own contacts about their whereabouts in case of emergency.
"A rider can share their trip details, including the estimated time of arrival and the specific route," Whaling says. "A family member or a friend who received the link from the rider can actually see the car moving along the distance, and
they can see when that person arrives."
4. Take note of the driver's rating on the app.
Another feature of the app is a rating system that allows riders and drivers to rate each other. Feeney says this system discourages any problem behaviors.
"The rating system encourages good behavior on both the passenger and the driver because the driver rates the passenger and the passenger rates the driver," he says. "Both parties have good reason to behave themselves."
Whaling says that Uber's safety team looks at rating information and is available 24 hours a day, seven days a week to answer questions and address concerns.
Uber operates in nearly 400 cities globally, including Montgomery and Birmingham here in Alabama.
Fares are as follows, according to driver emails:
- Base fare - $1.60
- Per mile - $1.50
- Per minute - $0.20
- Minimum fare - $5.45
- Booking fee - $1.45
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