I have been a very happy Uber user in Taipei for the past few months. Even when they raised prices in the fall, because my wife and I became regular users, we qualified for the cheaper rates (at least, that’s how my wife explained it to me). Except for surge periods, we have noticed that Uber rides cost about 15% less than the same taxi ride.
Unfortunately, Uber has been “targeted” by the government commissions and by the taxi cab industry. I received Uber Taiwan’s call for support at the beginning of the month. And recent conversations my wife and I have had with drivers do indicate that life is tougher for Uber drivers. There are less cars on the road (for now). We were also told that police in Taiwan have been doing some sting operations (ordering a car and then ticketing them once they get in the car). We learned about this because we actually live next to a police precinct and more than one Uber driver pointed out that our location would deter some drivers from wanting to pick us up. All of this has only happened since late December - we just got back to Taiwan from year end holidays last week, so we are still assessing how much less convenient this will be.
Well, they are “legit” in that they offer a real, useful, and sustainable service. I’ve only used Uber in Taipei, Shanghai, and Manila and, boy, it totally works. Using Uber in the Philippines, in particular, surprised me - given the insane level of traffic. But I used it several times over the holidays, and it was a godsend.
Are they legit as in “legal under the laws of the land”? Of course not. The drivers are like most of us - licensed to drive, but not necessarily licensed to perform a livery service. They aren’t professional drivers - which is partly the point of Uber. When I hop into an Uber car, I do not expect the driver to know the way. It’s almost comical how much these guys rely on GPS. I don’t mind, because I usually have a pretty good idea which way I want to go and they are always happy to take directions.
I disagree. Thanks to Uber, my ridership in a car (taxi or Uber) has gone up. I have been holding off buying my own car, and Uber will help me happily continue to procrastinate on this. If I can plan a ride in advance, I will check Uber first. Not all the Uber cars I’ve ridden are nicer than a brand new taxi, but most seem to be! And when I do finally get around to getting my own wheels in Taipei, don’t be surprised if you see me behind the wheel when you order an Uber ride in the future.
As to the success and impact of Uber in Taipei, I consider the protests from the taxi industry as proof of how successful this could be. In the Philippines, Uber agreed to require it’s drivers to be government licensed as taxi drivers somehow, so I expect similar flexibility to eventually happen here from both Uber and the government’s side. Then, we can look forward to Uber’s competitors to come in (like Lyft) and for local innovation to spring up – as it has in the taxi sectors in Shanghai and Manila.
I got a note a couple weeks ago that Uber HK is now testing food delivery in that city. A friend of mine has already done this here (she was confined in a Zuoyezi Post-natal care center, and worked out a way for an Uber driver to pick up her takeaway food). If Uber Taiwan can survive this current hump, it’s just only going to get better.