SACRAMENTO —Before Booker Cook knew what an Uber app was, he used the ride-sharing service without knowing it. The app — which allows riders to order a taxicab-like ride from their smartphone — instantly changed his transportation outlook.
While attending a Southeastern Association of Educational Opportunity Program Personnel (SAEPPO) at Sacramento State University, Cook and his cohorts decided to leave the campus to get lunch. Cook was about to call a taxicab, but two Uber vehicles pulled up instead.
Unbeknownst to Cook, one of his colleagues had already called the ride-sharing service to book transportation.
“The Uber driver already knew where we were going,” Cook said.
Cook said when they got to the restaurant, he reached for his wallet to pay and tip the driver but everyone got out and walked away.
“I said, ‘Are you going to pay the guy?’ They said, ‘It’s already done.’ We used Uber service for the next two days,” Cook added.
Cook was impressed with Uber, the options it provided riders, and the drivers’ professionalism. It was an experience that Cook said he had to get more details about. Once he did, he wanted to be a part of the team.
“I liked it so much that I asked the last driver how he put it together,” said Cook, who is studying Ethnic Studies at Sac State.
“He told me about the whole process to become a Uber driver and I saw that I fit the criteria. That same day I went online and filled out my application,” he added.
Based in San Francisco, Uber Technologies, Inc. is a transportation network company that created mobile apps for ride-sharing services. It started in 2009 and launched in 2010 as a venture-funded start up. The app can be downloaded for free on smartphones.
What Cook found out was that, with Uber, there’s no need to call a dispatcher or hail a cab on the street. Using Uber also saves passengers from being denied cab service because of race. Also, the riders pay and tip by credit card before they step into the vehicle.
An Uber app user can request a ride with the push of a button and track the driver’s progress to the intended destination. Uber’s mission is to provide limousine-quality service, safe rides, and equal access for all its customers when it comes to the ride-sharing business.
Cook, in his 60s, had that exposure as a rider, but decided that it would be just as helpful as a driver, too. Like all Uber ridesharing and partners, Cook, who suffered troubled times in the trucking industry during the downturn in the economy, went through a meticulous background check.
The three-step screening includes county, federal and multi-state background checks. These checks go back seven years — the maximum allowable by California law. Uber continuously makes regular checks of drivers’ motor vehicle records to ensure ongoing safe driving.
Cook has been thrilled with his experience.
“Since I’ve been a Uber driver, I’ve learned that it’s one of the best ways I’ve ever come across to make money and not be concerned about the stress levels of work,” Cook said.
“You work when you want to, the riders are friendly and they feel safe, and there’s no money exchanged. I don’t have to worry about getting robbed. It just doesn’t get any better than this if someone is looking for work,” he added.
Uber and other ride-sharing companies have been in vigorous discussions with California’s transportation leaders about making sure passengers are having pleasurable riding experiences and are safe and properly insured as well.
Currently, Assembly Bill 2293 is making rounds through the Capitol to address insurance issues for consumers using ride-sharing services. Assembly Bill 2293 would force UberX drivers to carry $750,000 in liability insurance during the so-called Period One phase when they’ve turned on their apps but haven’t been matched yet with a rider. The amount is far higher than what the transport network carriers have offered to provide and what they say is fair or needed.
Currently, all drivers and passengers are insured by Uber. All Uber drivers are required to drive 2005 models or newer. With the coverages that Uber provides, Cook drives his own 2013 Hyundai Sonata for his passengers.
“On the consumer side, California has embraced ride-sharing, loving the flexibility to get an affordable ride, and the on-demand aspects of it,” said Uber spokesperson Eva Behrend. “On the entrepreneurial side, people are finding they can build their own small businesses with flexible hours and a schedule they can control. A lot of driver-partners have found some tremendous success.”
Cook normally works eight-hour shifts, which he said works for his school schedule and his income. After paying for gas and his fees with Uber, the outcome is satisfying. He also likes the comfortability of having a job he controls.
“Uber has just added a whole, positive dimension to my life,” Cook said.
For information about Uber, visit https://partners.uber.com/signup/sacramento/.
By OBSERVER Staff Writer
Antonio R. Harvey