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What the Heck is "Uber" anyway?

Fear no more, you’ll learn all there is to know about Uber below. Become a certified Uber expert and join the debate that has been raging on.
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You’ve heard friends, politicians, colleagues, cabbies and everyone else talking about it; but you, much like my dad, still don’t understand what Uber is. You know it involves cars, drivers and lawsuits – but that’s about it. ­

Fear no more, you’ll learn all there is to know about Uber below. Become a certified Uber expert and join the debate that has been raging on.

 What is Uber

Uber connects riders and drivers via the Uber app. At its core, it’s a transportation network company that is changing the way people move. No longer do you have to hail a cab; just download the app on your smartphone, enter your credite card information and you’re good to go. It’s simpler than your Uncle Lou’s fashion sense.

 How Does It Work

By connecting the user via the app to the Uber drivers in your area, all of which is observed on the app’s map. You see in real time how many cars are in your area and how far your ride is from your location, all thorough your GPS.

 How Much Does It Cost

 Unlike cab rides, which are metered, Uber gives you an approximate cost that ranges within a few dollars. All payment is handled exclusively through Uber and never with the driver, negating the need of paying with cash, debit or credit, which is a big plus after a night of drinking and you handle your credit cards like you’re playing Texas Hold’em (not well, that is). Pricing is determined by speed, distance and time.

In Toronto (different cities have different rates), a ride starts at $2.50 with the price of the ride fluctuating with traffic. Uber officials state that in addition to the base fare, an additional 80 cents is charged per kilometer and 18 cents per minute, in addition to the $1 surcharge that is added as a “safe rides fee.” Minimum fare is $4 and the cancellation charge is $5.

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According to the Toronto Star, a ride from the financial district to mid-town (Yonge & Eglington) will cost around $12. A cab ride will run you $19. Uber officials state that fares are, on average, 40% lower than traditional cab rides.

Surge pricing occurs when, you guessed it, there is a surge in Uber requests. When requesting a ride, you’ll get a “surge pricing” notice – informing you of the increase in prices – and you’ll have to accept the increased rate to request a ride. Surge prices fluctuate with demand.

At the end of your ride, your credit card is automatically billed.

 Your Driver

You can rate your experience with the driver as well as the app itself. Whenever you request an Uber, you’ll get a picture of your incoming driver, the vehicle he/she is driving, as well as their rating. Don’t like the rating? Easily cancel your request and get another. You can cancel within 5 minutes (and obviously before your driver shows up) of your request and not be charged. Some drivers provide you with complimentary water bottles, even when using UberX.

 Features

 There are several services that Uber offers:

 UberX – The standard and least costly choice of the Uber service. Sits 4 people plus the driver. You can expect a Camry, Prius, Accord, Altima, Maxima or a regular mid-sized sedan.

 UberXL – As the name suggests, this is a bigger ride, usually an SUV or a Minivan that fits 6 passengers. Due to the larger vehicle size, this ride will cost you more. Highlanders, Pathfinders, Caravans and Siennas are common.

 UberSELECT – When you’re feeling like a boss, or Rick Ross, this is the service you need. You’ll receive a luxury vehicle, such as a BMW, Mercedes or something along those lines. This is the service to get if you’re on a first date. And like a first date, UberSelect will set you back a bit more. It’s basically UberX but with more style. The first three options fall under the UberX service, which is designed for affordability.

 UberBLACK – When you want to feel like a modern day Don Draper, Jon Hamm or Harvey Specter, you’ve got to request the high-end service. Expect luxury vehicles that sit 4 (plus the driver), like a BMW, Mercedes or Lexus. You can also opt for an SUV, which sits 6 passengers. Expect an Escalade, Navigator or Ford Expedition. This service is more costly than UberSELECT but also more luxurious.

 UberTAXI – Just in case you’re feeling ironic and want to order a taxi while using the Uber app, you can. Taxis are metered so unlike the other services, you won’t get a fair estimate. Just like the other features, no cash is needed, which is a nice change.

 UberPOOL – It’s carpooling but for Uber users. All you have to do is select the UberPOOL feature on the app and you end up sharing your ride with another Uber user. The ride is split between 1-2 people. You get to your destination with another rider (and perhaps their friend). If there is no one around to carpool with you, you’re charged the normal rate.

One thing to note… sometimes you’ll get lucky. You might request an UberX but be picked up by an UberSelect vehicle. In that case, lucky you.

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 How To Save Even More Money

You can always split the cost of your Uber rides with your friends. All you need to do is send an invite to any friend with the Uber app to get to your destination for even cheaper. It’s as simple as that.

 What’s Going on in the News

Uber has come under scrutiny from cab drivers, proponents of the taxi industry and politicians. Cab drivers feel that Uber is killing their business model and their way of life since Uber drivers don’t need to use city plates (which cabs require) or require the operator to have a taxi license. There is a cap on the plates issued by the city and those who own the plate can, and do, rent out their cabs (alongside the plate) to third party drivers. They also argue that Uber vehicles don’t require annual inspections as well.

The city, over the past few weeks, has applied for a permanent injunction to shut down Uber, arguing that it is unlicensed and creates risk. Judge Sean Dunphy recently dismissed the application, stating that there is “no evidence” that the company is operating as a taxi broker. Even so, Uber has applied for a taxi brokerage license, something they insisted they wouldn’t do in years past. More recently, a Taxi owner, on behalf of the taxi industry, filed a $410 million class-action lawsuit against the company for Uber drivers breaching the Highway Traffic Act and as a result costing cab drivers millions of dollars.

Outside of Toronto, you may have read that Edmonton cab drivers formed a convoy to demonstrate the need for regulatory rules. In Paris, French cab drivers performed an “escargot protest.” All in all, there has been outrage by cab operators in many cities.

 Other Benefits

You can receive a $20 credit by having your friends or family join Uber. All you need to do is share your code and the other party can join the app. As soon as they’ve taken their first Uber ride you’ll immediately get the credit.

There you go. You’re now a qualified Uber expert. Congratulations.

 RELATED: 10 Most Outrageous Canadian Laws on Driving 

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